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The Bureaucrats: The Who's and How's

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Previous Section: The Bureaucrats: A History

Next Section: Complexities, Constraints,and Problems



What is a Bureaucrat suppose to be



            According to Max Weber, the father of modern bureaucracy:[1]

  • He is personally free and appointed to his position on the basis of conduct
  • He exercises the authority delegated to him in accordance with impersonal rules, and his loyalty is enlisted on behalf of the faithful execution of his official duties
  • His appointment and job placement are dependent upon his technical qualifications
  • His administrative work is a full-time occupation
  • His work is rewarded by a regular salary and prospects of advancement in a lifetime career
  • He must exercise his judgment and his skills, but his duty is to place these at the service of a higher authority. Ultimately he is responsible only for the impartial execution of assigned tasks and must sacrifice his personal judgment if it runs counter to his official duties.
  • Bureaucratic control is the use of rules, regulations, and formal authority to guide performance. It includes such things as budgets, statistical reports, and performance appraisals to regulate behavior and results.


And I give you Max Weber!





            As we talked about before, the Hatch Act of 1939 was passed to create a nonpartisan bureaucracy.  The idea was that civil servants are able to perform to the best of their ability when they are under no political pressure or bias, or in other words apolitical.  For this reason, there are actually many laws protecting bureaucrats in the workplace, which you will learn about below.



Recruitment and Retention of Bureaucrats




            With so many bureaucrats to consider for employment and to keep track of in the modern age, this task seems nearly impossible.  But through the bureaucratic institution of the U.S. Department of the Interior, the government has been able to create a way to sift through all prospective recruits and current employees.  Under the Federal civil service, which is under the Department of the Interior, the government is able to stay in the loop of all appointive positions in the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches of the Federal Government.  The appointive positions not included are those in the uniformed services.  To keep things a little confusing, as things always are in bureaucracy, the Federal civil service has split into three main categories: the competitive service, the excepted service, and the Senior Executive Service.  The only big difference between these three services are in appointment procedures and job protection..


The Competitive Service




            After reading so much about our chapter, let's just say you want to join the ranks of the bureaucrat work force, cause who wouldn't?  In almost all cases, you will have to report to the competitive service to submit your qualifications and maybe take a competitive exam to see if you are eligible for the job (and you thought after college you'd be done with tests).  Then according to the qualification requirements set up by the Office of Personnel Management (remember them from the Civil Service Reform Act?) you will either be hired or rejected.


            The competitive service includes essentially all the civilian positions in the Federal government that do not fall under the category of the excepted service or Senior Executive Service.  The appointment procedures, merit promotion requirements, and qualification requirements of the competitive service are set either by law or the Office of Personnel Management.[3]


Everyday bureaucrats




The Excepted Service




            Being recruited into the excepted service can be done through similar ways.  The excepted service includes most of the positions in the legislative and judicial branch, and in addition, some positions and entire organizations fall under the excepted service by statute.  The Central Intelligence Agency, The Foreign Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and The United States Postal Service are just some of these organizations.  Usually those jobs still require some type of requirement or exam, but laws and regulations only sets basic requirements for these jobs.  In actuality, the agency or group usually has their own set of specific requirements and procedures for hiring members.  In the excepted service there are also a small number of employees on alternative grounds.  These include Presidential appointments allowed by statue, "Schedule C" jobs, and Noncareer Executive Assignments (NEA jobs).[5]


The Senior Executive Service





            Now on to the last of the three services:the Senior Executive Service(SES).  In 1979, the CSRA set up the SES because it wanted to ensure that the executive management of the government is able to perform at peak condition.  Basically, the government realized it needed to manage itself more efficiently, and so it created these managerial level jobs. This means that the members of the SES act as the link between the top Presidential appointees and the remaining federal employees.  Currently there are about 7000 of these positions throughout the government.  Specifically, these jobs are either ones that require certain SES members to fill, or more general positions which any SES appointee can fill.[6]


            How to get appointed into the SES, though, is a whole enormous process by itself.  First off, initial SES appointees must be certified in 5 executive qualifications that the OPM have approved of: leading change, leading people, being results driven, having business acumen, and being able to build coalitions/communication.  In other words, they must be all around wise decision makers and great leaders, but just having these qualifications does not guarantee someone a spot in the SES.  The OPM Qualifications Review Board actually has to review these qualifications of initial SES appointees before they are accepted into the SES.  Even then, all initial SES appointees are put on a 1 year probation period during which they are carefully scrutinized. [7]


            So let's say that someone actually manages to become an initial SES appointee.  Now they may apply for a general SES position in some agency.  In some cases, they may also apply for positions in which an agency has set up job-specific qualifications if they meet these requirements.  From then, there will be regular performance, so even after getting the job, SES members can't let their guard down. 


Whose in the Civil Services?



Don't get caught!: 


Getting around the system



          Even though the government has tried to create a protocol that encompasses and accounts for most variables, there are still ways to skirt the edges of the merit system.


            One way to pull of this "sneaky" activity and hire a specific person for a specific position through a name request job.  In essence, when an agency already has a person in mind for a certain job, they are allowed to submit a form to the OPM  describing that job.  On that form the name of the person they wish for that job is included, and many times they can tailor the job description so that only the person they have requested is able to fit the requirements.[8]




Firing a Bureaucrat 



            In a recent Time magazine article, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was reported to have said, "What are they going to do, fire me?"  Even though this is probably because he has become one of the most respected figures in National Security Council Debates, it brings up a good point about the Federal civil service.  For most employees in the services, it is nearly impossible to be fired.


            In order to maintain impartial and unbiased workers, the Federal civil service has protected many bureaucrats with rules and methodologies on how to fire workers.  These tend to be extremely long processes where employers are required to prove seeming impossible things.  If they were to fire a worker it could mean that they spent months watching and document the actions of that bureaucrat, and with most schedules, employers don't have much time to be stalking a single worker.  This doesn't mean, however, that employers are not allowed to discipline their employees.  Informal methods of discipline could include demoting a bureaucrat, making him or her do menial tasks, and other tasks of punishment.


            The exception to the rule that bureaucrats cannot be fired is within the SES.  Because these appointees are regularly examined and undergo performance checks, if they do not meet the requirements, they can be more easily fired or transferred.  And this removal from office is not limited to only during the probationary period, post-probationary appointees are still able to be fired.  On the flip side, because they are more vulnerable, SES members receive some cool perks.  They can be given cash bonuses for good performance, and if in the service long enough, 11 month sabbaticals can be doled out as well.  In general, however, it is rare for an SES member to be fired or transferred, and the perks don't prove to be very significant.[9]




Previous Section: The Bureaucrats: A History

Next Section: Complexities, Constraints,and Problems




  1. This paragraph takes information from- Wikipedia. "Bureaucrat." 13 Nov. 2009. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bureaucrat Verified by http://media.pfeiffer.edu/lridener/dss/Weber/BUREAU.HTML, http://www.analytictech.com/mb021/bureau.htm, and http://www.busting-bureaucracy.com/excerpts/weber.htm
  2. Picture taken from- http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/16/Max_Weber_1894.jpg
  3. This paragraph takes information from- doi.gov. "The Federal Civil Service." 15 Nov. 2009. http://www.doi.gov/hrm/pmanager/st6.html
  4. Pictures taken from- http://carolband.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/mailman-hp.jpg, http://www.nps.gov/ozar/parkmgmt/images/ranger_w_car.jpg, http://www.safecom.org.au/images/rrt-bureaucrat.jpg (Left to Right)
  5. This paragraph takes information from- doi.gov. "The Federal Civil Service." 15 Nov. 2009. http://www.doi.gov/hrm/pmanager/st6.html
  6. This paragraph takes information from- doi.gov. "The Federal Civil Service." 15 Nov. 2009. http://www.doi.gov/hrm/pmanager/st6.html
  7. This paragraph takes information from- doi.gov. "The Federal Civil Service." 15 Nov. 2009. http://www.doi.gov/hrm/pmanager/st6.html
  8. Wilson, James. Q. "American Government." p. 274. Cengage Learning. 2008. 11 Dec. 2009 http://books.google.com/books?id=1fZfk-KosYcC&pg=PT290&lpg=PT290&dq=name+request+job+bureaucracy&source=bl&ots=V5cmDMa34t&sig=V1YdQw9AAYRuVKPnQFgKy1Dq19Q&hl=en&ei=NoIkS5bkNpWGMoPFyPIJ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CA8Q6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=name%20request%20job%20bureaucracy&f=false
  9. This paragraph takes information from- doi.gov. "The Federal Civil Service." 15 Nov. 2009. http://www.doi.gov/hrm/pmanager/st6.html

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