Academic journal article Presidential Studies Quarterly

The Institutionalization of Regulatory Review: Organizational Stability and Responsive Competence at OIRA

Academic journal article Presidential Studies Quarterly

The Institutionalization of Regulatory Review: Organizational Stability and Responsive Competence at OIRA

Article excerpt

Modern presidents have often found centralized forms of management to be appealing. Authorities have portrayed such strategies as a response to centrifugal influences that limit presidents' efforts to control the bureaucracy through the appointment of so-called political executives to head line agencies (Nathan 1983; Moe 1985). These alleged impediments include the inertia of bureaucratic organizations as well as the competing influences exerted on those organizations by legislators, interest groups, and other actors with agendas that differ from those of the president. Prominent students of presidential management further argue that the need to cope with the same sources of fragmentation shapes the specific character of centralization. Thus, they contend that the desire for responsiveness leads presidents to rely on personalized techniques in pursuing their policy goals. Such techniques are characterized as involving fluid and informal relationships with political advisers as opposed to stable organizations staffed by career bureaucrats (see, for example, Heclo 1975; Wyszomirski 1982; Moe 1985; Moe and Wilson 1994).

Although many scholars subscribe to this latter thesis as a description of executive behavior, there is less agreement about the efficacy and desirability of ad hoc and politicized management strategies. Most students of public administration contend that presidents are well served by formal organizations and career personnel within the executive office (Heclo 1975; Pfiffner 1991; Moe 1990). Their analysis is based in part on the identification of the permanent bureaucracy with the policy expertise, institutional memory, and communications networks that are essential to effective presidential management. It is also based on the assumption that civil servants will put their "neutral competence" to the service of whoever occupies the White House (Heclo 1975). Margaret Wyszomirski argues in this respect that the de-institutionalization of executive staff agencies has weakened their capacity to serve the president. As she notes, "The staffing of EOP core units has become increasingly personalized and, with it, narrowly politicized.... Whatever this does for presidents, it depresses the presidential agencies and ... reduces the power of the presidency" (1982, 456).

Yet not everyone views politicization and de-institutionalization as being counterproductive in terms of presidential needs. Most notably, Terry Moe's (1985) thoughtful work identifies these developments with the realities of executive leadership (also Moe and Wilson 1994). Moe argues that they are necessitated, in part, by separation of powers. Whereas the kind of neutral competence advocated by Heclo may be a more realistic expectation in a parliamentary system, the competing demands placed on bureaucracy by legislators, courts, and various constituent groups place a premium on partisan loyalty in Moe's analysis. Moe feels that ad hoc, politicized strategies are also necessitated by the resistance to change that is inherent in all bureaucratic organizations--including those that comprise the executive office. As he notes:

   ... all organizations have their own routines, their own agendas,
   their own norms, their own ways of coding and interpreting the
   world, their own bases of support, and the president cannot expect
   to control them easily. This is clearly true for the usual
   government agencies.... But it is also true of so-called
   presidential agencies like the Office of Management and Budget;
   while they may exist to serve the president and have no other
   constituency, formal organization inevitably creates interests and
   beliefs that set them apart from him (1985, 240).

Potentially important as they are to our understanding of the presidency, the assertions of Heclo, Moe, and others concerning the means or strategies of executive management have received relatively little systematic attention. …

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