6.5 The Structure of the Federal Bureaucracy
The bureaucratic form of organization is followed by the executive branch of the federal government. Thus it is in charge of implementing, administering and regulating the executive federal programs of the executive branch. It is to be noted however, that the Congress and the courts have separate bureaucracies functioning for them. Further, every member of the Congress has a staff working under him who helps him with the task of formulating legislation.
The President, who is at the peak of the pyramid, is constitutionally and politically responsible, (except in a few cases) for the activities of all executive agencies. In general the main agencies of government are composed of a cluster of departments, corporations and independent agencies which together embrace bureaus, divisions, branches, offices, services and other sub-units. Most of the agencies are responsible to the President and all of them exist by act of the Congress. There are a number of bureaucracies that function for the executive branch and they are considered below.
6.5a Cabinet Departments
The largest administrative units in the bureaucracy
are those of the cabinet departments. These employ about 85% of
the civilian employees of the federal government. These departments
are responsible for the broad areas of government operations. Examples
are the Department of State that handles the foreign policy and
the Department of Justice that manages law enforcement. Like atypical
bureaucracy, these departments are organized in a hierarchical manner.
A large department may be composed of many bureaus and even governmental
corporations and other agencies. A secretary who is responsible
directly to the President and is a member of the Presidentís cabinet
heads each department.
6.5b Independent agencies
Agencies outside the regular departments are referred to as independent agencies. They comprise of many types of organization and many degrees of independence. The CIA, the United States Information Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Small Business Administration and the Veterans Administration are some of the large and important independent agencies.
Certain regulatory commissions independent of cabinet departments are also established by the Congress, to regulate activities like radio and television communications, interstate transportation by railroads and trucks, trade practices and the interstate distribution of electricity. These agencies, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission and the National Labor Relations Board, are authorized to issue rules and regulations having the effect of law and to decide cases arising under the regulations. These agencies are run by boards whose members are appointed by the President. Though they are appointed for a limited time, these boards exercise their quasi-legislative and quasi-judicial functions, outside the Presidentís control. This undoubtedly helps them perform their regulatory functions in a better manner.
6.5c Government corporations
The corporation is a system in the government borrowed from the world of business. It provides mechanisms that help to handle matters that are similar to those of private businesses, rather than the usual activities of government. Thus corporations such as the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) fall between a business corporation and a regular government agency.
Government corporations aim to handle specialized business functions with great efficiency. Government corporations were given greater freedom of action and flexibility; for example, they were kept free from certain regulations of the Budget Bureau and the Comptroller General. However the government does retain basic control over the activities of the corporations by the very fact that it owns the corporations. Boards appointed by the President run these corporations which secure their funds from appropriations. While the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) looks forward to congressional funding to supplement its income, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) secures its income from the sale of electricity. Corporations are definitely useful in keeping certain governmental activities free from routine and centralized federal agencies and also from excessive control of the President and the Congress.