- Bureaucracy and Bureaucrats
- The basic characteristics that define the concept of bureaucracy are
found in virtually all organizations, whether public or private, military
or religious, for profit or nonprofit. Most organizations are bureaucracies,
and most of their employees are bureaucrats.
- Why do bureaucracies exist and why are they needed?
- Bureaucracy is nothing more than a form of organization
defined by certain attributes, including a division of labor, allocation
of functions, allocation of responsibility, supervision,
full-time employment, and worker careers within the organization.
- Bureaucracy literally means "rule by desks," in other words,
a government by clerks.
- The goals of a bureaucracy are efficiency and productivity, which
are gained through specialization and repetition of tasks.
- Bureaucracies are created in government to carry out a broad
range of tasks, to provide necessary services, and to act as experts
in particular areas of policy.
- Despite the general belief that the federal bureaucracy has
grown too large and unresponsive, the size of the federal bureaucracy
has remained stable over the past 25 years, and has actually
declined when compared to the size of the civilian workforce
or the increase in federal spending.
- What roles do government bureaucrats perform?
- Bureaucrats communicate with each other, maintain paper for
accountability, interpret the law, and implement the objectives
of the organization.
- Congress has delegated a significant amount of authority to
the federal bureaucracy by granting agencies the power to
draft federal regulations (rule-making) and to adjudicate conflicts
over these regulations.
- Is the federal bureaucracy representative of the population?
- Prior to 1883, bureaucrats were political appointeesa result
of the spoils system.
- The assassination of President Garfield in 1881 led to the passage
of the Civil Service Act of 1883, which created a merit system
for the hiring of federal bureaucrats.
- Today, the federal bureaucracy more closely reflects the
sociological composition of the nation than any other branch of
the federal government.
- The Organization of the Executive Branch
- What are the agencies that make up the executive branch?
- The federal bureaucracy consists of the Cabinet departments,
independent agencies, government corporations, and independent
- The Cabinet departments are headed by a secretary (except the
exception of the Department of Justice, which is headed by the
attorney general), but it is the bureau level that is responsible
for interacting with the public.
- Independent agencies exist outside the structure of the Cabinet
departments and carry out functions that are too costly for the
private sector (e.g., NASA).
- Government corporations (e.g., the U.S. Postal Service and AMTRAK)
are designed to run like businesses and hopefully generate a profit.
- Independent regulatory commissions regulate some aspect of society
(e.g., the Federal Communications Commission regulates the broadcast
- How can one classify these agencies according to their missions?
- One of the most important activities of the federal bureaucracy
is to promote the public welfare (e.g., the Department of Health and Human Services
and the Food and Drug Administration).
- Clientele agencies carry out functions that
benefit a particular group or clientele (e.g., the Departments of
Agriculture, Labor, Education, and Veterans Affairs).
- Agencies for the control of the Union are of three types: those that
control federal revenue (e.g., the Department of Commerce, the Federal
Reserve System, and the IRS), those that provide internal national security
(e.g., the FBI and the Department of Justice), and those that defend against external
threats (e.g., the CIA and the Departments of State and Defense).
- Regulatory agencies make rules which carry the force of law over people and
businesses. Among them are the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the
Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
- Redistributive agenciesthose concerned with fiscal, monetary, and welfare
policytransfer money between the public and private spheres and influence spending
and investment. The Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve System are fiscal agencies; Social
Security, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), and Medicaid are
- Managing the Bureaucracy: Reinvention, Reduction, and Control
- Can government be made more responsive and efficient?
- The 1993 National Performance Review was designed to make the
federal government more efficient, accountable, and effective.
- Vice President Al Gore led in the effort to reinvent
- By the end of 1999, the effort had produced a savings of $136
- Congressional oversight has increased over time, making sure that
bureaucracies serve their intended functions.