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«The American Administrative State»


Legal, political, and managerial concerns were among the reasons of the development of the American administrative state. Moreover, public administration's growth has allowed the government to perform bigger influence over the economy and society. However, unfortunately, it still has a host of problems. Among them, there are the following: questions about the principles of the public administration's organization and questions about the control by the public officials. In response to the public administration growing influence, three branches of the U.S. government, which are executive, judicial, and legislative, have already intensified their control over it. Nevertheless, the three branches of the government do not possess equal powers. It is curious but the president is the one who has to share his powers with Congress, the Senate, and courts. Moreover, the combinations of words such as mythical presidency and limits to the presidential authority describe the real situation despite the well-known image of the chief executive as the most powerful elected executive in the world. The other thing that excites curiosity is that the president needs different tools to be developed for the effective control and coordination of the executive branch.

Mythical Presidency

Nowadays, Americans have built up the form of the president that does not match the real one. Maybe, the reason of it was that society needed the hero figure that was the most powerful executive in the whole world. Because of it, the office of the president of the United States became surrounded by the great amount of myth. The major one is that the President of the United States faces no limits and he can do everything in the name of democracy. Nevertheless, in fact, modern presidents are not able to deliver their promises to the public and achieve their set goals. Furthermore, even promises to do something to control bureaucracy remain without any solutions.

According to Rosenbloom, Kravchuk, and Clerkin (2014), among the examples of the president's inability to perform effective politics one can mention the following ones. President Jimmy Carter admitted that it was not possible for him to surmount bureaucracy and accomplish his major reforms in the federal personnel system. Instead of cutting the size of federal bureaucracy as he had promised, President Ronald Reagan did nothing to achieve this goal. Moreover, at the end of his second term, the level of the federal employment was even higher than before and the budget deficit was bigger than ever. Furthermore, instead of liquidating some of the federal departments, a new one, the Department of Veterans Affairs, was founded during Reagan’s presidency.

As for Clinton’s presidency, despite the great promises of reforms and culture change in federal administration, its success was doubtful. According to NPR’s report, among the major achievements, there were the following ones - $137 billion savings, 426,000 positions full-time civilian workforce reduction, termination of 250 administrative units, and the elimination of 16,000 pages from the regulatory rulebook of the government (Rosenbloom et al., 2014). Unfortunately, the critics noticed that while the federal employment shortened the amount of people that were employed, the federal contracts grew larger. Talking about the savings, they were based on simple closing of the military bases.

It is obvious that the gap between real influence and power of the president and the imaginary presidency is huge. In fact, since the days of Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945), all presidential administrations have noted difficulties in getting things done for the presidents (Rosenbloom et al., 2014).

Limits to the Presidential Authority

The president is a person that possesses significant influence and authority as Commander-in-Chief or in making deals with the foreign nations. However, as for the domestic affairs, his powers over public administration are quite limited. The main reason is that the president shares almost all his authority with the courts and Congress.

Moreover, there are different restrictions and limits, narrowing the president’s power. First, to create the agencies, the approval of the legislature is required. Otherwise, they must be created following the congressional delegation of power to the president. Additionally, missions of agencies are occasionally modified or established by the president alone. As for the salaries and funding for agencies, they must be permitted by Congress. Furthermore, the president cannot deny spending money that was distributed by Congress. In addition, the president has to share the principal officers’ appointments with the Senate. Furthermore, constitutional and statutory law constraint some presidential appointments dismissals. Additionally, the federal personnel system requires congressional involvement. Talking about the executive orders of the president, they may be disputed in the federal courts.

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Moreover, if the government is divided, one or both houses of Congress and the White House are controlled by the different political parties and the president may face problems with the control of the administration. Such a situation occurred during the presidencies of Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton, first two years of George W. Bush presidential term, and the final two years of Barak Obama first term and the full second term of his presidency.

Tools of Presidential Management

The president is accountable and responsible for the efficiency of the executive branch but he does not have the constitutional powers to control it in terms of domestic administration. Such a situation has forced him to increase his authority using special tools for better management. Among them are the following ones.

The Executive Office of the President

Created in 1939, the EOP is considered the most formidable managerial tool of the president. Its key goal is to strengthen the president’s capacity in controlling the budgets of the executive branch agencies and providing them with the policy direction (Rosenbloom et al., 2014). Nowadays, according to Rosenbloom et al. (2014), it consists of 1,800 full-time equivalent workers and the following units. The White House Office provides the president with managerial and staff assistance. Among the key responsibilities of the White House Office are those that allow the president to possess greater influence over the administration, to coordinate the executive branch activities, to deal with outsiders (Congress, media, and interest groups), and to generate ideas to solve the urgent problems. Further, the Office of Management and Budget deals with the executive branch agencies, coordinates policy, and budgets. In addition, it has been used to blunt congressional influence on the administrative processes and agencies. The Office of National Drug Control Policy develops the annual National Drug Control Strategy. Finally, the National Security Council consults the president on the integration of the foreign, domestic, and military policies related to the national security.

The EOP is a useful managerial tool that helps the president in solving various problems and increasing influence over the administration and executive branch agencies. Moreover, the president has full freedom to make the appointments to the White House Office. On the other hand, the EOP has grown so large that it simply cannot be under direct control of the president.

Political Appointments

Another managerial tool of the president is ability to appoint political executives to bring his policy direction to the federal administration. The president may appoint more than 700 political executives such as agency and department heads, assistant secretaries, and others to the independent regulatory commissions or executive agencies.

It is obvious that these appointees have dual allegiance. They have to be able to work in the agencies, where they have been assigned, and communicate with the top-ranking career staffs, and at the same time, they must be loyal to the chief executive because they are the president’s appointments. Therefore, appointees equally represent the president’s will to the agency and the agency to the president. In addition, one should mention that nowadays, the part of the political executives is not able to have a direct access to the president and it makes their jobs considerably complicated.

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Formal Coordination Instruments

To improve management, the administration of George W. Bush implemented scorecards and a Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART). The first one awards agencies according to their performance in the financial management, personnel management, linking the budget, outsourcing of decisions, electronic government, or pursuit by using green, yellow, and red cards. The second one observes efficiency and achievement of goals.

Among the additional presidential tools are the ability to block administrative actions of the agencies or Congress and the president may use the veto power to freeze legislative initiatives for administrative action or change. In addition, it may be used to block using founds by agencies for goals, to which the president is opposed.

As for these additional tools, they are considered crude. Moreover, they can be overridden by Congress. Unfortunately, the more finely honed instrument of vetoing, the line-item veto is not available to the president.

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As for the observers, they consider the president’s tools to be inadequate. Furthermore, they suppose that the president needs greater ability to coordinate the federal agencies’ activities and more control over them.


The growth of public administration made it possible for all branches of the Government to exercise bigger influence over the economy and society. In response to the existing restrictions and limits, the president’s administration promoted the large Executive Office development. It gave the president an ability to bring his will to the executive agencies and to possess greater control over the executive branch and the administration through his representatives and different management tools. However, unfortunately, nowadays, the Executive Office grew too large and it cannot be controlled directly and effectively. Moreover, some of the president’s tools are considered inadequate and they should be replaced with more efficient ones, thus giving the president greater abilities in controlling and coordination.



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