Political Control, Bureaucratic Responsiveness, and Agency Structure
Selin, Jennifer Lee
The responsiveness of government agencies to elected officials is a central question in democratic governance. While important scholarship has demonstrated that elected officials have tools they can successfully implement to encourage agency responsiveness, there is little empirical work on the effect of structure on political control. In a series of three papers, I fill that gap in the literature by examining the structural features that make certain agencies more or less responsive to their political principals. First, I develop new estimates of structural independence based on new data on 50 different structural features of 321 federal agencies in the federal executive establishment. Second, I examine federal executives’ own perceptions about their agencies’ responsiveness to political principals and find that an agency faced with multiple missions will prioritize presidential policy demands over those of Congress. Finally, I find that agencies that are insulated from political review are less likely to comply with statutory deadlines and often delay in providing Congress with information regarding agency policy. Considered together, these three papers suggest that variation in agency structure across the bureaucracy influences bureaucratic responsiveness to democratically elected officials.