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Definition. A large organization composed of appointed officials in which authority is divided among several managers It is a feature of all modern societies. Three ways U.S. bureaucracy is distinctive. Political authority over bureaucracy is shared among several institutions

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  • A large organization composed of appointed officials in which authority is divided among several managers
    • It is a feature of all modern societies
three ways u s bureaucracy is distinctive
Three ways U.S. bureaucracy is distinctive
  • Political authority over bureaucracy is shared among several institutions
  • Most federal agencies share their functions with agencies of state and local government
  • America’s adversary culture means that the actions of bureaucrats are often fought in court
  • Little mention in the Constitution other than to give the president power to appoint various officials
  • 1789 congress gave the president power to remove officials without congressional assent
  • Throughout much of history patronage was the chief means of determining who would hold federal jobs
Civil War and postwar period saw the creation of many additional bureaus
    • These agencies served specialized constituencies such as farmers or veterans
  • 1883 Pendleton Act was passed
    • Result of public outrage over the assassination of President by a disappointed office seeker
pendleton act
Pendleton Act
  • The act aimed to reform the spoils system by eliminating many political appointments in favor of jobs only awarded to candidates who met predetermined uniform standards of merit.
  • It reestablished a Civil Service Commission to prepare rules for a limited classified civil service, which the president could expand at discretion.
    • Competitive examinations determined the qualifications of applicants, while appointments were apportioned among the states according to population
Bureaucracy as we know it today is the product of the New Deal
    • Programs gave broad but vaguely defined powers to agencies
  • World War II
    • Government mad use of the vastly increased revenues the income tax allowed
federal employees
Federal Employees
  • Number of civilian federal employees has not been growing since World War II
  • Number of indirect federal employees has grown
    • Those working for state or local government or private firms funded by federal programs
Appointed officials have discretionary authority
    • The ability to choose courses of action and to make policies not spelled out in advance by laws
  • Increase in expenditures and in number of regulations issued in the past 30 years shows that the bureaucracy has become very powerful
growth of discretionary authority
Growth of Discretionary Authority
  • Primary areas of delegation
    • Subsidies to groups and organizations
    • Grant-in-Aid programs, transferring money from national to state and local governments
    • Devising and enforcing regulations, especially for the economy
bureaucratic pathologies
Bureaucratic Pathologies


Red Tape




red tape
Red Tape
  • The existence of complex rules and procedures that must be followed to get something done
  • Insures that one part of the organization does not operate out of step with another
  • Occurs when some agencies work at cross purposes with other agencies
  • Example: one agency tells farmers how to grow crops more efficiently and another pays farmers to grow fewer
  • Two government agencies seem to be doing the same thing
  • Example:
    • Customs Service and DEA both attempt to intercept illegally smuggled drugs
  • Tendency of agencies to grow without regard to the benefits their programs confer or the costs
  • Agencies have vague goals and vague mandates from Congress
  • Agencies spend more than is necessary to buy some product or service
  • $300 hammers purchased by the military
  • Marble restroom fixtures in a national parks
supreme court cases
Supreme Court Cases
  • Important Supreme Court Cases helped to further define bureaucracy
  • Elrod v Burns 1976
  • Branti v Finkel 1980
  • Rutan v Republican Party of Illinois 1990
elrod v burns 1976
Elrod v. Burns 1976
  • ACLU attorney, John Tucker, represented former employees of the Cook County Sheriff’s Office
  • In 1970 Democrat Richard Elrod purged the office of Republican employees
  • Tucker argued that this discharge was based only on their political affiliation and violated their First Amendment rights
  • Supreme Court agreed
  • Justice Brennan wrote that “political belief and association constitute the core of those activities protected by the First Amendment”
branti v finkel et al
Branti v. Finkel ET AL
  • Two Republicans brought suit in Federal District Court to stop a Democrat who had recently been appointed Public Defender in Rockland County, NY from terminating their jobs.
  • Both had been performing their jobs satisfactorily
  • The Question
    • Whether the First Amendment protects an assistant public defender who is satisfactorily performing his job from discharge solely because of his political beliefs
  • The First and Fourteenth Amendments protect the employees from discharge solely because of their political beliefs
rutan v republican party of illinois
Rutan v Republican Party of Illinois
  • In November of 1980, Governmor Thompson of Illinois issued an order that prohibited state officials from hiring new employees, promoting state employees, or recalling state employees after layoffs without the approval of the Governor’s Office of Personnel
This office based hiring and promotion on:
    • Applicants contributions to the Republican Party
    • Applicant’s record of service to the Republican Party
    • The support of local Party officials
  • The Question
    • Did Governor Thompson’s practices in Illinois infringe upon the First Amendment rights of potential and current state employees?
  • In an 5 to 4 decision, the Court held that Governor Thompson’s practices amounted to an unconstitutional patronage system
competitive service
Competitive Service
  • Appointment by merit based on written exam
  • Departments increasingly do their own hiring without OPM referral for these reasons
    • OPM is cumbersome and not geared to department needs
    • Agencies have need of professional who cannot be ranked by examination
    • Agencies face pressure to diversify federal bureaucracy personnel
excepted service
Excepted Service
  • Bureaucrats appointed by agencies, typically in a nonpartisan fashion
    • About 3% of excepted employees are appointed on grounds other than merit
      • Presidential appointments
      • Schedule C jobs
        • Confidential of policy making component
      • Non-career executive assignments
buddy system
Buddy System
  • Circumvents the usual search process
  • Name-request job
    • Filled by a person whom agency has already identified for middle and upper-level jobs
  • Job description may be tailored for person
  • Encourages issue networks based on shared policy views
agency allies
Agency Allies
  • Iron Triangle
    • Agencies, Congressional committees, Interest groups
  • Issue Network
    • Network of people on Washington based interest groups, congressional staff, university personnel, think tanks, and mass media
firing a bureaucrat
Firing a Bureaucrat
  • Most bureaucrats cannot be easily fired
  • Senior Executive Service was established to provide the president and cabinet with more control in personnel decisions
  • Hiring, firing, pay, and other procedures are established by law
congressional oversight
Congressional Oversight
  • Congress creates and authorizes their programs
  • Appropriations allows the agencies to spend money on programs
  • Congressional investigations