Notes – The Bureaucracy

The Bureaucracy


1. Compare and contrast the American and
British models of government bureaucracy.

2. Sketch the history of the growth of
bureaucracy in this country, and the different uses to which it has
been put.

3. Discuss the recruitment, retention, and
personal characteristics of federal bureaucrats.

4. Show how the roles and missions of the
agencies are affected by both internal and external

5. Review congressional measures to control the
bureaucracy, and evaluate their effectiveness.

6. List the “pathologies” that may affect
bureaucracies, and discuss why it is so difficult to reform the

Text Outline

I. Distinctiveness of the American

A. Constitutional system and
traditions make bureaucracy distinctive

1. Supervision shared by president
and Congress

2. Federal agencies share functions with
state and local governments

3. Adversary culture leads to closer
scrutiny; court challenges more likely

B . Scope of bureaucracy

1. Little public ownership of
industry in the United States

2. High degree of regulation in the
United States of private industries

II. The growth of the bureaucracy

A. The early controversies

1. Supporters of a strong president
argue against Senate consent being required for
Senate-confirmed appointees

2. President is given sole removal power
but Congress funds and investigates

B. The appointment of officials

1. Officials affect how laws are
interpreted, tone and effectiveness of administration, party

2. Use of patronage in nineteenth and
early twentieth centuries to reward supporters, induce
congressional support, build party organizations

3. Civil War a watershed in bureaucratic
growth; showed administrative weakness of federal government
and increased demands for civil service reform

4. Post-Civil War period saw
industrialization, emergence of a national economy-power of
national government to regulate interstate commerce became

C. A service role

1. 1861-1901: shift in role from
regulation to service

2. Reflects desire for limited
government; laissez-faire beliefs; Constitution’s silence on
regulatory powers for bureaucracy

3. War led to reduced restrictions on
administrators and a slight enduring increase in

D. Depression and World War 11 lead to
government activism

1. Supreme Court upheld laws that
granted discretion to administrative agencies

2. Introduction of heavy income taxes
supports a large bureaucracy

Ill. The federal bureaucracy today

A Direct and indirect growth

1. Modest increase in number of
government employees

2. Significant indirect increase in
number of employees through use of private contractors, state
and local government employees

B Growth in discretionary

1. Delegation of undefined
authority by Congress greatly increased

2. Primary areas of delegation

a. Subsidies to groups

b. Grant-in-aid programs

c. Enforcement of

C. Factors explaining behavior of

1. Recruitment and retention

a . The competitive service:
most bureaucrats compete for jobs through OPM

(1) Appointment by merit
based on written exam

b. The excepted service: most are
appointed by other agencies on the basis of qualifications
approved by OPM

c. Competitive service becoming more
decentralized-increasing numbers recruited by
agency-specific procedures

d. Workers less often blue-collar;
increasing diversity of white-collar occupations e. Still
some presidential patronage-presidential appointments,
Schedule C jobs, non-career executive assignments

(1) Pendleton Act (1883):
transferred basis of government jobs from patronage to

(2) Merit system protects president
from pressure and protects patronage appointees from new
presidents (blanketing in)

f. The buddy system

(1) Name-request job: filled
by a person whom an agency has already identified for
middle- and upper-level jobs

(2) Job description may be tailored
for person

(3) Circumvents usual search
process but also encourages issue networks based on
shared policy views

g. Firing a bureaucrat

(1) Most bureaucrats cannot
be fired, although there are informal methods of

(2) Senior Executive Service (SES)
can more easily be fired or transferred

(3) SES managers receive cash
bonuses for good performance

(4) But very few SES members have
actually been fired or even transferred, and cash bonuses
not influential

h. The agencies’ point of

(1) Agencies are dominated by
lifetime bureaucrats who have worked for no other

(2) Assures continuity and
expertise but also gives subordinates power over new
bosses: can work behind boss’s back through sabotage,
delaying, etc.

2. Personal attributes-social class,
education, political beliefs

a . Allegations of

(1) Higher civil servants are

(2) Officials are ideologically

b. Results of survey of bureaucrats
show that they

(1) Are somewhat more liberal
than the average

(2) But they do not take extreme

c. Correlation between type of agency
and attitudes of employees

(1) Activist agency
bureaucrats more liberal (FTC, EPA, FDA)

(2) Traditional agency bureaucrats
less liberal (Agriculture, Commerce, Treasury)

d. Bureaucrats’ policy views reflect
the type of their work

e. Do bureaucrats sabotage their
political bosses?

(1) Most bureaucrats try to
carry out policy, even those they disagree with

(2) But bureaucrats do have
obstructive powers-Whistleblower Protection Act

(3) Most civil servants: Highly
structured roles make them relatively immune from
personal attitudes

This leads to what I call
“Bureaucratic Inertia.” Since it is difficult to fire and
change those who actually carry out policy, agencies may often
continue to do what has been before, regardless of official
Presidential policy. Consider the IRS. To what extent would
agents of the IRS become “friendlier” just because it was
policy. Likewise, if it was a Presidential order, as Commander
in Chief, to accept Gays in the military, would the be accepted
by Commanders and the rank and file?

(4) Professionals’
loosely structured roles may be influenced by personal
attitudes-Professional values help explain how power is

3. Culture and careers

a. Each agency has its own

b. Jobs with an agency can be career
enhancing or not

c. Strong agency culture motivates

(1) But it makes agencies
resistant to change

This is also an aspect of
Bureaucratic Inertia.

4. Constraints much greater on government
agencies than on private bureaucracies

a . Hiring, firing, pay,
procedures, etc., established by law, not by market

b. General constraints

(1) Administrative Procedure
Act (1946)

(2) Freedom of Information Act

(3) National Environmental Policy
Act (1969)

(4) Privacy Act (1974)

(5) Open Meeting Law

(6) Several agencies often assigned
to a single policy

c. Effects of constraints

(1) Government moves

(2) Government sometimes acts

(3) Easier to block action than
take action

(4) Reluctant decision making by
lower-ranking employees

(5) Red tape

5. Why so many constraints?

a. Constraints come from
citizens: agencies’ responses to demands for openness,
honesty, fairness, etc.

6. Agency allies

a. Agencies often seek alliances
with congressional committees or interest groups

Harold Seidman estimates that cabinet
secretaries spend about 10 percent of their time attending to
departmental business and 40 percent of their time testifying
before congressional committees.

(1) Iron
triangle-client politics

b. Far less common today~politics has

become too complicated

(1) More interest groups,
more congressional subcommittees

(2) Far more competing forces than
ever given access by courts

c. Issue networks: groups that
regularly debate government policy on certain

(1) Contentious, split along
partisan, ideological, economic lines

(2) New president often recruits
from networks

IV. Congressional oversight

A. Forms of congressional

1. Creation of agency by

2. Statutory requirements of

3. Authorization of money, either
permanent, fixed number of years, or annual

4. Appropriation of money allows

B. The Appropriations Committee and
legislative committees

1. Appropriations Committee most

a . Most expenditure
recommendations are approved by House

b. Tends to recommend amount lower
than agency request

c. Has power to influence an agency’s
policies through “marking up” an agency’s budget

d . But becoming less powerful due

(1) Trust funds operate
outside the regular government budget

(2) Annual

(3) Budget deficits have
necessitated cuts

2. Legislative committees are important

a. A law is first passed

b. An agency is first

c. An agency is subject to annual

3. Informal congressional controls over

a. Individual members of
Congress can seek privileges for constituents

b. Congressional committees may seek
committee clearance: right to pass on certain agency

C. The legislative veto

1. Declared unconstitutional by
Supreme Court in Chadha (1983)

2. Weakens traditional legislative
oversight but Congress continues creating such

3. Their constitutionality is uncertain;
debate about the legislative veto continues

D. Congressional investigations

1. Power inferred from power to

2. Means for checking agency discretion
and for authorizing agency actions contrary to presidential

3. Means for limiting presidential
control-though executive may claim executive

V. Bureaucratic pathologies

A. Red tape–complex and sometimes
conflicting rules

B . Conflict-agencies work at

C. Duplication-two or more agencies seem to
do the same thing

D. Imperialism-tendency of agencies to grow,
irrespective of benefits and costs of programs

E. Waste-spending more than is necessary to
buy some product or service

VI. Reforming the Bureaucracy

A. Numerous attempts to make
bureaucracy work better for less money

1. Eleven attempts to reform this
century alone

2. National Performance Review (NPR) in
1993 designed to reinvent government

a. Differs from previous reforms
that sought to increase presidential control

b. Emphasizes customer satisfaction by
bringing citizens in contact with agencies

3. NPR calls for innovation and quality
consciousness by:

a. Less centralized

b. More employee

c. Fewer detailed rules, more customer

B. Bureaucratic reform always difficult to

1 . Most rules and red tape due to
struggle between president and Congress or agencies’ efforts to
avoid alienating influential voters

2. Periods of divided government worsen
matters, especially in implementing policy

a. Republican presidents seek to
increase political control (executive

b. Democratic congresses respond by
increasing investigations and rules (legislative


Administrative Procedure Act A
law passed in 1946 requiring federal agencies to give notice, solicit
comments, and (sometimes) hold public hearings before adopting any
new rules.

annual authorization The
practice of a legislative committee determining the amount an agency
can spend on a yearly basis. This practice is a recent one and
curtails the power of the appropriations committees.

appropriation Money formally
set aside for a specific use; issued by the House Appropriations

authorization legislation
Legislation that originates in a legislative committee stating the
maximum amount of money that an agency may spend on a given

buddy system A job description
by an agency which is tailor-made for a specific person. These
appointments occur in middle- and upper-level positions in the

bureaucracy A large
organization composed of appointed officers in which authority is
divided among several managers.

bureaucratic culture An
informal understanding among fellow employees of an agency as to how
they are supposed to act.

committee clearance A request
made by congressional committees to pass on certain agency decisions.
Although usually not binding, it is seldom ignored by

competitive service The set of
civil servants appointed on the basis of a written exam administered
by the Office of Personnel Management or by meeting certain selection

conflict A bureaucratic
pathology in which some agencies seem to be working at cross-purposes
to other agencies.

discretionary authority The
ability of a bureaucracy to choose courses of action and make
policies not spelled out in advance by laws.

duplication A bureaucratic
pathology in which two government agencies seem to be doing the same

Freedom of Information Act A
law passed in 1966 giving citizens the right to inspect all
government records except those containing military, intelligence, or
trade secrets or material revealing private personnel

imperialism A bureaucratic
pathology in which agencies tend to grow without regard to the
benefits their programs confer or the costs they entail.

iron triangle The
policy-making network composed of a government agency, a
congressional committee, and an interest group. This network is less
common today because of the variety of interest groups that exist and
the proliferation of congressional subcommittees.

issue network Members of
Washington-based interest groups, congressional staffers, university
faculty, experts participating in think tanks, and representatives of
the mass media who regularly debate government policy on a certain
subject. Such networks are replacing the iron triangles.

laissez-faire A belief in a
freely competitive economy that was widely held in the late
nineteenth century.

legislative veto Congressional
veto of an executive decision during the specified period it must lie
before Congress before it can take effect. The veto is effected
through a resolution of disapproval passed by either house or by both
houses. These resolutions do not need the president’s signature. In
1983, the Supreme Court ruled such vetoes were unconstitutional, but
Congress continues to enact laws containing them.

name-request job A job in the
federal bureaucracy that is filled by a person whom an agency has
already identified.

National Environmental Policy
A law passed in 1969 requiring agencies to issue an
environmental impact statement before undertaking any major action
affecting the environment.

non career executive
A form of patronage under the excepted service
given to high-ranking members of the regular competitive service, or
to persons brought into the civil service at a high level who are
advocates of presidential programs.

Open Meeting Law A law passed
in 1976 requiring agency meetings to be open to the public unless
certain specified matters are being discussed.

oversight Congressional
supervision of the bureaucracy.

patronage Bureaucratic
appointments made on the basis of political considerations. Federal
legislation significantly limits such appointments today.

Pendleton Act A law passed in
1883 which began the process of transferring federal jobs from
patronage to the merit system.

Privacy Act A law passed in
1974 requiring government files about individuals to be kept

red tape A bureaucratic
pathology in which complex rules and procedures must be followed to
get things done.

Schedule C job A form of
patronage under the excepted service for a position of confidential
or policy-determining” character below the level of the cabinet and
sub cabinet.

Senior Executive Service A
special classification for high-level civil servants created by the
Civil Service Reform Act of 1978. Members of this service can be
hired, fired, and transferred more easily than ordinary civil
servants. They are also eligible for cash bonuses and, if removed,
are guaranteed jobs elsewhere in the government. The purpose of the
service is to give the president more flexibility in recruiting,
assigning, and paying high-level bureaucrats with policy-making

spoils system Another phrase
for political patronage, that is, the practice of giving the fruits

of a party’s victory, such as jobs and contracts, to loyal members of
that party.

trust fund Money outside the
regular government budget. These funds are beyond the control of
congressional appropriations committees.

waste A bureaucratic pathology
in which an agency spends more than is necessary to buy some product
or service.

Whistleblower Protection Act A
law passed in 1989 which created an Office of Special Counsel to
investigate complaints from bureaucrats claiming they were punished
after reporting to Congress about waste, fraud, or abuse in their