Presidents have been generally powerless to affect the structure and operation of the federal bureaucracy significantly.
The bureaucracy has been called the “fourth branch of government,” even though you will find no reference to the bureaucracy in the original Constitution or in the 27 amendments that have been passed since 1787.
Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution gives the president the power to appoint “all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for.”
Article II, Section 3, states that the president “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed, and shall commission all the officers of the United States.”
Constitutional scholars believe that the legal basis for the bureaucracy rests on these two sections of Article II.
A bureaucracy is the name given to a large organization that is structured hierarchically to carry out specific functions.
Public and Private Bureaucracies
Any large corporation or university can be considered a bureaucratic organization. The fact is that the handling of complex problems requires a division of labor.
Public bureaucracies, in contrast, do not have a single set of leaders. Although the president is the chief administrator of the federal system, all bureaucratic agencies are subject to the desires of Congress for their funding, staffing, and their continued existence.
Public bureaucracies serve the citizen rather than the stockholder.
Government bureaucracies are not organized to make a profit. Rather they are supposed to perform their functions as efficiently as possible to conserve the taxpayer’s dollars.
Bureaucracies Compared – Because the lines of authority often are not well defined, some bureaucracies in the U.S. government may be able to operate with a significant degree of autonomy.
The federal nature of the American government also means that national bureaucracies regularly provide financial assistance to their state counterparts.
There are numerous administrative agencies in the federal bureaucracy – such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the Securities and Exchange Commission – that extensively regulate private companies even though they virtually never have an ownership interest in those companies.