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

By Cornell G. Hooton | Go to book overview

6
Processes of Policy Change:
Institutionalization

In examining policy change, we have so far considered a variety of political, legal, and substantive factors that fold into choices of policy. Policy choice, though, is only one facet of policy change. A second facet entails the processes by which the members of a bureau translate a particular policy choice into a durable practice. After the political and career executives choose a policy direction, career and political officials must translate the general preferences into pragmatic standards, assign tasks among a bureau's offices and careerists, and institutionalize those tasks, standards, and practices so that their subsequent performance does not depend on an ongoing, top-down attention to command, control, and coordination.' Bureaucratic responsiveness includes not only policy choice but also the extent to which chosen policies become durable activities among the careerists of the bureau.


1. Staff Resources: Available Time and Labor

Limited Resources, Limited Efforts

A first consideration in gaining longevity is the extent to which careerists focus on their political executives' policy priorities. Yet a recurrent theme in discussions of policy priorities was the limited time that office directors had for pursuing their responsibilities. At UMTA, the limited time reflected a relatively large workload: a few hundred people developed and administered multi-billion dollar projects. Additionally, bureau members researched and developed transit technologies, promoted mass transit methods, provided technical aid, and supplied grants for low-capital projects. UMTA respondents repeatedly commented on how thinly the bureau's workload stretched careerists and on how that burden thus limited their ability to assume new tasks and responsibilities. As one careerist described,

Everyone worked very fast; UMTA was not a very thoughtful place. There was a lot to get out: planning certifications, alternatives analysis, grants.

-101-

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