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CRS – Executive Branch Reorganization

Executive Branch Reorganization, August 3, 2017 R44909
“The federal bureaucracy of the present day is the product of more than two centuries of legislative and administrative actions by successive generations of elected and appointed officials. As such, the diverse organizations and processes of the federal government are a consequence of the influence and decisions of thousands of officials with differing viewpoints about the role of government and diverse policy preferences. The federal bureaucracy’s organizational arrangements are also reflective of ongoing competition between Congress and the President to influence the behavior of agencies. With its size, complexity, and idiosyncratic history, the federal bureaucracy is sometimes perceived as immutable. Notwithstanding this perception, federal organizational structures and processes are under continual congressional and administrative study and alteration in response to changing contexts and priorities. The term reorganization may be defined to encompass the intended alterations in the purpose, functions, procedures, assignments, and relationships within and among organizations. It involves more than just structural rearrangement of organizational units and personnel, and it can occur within agencies as well as among two or more agencies. Government reorganizations can also entail changes in interagency processes or the distribution of resources and functions among agencies. The government organizations that are the focus of this report are those that exercise significant federal legal authority. Primary constitutional responsibility for the structural organization of the executive branch of the federal government, as well as the creation of the principal components of that branch, rests with Congress. Congress also has delimited the operations of the executive departments, agencies, and other governmental entities through specifications of both government-wide and agency-specific processes. Key tools that Congress uses to shape the contours of the federal government include authorizing legislation, appropriations legislation, and oversight. The President has often played a leadership role in reorganization of the executive branch by transmitting proposals and advocating legislative action in public statements and private negotiations. Presidents and their appointed agency heads also have a variety of administrative tools at their disposal for making structural and procedural organizational changes that are not in conflict with statutes. In addition to the tools just mentioned, each of the three major governing actors discussed in this report—Congress, the President, and agency heads—has tried to address the challenge of coordination across organizational boundaries by establishing interagency coordinative mechanisms of one kind or another. These are often used in an effort to establish cooperation among agencies with shared missions, similar functions, or overlapping jurisdiction. Some arrangements provide for collaboration among equals, while others designate a lead agency with authority to direct activities. This report discusses some tools available to Congress, the President, and agency leaders, respectively, for initiation and implementation of executive branch reorganization. It also discusses the interagency coordinative mechanisms that are sometimes used by each of these actors to bridge interorganizational gaps. The report concludes with general observations regarding federal reorganization efforts.”

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