Professional Custom Accounting Papers: 6 The Executive Branch POL201 WEEK3 DISCUSSION 1

Professional Custom Accounting Papers: 6 The Executive Branch POL201 WEEK3 DISCUSSION 1


6 The Executive Branch

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Learning Objectives

By the end of this chapter, you should be able to

• Describe the history and evolution of the federal bureaucracy. • Analyze the differences between political and civil service administration. • Describe the rise of the civil service system. • Describe the essential functions of bureaucracy. • Analyze differences between various types of agencies and departments within the bureaucracy. • Describe how the political branches of government attempt to control the bureaucracy and

ensure accountability. • Evaluate the relationship among bureaucracy, Congress, and interest groups. • Analyze the relationship between the nature and structure of American bureaucracy and Ameri-

can political culture.

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Section 6.1 Components of the Federal Bureaucracy

Upon taking office in January 2009, President Obama appointed several “czars,” White House counselors tasked with particular policy responsibilities, to oversee several policy areas. Crit- ics charged that the president was attempting to circumvent the bureaucratic process by run- ning things from the White House, rather than through the traditional executive branch departments. Critics also charged that by appointing czars who would work in the White House, rather than as assistant secretaries in the various departments, the president was avoiding the appointment process, which requires Senate confirmation. President Obama’s actions were viewed as an attempt to avoid legislative oversight, as these czars could not eas- ily be summoned to testify before Congress, nor could the products of their work be subjected to the Freedom of Information Act.

The roots of the czar concept lie in the 1939 Brownlow Commit- tee report, which brought about a reorganization of the executive branch that included the creation of the Executive Office of the Presi- dent (EOP), which led to a greater concentration of policymaking and oversight of agencies and White House departments.

Presidents with active policy agen- das often believe they can achieve better results if they do not have to rely on a large federal bureaucracy. Although the president is both chief executive and chief operating offi- cer of the executive branch, the fed- eral government is a vast organiza- tion of several million employees,

many of whom are protected by certain rules. A president can control his or her advisors in the White House because they serve at his or her pleasure, but he or she has no such author- ity over the bureaucracy. While the president can remove department and agency appointees, there are often political consequences to doing so. To be successful with Congress, presidents need the bureaucracy to implement their policy agendas.

In this chapter, we look at the bureaucracy. We examine the concept of a bureaucracy, how it developed in the United States, what it does, and how it is held accountable to the public.

6.1 Components of the Federal Bureaucracy

The federal bureaucracy is the structure of administrative agencies and departments in the executive branch that is responsible for delivering public goods and services. For instance, the Social Security Administration delivers retirement funds to older adults. The bureaucracy is also responsible for implementing laws. While Congress and the president establish intent to do something by enacting legislation, the bureaucracy must make it happen. As an example, both houses of Congress passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, and the president enacted

Associated Press

President Obama appointed Carol Browner his energy czar in October 2009. The office was abolished in 2011. Presidents appoint czars for the sake of having more policy control concentrated in the White House.

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Section 6.1 Components of the Federal Bureaucracy

it into law by signing the legislation. Yet the responsibility for implementing the law belongs to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), an executive branch Cabinet-level department through the delegation of authority, which was briefly discussed in Chapter 4. Delegation of authority occurs when Congress grants authority to an executive branch depart- ment or agency for a specific task. (Authority for this particular law is also delegated to state governments, as they are responsible for implementing various features of the law.) The fed- eral bureaucracy is the part of the government responsible for implementing laws passed by the president and Congress, and, as appropriate, executive orders signed by the president and case law as determined by Supreme Court decisions. The nature and magnitude of the execu- tive branch’s implementation authority has resulted in a large and complex bureaucracy that includes Cabinet-level departments (discussed in Chapter 5) and several other agencies and offices responsible for implementing the law. The work of the federal government must be well organized in order to ensure that the will of the people, as reflected by congressional, presidential, and judicial actions, is carried out. Yet the magnitude of the work warrants a complex network of offices and agencies to fulfill their responsibilities.

Defining Bureaucracy

The term bureaucracy comes from the French term bureau, meaning department. Today we use the term to mean the breaking down of administration into departments that have a spe- cific purpose. The federal bureaucracy is structured to carry out the law in a politically neu- tral fashion. A large number of government employees function outside the political realm and are not hired or fired based on election results. The purpose of the bureaucracy is to establish an administrative framework to implement the decisions made through the political process.

Successful bureaucracies are often organized accord- ing to principles first articulated by sociologist Max Weber. Weber (1947) suggested that a bureaucracy was the highest form of efficient administrative struc- ture in that it was organized to achieve a set of objec- tives at the least cost. The characteristics that Weber associated with bureaucracy are that it is based on principles of full and official jurisdictional areas and a division of labor. Bureaucracies are also ordered by rules, laws, or administrative regulation, which ensure that it will not operate in an arbitrary manner. The regular activities of the bureaucracy are distributed in the form of official duties, while the bureaucracy has the authority to give commands based on rules. Addi- tionally, a bureaucracy has provisions for the regular and continuous fulfillment of officials’ stated duties, and only those possessing generally regulated qualifi- cations are to be employed.

These principles are found in the modern Ameri- can bureaucracy, especially in the requirement that executive branch functions are based on written

Fine Art Images/SuperStock

Sociologist Max Weber suggested that a bureaucracy is the highest form of efficiency.

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Section 6.1 Components of the Federal Bureaucracy

documents. Positions are legally defined, officials normally hold a form of tenure, and the salaries are based on status, or some type of rank within the organization. The bureaucracy allows the executive branch to divide administrative responsibilities based on specialization, and it allows specialists in particular areas to perform their functions according to objective criteria. Thus, bureaucrats seek to accomplish objectives set forth in legislation enacted by political figures. It is not bureaucrats’ responsibility to get involved with questions of whether those objectives are necessarily good, as those are considerations for elected officials.

Political Appointments Versus Career Civil Service System

The bureaucracy is made up of two distinct components: the political administration and the civil service system. The administration refers to the bureaucracy that supports the president. The civil service system refers to those federal employees who are profession- als hired on the basis of merit. Whereas the civil service system is viewed as the permanent government, the political administration is viewed as a temporary government, because it is mostly replaced when a new president takes office. Each president’s political administration is composed of his or her immediate White House staff, his or her Cabinet, and the political appointees who staff various agencies and departments. As an example, in the State Depart- ment, there is a secretary of state and several assistant secretaries. Each assistant secretary is responsible for a specific policy or programmatic area, such as the assistant secretary for European affairs and the assistant secretary for East Asia. Political appointees in the admin- istration also include the various ambassadors stationed abroad. Each embassy around the world has an ambassador and several counselors who are also political appointees. Below the political appointees are members of the civil service system, and in the case of the State Department, the civil servants are members of the Foreign Service corps.

The key differences between political appointees and civil servants are the method by which they obtain their jobs, the nature of their loyalties, and the tenure of their offices. Political appointees are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Their loyalty is to the president, who can have them removed from office. Civil servants are hired by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and they are chosen on the basis of merit. Individuals going into the civil service often start out in entry-level positions and may work their way up the bureaucratic ladder to more senior-level management positions, which explains why, in part, these persons are often referred to as career civil servants.

Civil servants are supposed to be loyal to their agencies and dedicated to the neutral delivery of public goods and services. Civil servants are governed by the Hatch Act of 1939, which is a law prohibiting federal employees from participating in partisan political activity. The Hatch Act was an outgrowth of a long tradition of civil service reform. Named after Senator Carl Hatch of New Mexico, it was a specific response to allegations that employees of the Work Progress Administration, a New Deal program, were used by Democratic politicians in the 1938 congressional campaign. The Hatch Act specifically prohibits intimidation or bribery of voters and restricts political campaign activities by federal employees. Federal employees below the policymaking level are not permitted to have “any active part” in a political cam- paign and are prohibited from using any public funds for electoral purposes. Additionally, civil servants are prohibited from promising jobs, promotion, financial assistance, contracts, or any other benefit as a way to coerce campaign contributions or political support. In practi- cal terms, this means that a political administrator may attend a fundraiser for members of

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