Why Bureaucracy? How Is the Executive Branch Organized? Who Controls the Bureaucracy?

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Chapter #7: The Executive Branch: Bureaucracy in a Democracy\

  • Why Bureaucracy?

  • How Is the Executive Branch Organized?

  • Who Controls the Bureaucracy?

  • How Can Bureaucracy Be Reduced?

Chapter Summary: U.S. government policy is implemented by a bureaucracy of about 3 million employees; bureaucracy - characterized by clear lines of authority, separation of responsibilities, and career experts - is the inevitable solution task to this large management task in that it: (1) enhances efficiency. (2) makes government operations possible (3) and provides expertise and organization to fulfill important roles. Bureaucratic agencies can be roughly categorized as ‘Clientele’, ‘Maintenance’ ‘Regulatory” or “Redistributive.” The bureaucracy is controlled both by the President as chief executive, and by Congress with oversight responsibility and control over legislation and appropriations. The bureaucracy presents principle-agent dilemmas on numerous levels: bureaucrats can have motivations quite different from policy-makers or the public. Once written and in place, policy tends to stick. Also, the vagaries that can result from the compromise of the legislative process can confer great latitude for the way a policy is implemented . One element of policy-writing/implementation within our bureaucracy is the link between legislative committees (staffs), bureaucrats enforcing regulations, and the industry being regulated, together making up an “Iron Triangle.” Frequent calls are made for reduction of the bureaucracy, tactics for which include termination, devolution, and privatization

Critical Vocab/Concepts:

Admin. Adjudication*


Bureaucratic Drift*

Clientele Agencies

Coalitional Drift*



Federal Reserve System



Regulatory Agencies

Big picture questions from this material:

  • Who controls bureaucracy?

  • How is it controlled?

  • How does bureaucracy work?

Chapter Notes:

  • Identifies six primary characteristics of bureaucracy: (1) Division of labor-specialized workers/increase productivity (2) Allocation of funds-each worker depends on the output of other workers (3) Allocation of responsibility-each task is a contractual obligation (4) supervision-workers look over workers/chain of command (5) Purchase of full-time employment-organization controls time worker is on the job (6) Identification of career within organization-pension, seniority, promotions. MC/FR

  • The creation of a bureau is a way to deliver government goods efficiently and a device by which to “tie one’s hand” thereby providing a credible commitment to the long-term existence of a policy.FR

  • Bureaucracy- The complex structure of offices, tasks, rules, and principles of organization that are employed by all large-scale institutions to coordinate the worth of their personnel.FR

  • Organization of the executive branch-(1) cabinet departments (2) independent agencies (3) government corporations (4) independent regulatory commissions .MC

  • Agencies for maintenance of the union (keep government going) (1) Agencies for control of the sources of government revenue (2) Agencies for control of conduct defined as a threat to internal national security, and (3) agencies for defending American security from external threats. MC/FR

  • Jimmy Carter broke CSC into MSPB, FLRA, & OPM (Zero-base budgeting-budgeting from the bottom up).MC

  • Reagan-Top down budgeting approach. MC

  • Each expansion of government in the twentieth century was accompanied by a parallel expansion of presidential management authority. MC

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