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


Citizens and interest groups are not the only ones who complain about bureaucratic intractability: so do presidents. This study explores the difficulties of translating presidential policy initiatives into ground-level policy implementation by the "permanent government" -- the career officials of executive agencies. Drawing on organization theory, it focuses on the ways that bureaucratic behaviors shape an agency's responsiveness to top-down directives that may not simply disturb established routines but also strain capacities, challenge the professional ethos, and evoke resistance.

The empirical grounding of the study is an intensive examination of the Urban Mass Transportation Administration with respect to the transit-related policy preferences of the Carter administration. The study demonstrates how bureau-level routines, predispositions, patterns of attention, and active calculation interact and impact the implementation of presidential directives, and underscores the political and organizational importance of a bureau-level process of policy legitimization to support the establishment of durable policy.

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