What problems confront a President in controlling and coordinating the executive branch and how successfully have recent Presidents assessed them? The President sits at the apex of the executive branch, and is the only member of the branch to be elected. Aside from his administrative officials and advisors, the executive branch of the President is made up of two main areas. The Cabinet and The EXOP. The Cabinet is a body whose members specialise in different areas of American society and aim to represent those areas by making decisions that benefit their supporters.
They are appointed and dismissed by the President (whose appointments and dismissals must be approved by Congress). The EXOP (Executive Office Of the President) is made up of members, again specialising in a a certain aspect of society, but this time they represent the President and their views on certain issues, as opposed to having its supporters and the good of that particular society at heart. The members of the EXOP are also appointed by the President, but his appointments and dismissals are, this time, not checked by the Congress in any way.
The President often has a great deal of problems controlling and coordinating both bodies, and has very different relationships with them. In this essay I am going to investigate the relationship between the president and both branches of the executive, before assessing the problems the president has in the controlling and coordinating of them. The cabinet are the Presidents official representatives laid down in the Constitution by the founding fathers in 1879.
The Cabinet are fully un-elected, and can only be appointed and dismissed by the President himself, although these decisions are subject to senate ratification. The president has an unpredictable relationship with his Cabinet, and despite being the ultimate decision maker, is often in disagreement with the Cabinet. This is because the Cabinet members are loyal to two sides. Firstly, they are loyal to the President for choosing them and giving them a prestigious job, and secondly they are a representative of an area of society, and therefore thousands of people depend on them to get their voices heard.
For example, Rod Paige the Secretary for Education, has a responsibility to those he represents, including trade unions, the public, and any other bodies involved. This means that the President may not always get his own way, and although this may be for the good of the country, the President never likes being made a fool of. It is because the senate ratifies appointments and dismissals to and from the cabinet, that cabinet members can afford to act in the best interests of their area, not in the best interests of the President.
In Britain, this is very different, and although the circumstances aren’t exactly the same, the Prime Minister does have the power to dismiss Cabinet ministers, eg: Robin Cook, 2002 – Therefore Cabinet ministers in the UK are more respectful of the Prime Ministers authority. As a counter argument I would venture to say that maybe this respect comes from having regular full Cabinet meetings, and not being ignored as the Cabinet are so often in the US, Bill Clinton had just 6 Cabinet meetings in one year of his Presidency.
The reason that the President meets with Bi-laterals (individual members of the Cabinet who the decision concerns) instead of the full group, is probably down to the fact that he can’t count on them to back him up, as I’ve said, as he has no unchecked power of dismissal over them, therefore making their relationship often a testing one. This is precisely the reason why, in 1939, the EXOP was established. The EXOP is not a single office, but a collection of offices under the umbrella of the name ‘The Executive Office Of The President’.
There are approximately twelve elements to the EXOP and it’s staff total around 2,000. The UK has a far smaller equivalent, it isn’t set up under a name, but as individual branches that operate around the cabinet such as the Press Office, the Policy Unit and the Efficiency Unit. Presidents have total control over the EXOP and can change it in any way they please, although there usually wish that the core offices remain and these have become known as the statutory agencies. These include the White House Office, the OMB (Office of Management and budget), the National Security Council and the Council of Economic Advisors.
The members of the EXOP, again, are un-elected and are appointed and dismissed by the President, however, with no senate ratification involved, the president is free to throw out any ‘non complying members’, and this means that the EXOP are never keen to tell the President anything he doesn’t want to hear. The EXOP is often used as an alternative to the cabinet, and, seeing as the members of the EXOP are much more likely to approve of the presidents ideas and inflate his ego (because their jobs depend on it), it’s no surprise that they are a popular alternative.
The main responsibility for coordination of the executive branch lies with the chief executive, the president. Although there are many sources of help to do this, it is still no easy task. As German sociologist Max Weber pointed out in the early 1900’s, the bureaucracy is a powerful force in modern politics. The difficulty of coordinating the executive branch is such because of a number of a factors. Size, advice and implementation, divisions and conflict, the EXOP itself, political appointees, outside links and congressional oversight.
The first difficulty the president faces is the size of this administrative machine. Obviously the President cannot be expected to keep tabs on all 4 million civil service members, however, its is equally difficult to guide the bureaucracy in the right direction. As Eisenhower prepared to take office in 1953, Harry Truman sympathised with the man accustomed to giving orders and expecting them to be obeyed: “Poor Ike, he’ll sit here, he’ll say do this, do that, and nothing will happen. “.
The bureaucracy has often been likened to a ship, it takes miles to build up any worthwhile momentum, and then in the event of going the wrong way, takes miles to slow down or change direction. Advice and implementation; The president and his advisors are dependent on the cooperation of the civil service. Eg: The captain may give the orders, but if the sailors refuse to act, nothing happens. The fact that there are a number of different bodies, within a number of different bodies in the bureaucracy means that things can be done many different ways.
This creates divisions and conflicts between different groups. The cabinet and the EXOP, for instance, do some of the same jobs, yet while the EXOP may go about a job one way, the cabinet may do it differently. Inevitably arguments occur, and interdepartmental conflicts are unavoidable, and individual areas of the bureaucracy regularly attempt to break away to gain higher, individual status – such as the FBI (headed by J Edgar Hoover from 1924 – 1972), who still officially form part of the department of justice, yet are regarded as an independent organisation by many Americans.
The EXOP is a problem in itself. Unelected and unaccountable members of it, mean that bad decisions can be made with no consequences until it’s to late. This happened in the Iran-Contra affair, and also in the Watergate affair and goes to show that although the Cabinet don’t inflate the Presidents ego as much as the EXOP, in the long run they often make the best decisions. Presidents do have the option of reorganising the bureaucracy, with congressional approval in certain areas (not the EXOP).
Jimmy Carter created two new departments, Energy in 1977 and education in 1979. When Clinton came to power he elevated the United States ambassador to the United Nations to cabinet level as an indication of his commitment to the UN. The political appointees of the departments and executive agencies should give the President the opportunity to infiltrate deeper into the layers of the permanent, career civil service, this giving them more control.
It is sometimes assumed that political appointees will be loyal to a leader, but in America, unlike Britain, cabinet and civil service members will not. Political appointees are likely to have their own agenda. This may be because they come under the influence of the permanent staff and so adopt ‘departmental views’. John Ehrlichman, former advisor to President Nixon, summed up the feelings of the Nixon administration on the subject by saying, “We only see them at the annual White House Christmas Party: they go off and marry the natives.
“. Links with the private sector are also important, not only for future opportunities, but also for the day-to-day brawls of bureaucratic politics. The most widely publisised relationship is between then department of defense and the defence industries. In Britain, civil servants make links with department, between departments and with pressure groups. All of these links can make government more efficient by increasing communication within the administration.
The closeness of some relationships is apparent, and the fact that they are used for personal gain is evident too, as a congressional enquiry of the late 1960’s found that the 100 largest defence contractors employed 1400 ex-military personnel as executives. In 1983 13,682 Pentagon (department of defence) employees left to get jobs in the defence industries. The flow still continues today. The presidents ability to coordinate the bureaucracy is made no easier by the fact that this responsibility, as are most others, is covered by the seperation of powers.
Congress has a significant voice in controlling the administration eg: the Presidents appointments and dismissals for the bureaucracy must have senate ratification – except those in the EXOP. Summing up, the president has many problems in the controlling of the executive branch, but it does assist him greatly in the running of the country. He is able to choose which area of the branch he is to work with on certain issues, and has a vast amount of expertees and resources at his disposal.