Iron Triangles An iron triangle is an alliance of people from three

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
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
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
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
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
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.