Bureaucracy and Judiciary Concepts
The federal bureaucracy is one huge agency with approximately 2.6 million employees working alongside several freelance contractors. One of the key responsibilities of the bureaucracy is to oversee the administration of the law. For the most part, the role of managing the bureaucracy is left to the executive branch of the federal government although the judiciary and legislative branches also have some influence when it comes to managing the federal bureaucracy. The primary argument is that the bureaucracy is powerful and is more than just a system tasked with executing wishes of government officials with some people arguing that it is the real government. Given the bureaucracy’s significant role in policymaking, this argument cannot be refuted. For a long time, it is perceived that the president has executive and final say on matters related to policy-making within the federal government. However, to get policies passed, it is mandatory for the president to consult and work with the bureaucracy. Also, despite having powers to oversee the functions of the executive, the Congress must work with the bureaucracy in matters of policy making. In other words, both the president and Congress must persuade or lobby the bureaucracy to have government policies passed even though the process of lobbying and persuasion is often frustrating and time-consuming (Kaufman, 2001).
Regarding structure, the federal bureaucracy comprises of five types of organizations including cabinet departments, independent executive agencies, independent regulatory agencies, government corporations, and presidential commissions. The cabinet departments controlled by the bureaucracy include state, treasury, interior, justice, agriculture, commerce defense, labor, transportation, housing and urban development, energy, education, health and human services, and homeland security. There are several functions of the bureaucracy including implementing government policy and taking laws and decisions made by Congress and putting them into practice. Also, through departments such as National Institutes of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency, the bureaucracy promotes the public good. It also serves the functions of protecting the nation through departments such as the Armed Forces, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Coast Guard. Moreover, the bureaucracy is tasked with sustaining a strong economy through organizations such as the Federal Reserve Bank and the Securities and Exchange Commission. The judicial system, which has an influence on the bureaucracy, is made up of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) and lower courts. The members of the Supreme Court are appointed by the sitting President in the case of a vacancy. The Senate is tasked with approval of the appointee by a majority vote. Regarding functions, the judicial system is tasked with interpreting law including the Constitution, regulations, and statutes (Center, 2005). For instance, the SCOTUS is considered the final authority when it comes to interpreting the Constitution of the United States and other regulations and statutes created pursuant to it.
Both the Congress and judiciary can serve to curb some of the powers of the bureaucracy. The Congress, for instance, has control over the Library of Congress, the Government Accountability Office, and the Congressional Research Service, all of which are organizations controlled by the bureaucracy. The Congress also ensures that the bureaucracy acts in accordance with the law through close monitoring. The judiciary has a significant oversight role and can serve to curb some of the power of the bureaucracy through its involvement when issues of law and constitutionality come up. An example of such a situation is when the bureaucracy violates a civil service regulation or oversteps its jurisdiction. The judiciary can also curb some of the powers of other branches of government such as the executive and the Congress. For instance, with its power of judicial review, it can overrule laws passed by the Congress and declare them unconstitutional. Also, the judiciary can use the power of judicial review to declare presidential actions and treaties signed by the executive unconstitutional (Padovano, Sgarra, & Fiorino, 2003).
From a theoretical perspective, the bureaucracy implements policies once they are enacted by the Congress and the executive under the leadership of the President. However, practically speaking, the bureaucracy, via iron triangles, plays a significant role when it comes to federal policymaking (Kaufman, 2001). An iron triangle refers to an alliance formed by people from three groups including a congressional subcommittee that handles a specific issue, an executive agency enforcing laws related to the issue, as well as private interest groups. Often, people forming the iron triangle create policies that primarily serve their interests. For instance, an iron triangle may be formed around a certain weapons system. In such a case, the Defense Department will push for the creation of a new weapons system, members of the Armed Services Committee in the Congress will push and vote for the creation of a new weapons system, and a private interest group such as people dealing with military supplies will want to sell weapons systems to make money. Thus, it is evidently in the interest of the three parties to push and authorize the new weapons system highlighting how an iron triangle can influence policymaking.
Of course, with the acquired knowledge on the role of the bureaucracy and the iron triangle on policymaking, one would reexamine his or her views on the inner workings of government. Often, people have the perception that the President has an overall say when it comes to policymaking within the executive. However, the fact that the President has to persuade and lobby the bureaucracy changes this perception. Moreover, the view that the government serves the interests of the public is changed with the knowledge on the selfish activities undertaken by officials via the iron triangle or issue networks.
Center, F. J. (2005). The US legal system: A short description. Retrieved December 22, 2015. Retrieved January 17, 2018, from https://photos.state.gov/libraries/argentina/231771/IRC/U_S__Legal_System_English07.pdf
Kaufman, H. (2001). Major players: Bureaucracies in American government. Public Administration Review, 61(1), 18-42. Retrieved January 17, 2018, from http://faculty.cbpp.uaa.alaska.edu/afgjp/PADM610/Bureaucracies%20in%20American%20Government.pdf
Padovano, F., Sgarra, G., & Fiorino, N. (2003). Judicial branch, checks and balances and political accountability. Constitutional Political Economy, 14(1), 47-70. Retrieved January 17, 2018, from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A%3A1022347908667