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Chapter 13. The Federal Bureaucracy. United States Department of Interior. Bureaucracy.

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Chapter 13

The Federal Bureaucracy

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Bureaucracy is a concept in sociology and political science referring to the way that the administrative execution and enforcement of legal rules are socially organized. Four structural concepts are central to any definition of bureaucracy:

a well-defined division of administrative labor among persons and offices,

a personnel system with consistent patterns of recruitment and stable linear careers,

a hierarchy among offices, such that the authority and status are differentially distributed among actors, and

formal and informal networks that connect organizational actors to one another through flows of information and patterns of cooperation.

Examples of everyday bureaucracies include governments, armed forces, corporations, hospitals, courts, ministries and schools

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Bureaucracy in Political Science

  • A system of organization and control that is based on three principles:

  • Hierarchical authority

  • Job Specialization

  • Formalized rules

  • Roughly 2.5 million employees in the U.S. are part of the bureaucracy

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History of Bureaucracy

President Andrew Jackson (1828) opened government jobs to the common people. He inaugurated the spoils system, under which party loyalty—not experience or talent—became the criterion for a federal job .

This was the beginning of patronage, and it continued through the late 19th century

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History of Bureaucracy

Congress passed the Pendleton Act in 1883, which created a system for hiring federal workers based on qualifications rather than political allegiance; employees were also protected from losing their jobs when the administration changed.

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History of Bureaucracy

In 1939, the Hatch Act passed to prohibit federal workers from running for office or actively campaigning for other candidates.

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History of Bureaucracy

1930s: the size of the federal bureaucracy grew exponentially due to President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal agencies.

Although many were short-lived, others continue to play a role

Example: the Social Security Administration (SSA), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

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History of Bureaucracy

1960s: President Lyndon expanded the welfare state with such programs as Medicare, Head Start, the Job Corps, and the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO).

1970s: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created by the Nixon administration, the new Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the Labor Department transformed the workplace for most Americans, and new cabinet departments were established .

2002: Department of Homeland Security established.

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Forms of Bureaucracy

  • Cabinet Departments:

  • 15 currently exist;

  • major administrative units of the executive;

  • heads, or secretaries, appointed, approved and part of presidential cabinet;

  • each department has responsibility for a general policy area

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Cabinet Departments

  • State,

  • Treasury,

  • Defense,

  • Justice,

  • Interior,

  • Agriculture,

  • Commerce,

  • Labor,

  • Health & Human Services,

  • Homeland Security,

  • Housing & Urban Development,

  • Transportation,

  • Energy,

  • Education, and

  • Veterans Affairs.

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Forms of Bureaucracy

Independent Agencies:

similar to cabinets in structure but have narrower responsibilities

Example: Central Intelligence Agency

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Forms of Bureaucracy

  • Regulatory Agencies:

  • Quasi-legislative

  • Quasi-judicial

  • Hold hearings

  • Make rules

  • Resolve disputes

  • Independent

  • President cannot unilaterally remove leaders

    Example: Environmental Protection Agency

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Forms of Bureaucracy

Government Corporations:

Similar to private companies because they charge clients for services and are governed by a board of directors

Different b/c receive federal funding to help defray operating expenses

Example: Amtrak

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Forms of Bureaucracy

  • Commissions:

  • Provide advice to President

  • Exist because the need for rulemaking is highly complex & technical

    Examples: FTC, FCC, SEC, FEC, FRB

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  • Primary Responsibility is policy implementation (Rule Application, Rule Interpretation, and Rule Initiation)

  • Administrators tend to look out for their agency’s point of view.

  • Often, new regulation has a comment period time outlined in the U.S. Federal Register

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Sources of Power


Special interests, or clientele groups

Friends in High Places

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To President (can reorganize or change leadership)

To Congress

To public

To Executive Budget

Whistleblowers (individuals can report instances of mismanagement without repercussions)

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+3500 appointed by White House


Number of appointments has increased

Tenure of those appointed has decreased


Political Favoritism

Spoils System


Pendleton Act of 1883

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Career Civil Service

Office of Personnel Management

Bipartisan Merit Systems Protection Board

18 level General Schedule (GS) salary structure

Service ratings

Hatch Act of 1939 limits political activities of civil service