Executive Governance: Presidential Administrations and Policy Change in the Federal Bureaucracy

By Cornell G. Hooton | Go to book overview

5
Political Direction

Grants-in-aid agencies necessarily work with a variety of state and local actors. In doing so, career officials become knowledgeable about these actors. It is not surprising then that respondents showed in their comments that they were actively attuned to the interests immediately affecting the conduct of their regular tasks; upper-level careerists described the political dynamics and their implications for a variety of program activities. Additionally, careerists were knowledgeable of, and sometimes directly part of, policy struggles within their bureaus. What distinguishes the more "political" activities at issue here, however, from the more legalistic activities or more routine-oriented behaviors of other chapters, is the extent to which the participation in the political struggles is more fluid, the perspectives and actions of the participants less clearly defined by their formal organizational positions, and the individual participant's influence over outcomes less sure. Relevant activities included bargaining, persuasion, and negotiation among the actors who controlled, or could influence, the "input factors" to an organizational output; and hence this dispersion of control made organizational actions less the consequence of central command or of automatic, "programmed" organizational response.

The previous chapter discusses how careerists sometimes took intentional action against (or failed to take action to support) the preferences of an administration. As a matter of practice, though, the more frequent and difficult obstacles to the accomplishment of the policy aims of political executives as well as of career officials could stem from actors who were outside the bureau but on whom the bureau had to depend to accomplish its aims. This is not to say that careerists could not or would not on occasion contribute to the difficulties that external actors could pose, for example, by leaking information (see Rourke 1984a), but that external actors were also consequential, while many were of necessity directly involved in the conduct of the bureaus' programs. Careerists throughout the bureaus under study were thus regularly involved in relations with external groups. We might thus ask what the normal reasons were for contact between outsiders and insiders and how career people used the information that they thereby gleaned.

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