Iron Triangles An iron triangle is an alliance of people from three groups: a congressional subcommittee that deals with an issue, the executive agency that enforces laws on that issue, and private interest groups. Often, the members of the triangle know each other well, and people frequently move from one corner of the triangle to another. The members of the iron triangle work together to create policy that serves their interests. Members of the triangle usually know each other well, and work together to create policy that serves their interests. Specific policy support is done by an issue network. The three parts of the iron triangle are often parts of a single issue network, but other people may also be a part of the network, including experts, scholars, and the media. The influence of issue networks is similar to that of iron triangles: By working together, members of an issue network can shape and determine policy. Bureaucrats perform a wide variety of tasks. The job of a bureaucrat is to implement government policy, to take the laws and decisions made by elected officials and put them into practice. Some bureaucrats implement policy by writing rules and regulations. Some bureaucrats administer policies directly to people Public administration is the task of running the government, and providing services through policy implementation, is called Examples of Bureaucratic Functions Function Bureaucratic Agencies Promote the public good National Institutes of Health, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation Protect the nation Armed forces, Coast Guard, Central Intelligence Agency Sustain a strong economy Federal Reserve Bank, Export-Import Bank, Securities and Exchange Commission Weberian Model of a Bureaucracy According to the Weberian model, created by German sociologist Max Weber, a bureaucracy always displays the following characteristics: Hierarchy: A bureaucracy is set up with clear chains of command so that everyone has a boss. At the top of the organization is a chief who oversees the entire bureaucracy. Power flows downward. Specialized: Bureaucrats specialize in one area of the issue their agency covers. This allows efficiency because the specialist does what he or she knows best, then passes the matter along to another specialist. Division of labor: Each task is broken down into smaller tasks, and different people work on different parts of the task. Standard operating procedure: Also called formalized rules, informs workers about how to handle tasks and situations. Everybody always follows the same procedures to increase efficiency and predictability so that the organization will produce similar results in similar circumstances. It can sometimes make bureaucracy move slowly because new procedures must be developed as circumstances change. There are five types of organizations in the federal bureaucracy: 1. Cabinet departments: 15 departments that are led by presidentially appointed Secretaries and approved by the Senate. George Washington had a Cabinet of three including the Secretary of State, Secretary of War, and Secretary of the Treasury. The most recent Cabinet position is the Department of Homeland Security. The Presidential Cabinet is a line organization (federal agencies that report directly to the president.) 2. Independent executive agencies: are line organizations that do not fall under the control of any one department. Presidents often like new agencies to be independent so that they have more direct control over them. Congress decides how to fit new independent executive agencies within the existing bureaucracy. 3. Independent regulatory agencies: an agency outside of the cabinet departments that makes and enforces rules and regulations. The president nominates people to regulatory boards and agencies, and the Senate confirms them. Generally, these bureaucrats serve set terms in office and can only be removed for illegal behavior. Regulatory agencies tend to function independently from the elected parts of government, which gives them the freedom to make policy without any political interference. 4. Government corporations: agencies that act and function like a business 5. Presidential commissions: Presidents regularly appoint presidential commissions to investigate problems and make recommendations. Most are temporary but some may be permanent. How does a Bureaucrat become a Bureaucrat Two types of bureaucrats in the federal bureaucracy: political appointees and civil servants. Political Appointees The president can appoint approximately 2,000 people to top positions within the federal bureaucracy. The president usually receives nominations and suggestions from party officials, political allies, close advisers, academics, and business leaders on whom to appoint to bureaucratic offices. Sometimes the president appoints loyal political allies to key positions, particularly ambassadorships. This tradition is referred to as the spoils system or simply patronage. Because of the spoils system Charles Julius Guiteau, a strong supporter of the spoils system, grew angry when President James Garfield repeatedly denied him a diplomatic posting in Paris. On July 2, 1881, Guiteau shot Garfield, who later died of complications from the wound. Garfield’s assassination prompted Congress to change rules governing the selection of bureaucratic officials. The Civil Servants In the late nineteenth century, members of the Progressive Party argued that most government jobs should be filled with skilled experts, not unskilled political appointees. In 1883, Congress passed the Pendleton Act (also called the Civil Service Reform Act), which put limits on the spoils system. The act created the Civil Service Commission, the first central personnel agency for the federal government. At first, civil service rules applied to only about 10 percent of federal employees, but since then Congress has expanded the civil service, so that it now encompasses about 90 percent of the bureaucracy. Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 reformed and clarified the rules of the civil service. The law created the Office of Personnel Management to replace the Civil Service Commission, and it also established the Merit Systems Protection Board to hear complaints from employees about violations of the rules. Civil servant applicants must pass an exam that measures skills related to the particular civil service position they hope to fill. The civil service uses the merit system, meaning that it hires and promotes civil servants based on their technical skills. It is extremely difficult to fire civil servants. In theory, this job security prevents politicians from firing those who disagree with them. In practice, however, it makes it hard to fire incompetent employees. Bureaucrats put government policy into practice. The federal bureaucracy has a large impact on policymaking. In order to get their policies passed, the president and Congress must work with the bureaucracy. Controlling the bureaucracy can be difficult for the following reasons: 1. Size: The president cannot monitor everyone or even every group within the bureaucracy, so much of what bureaucrats do goes unmonitored. 2. Expertise of bureaucrats: The people who administer policy often know much more about those issues than the president or members of Congress. This expertise gives the bureaucrats power. 3. Civil service laws: Firing bureaucrats, even for incompetence, is very difficult. 4. Policy implementation: When Congress creates a new program, it does not establish all the details on how the policy will be implemented. Instead, Congress passes enabling legislation, which grants power to an agency to work out the specifics. Although the agency must stay within some bounds, it has a great deal of latitude in determining how to carry out the wishes of Congress.
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