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A complex structure of offices, tasks, and rules in which employees have specific responsibilities and work within a hierarchy of authority. In government, they are charged with implementing policies.

bureaucratic culture

The norms and regular patterns of behavior found within a bureaucratic organization. Different agencies often develop their own norms, which shape the behavior of those who work in the agency.


The category of people, or groups, served by a bureaucratic agency.

comittee and conference reports

Documents submitted by committees that often instruct agencies how Congress expects them to use their "discretion." Though not legally binding, bureaucrats ignore such instructions at their peril.

federal register

A government publication listing all proposed federal regulations.

government accountability office

Office with a staff of more than five thousand that audits programs and agencies and reports to Congress on their performance.

hearings and investigations

Meetings in which bureaucrats are called before subcommittees to explain and defend their decisions, and outsiders are sometimes invited to criticize them. Most agencies must testify annually about their activities before the House Appropriations subcommittee that has jurisdiction over their budgets.

inspectors general

Individuals, with independent offices (outside the normal bureaucratic chain of command) in virtually every government agency, who audit agency books and investigate activities on Congress's behalf.

iron triangle

A stable, mutually beneficial political relationship among a congressional committee (or subcommittee), administrative agency, and organized interests concerned with a particular policy domain.

issue network

A loose, informal, and highly variable web of relationships among representatives of various interests who are involved in a particular area of public policy.

legislative veto

A procedure that allows one or both houses of Congress to reject an action taken by the president or an executive agency. In 1983 the Supreme Court declared these unconstitutional, but Congress continues to enact legislation incorporating the veto.

mandatory reports

Method by which Congress keeps its bureaucratic agents in line, in this case, requiring executive agencies-even the president-to report on programs.

red tape

Excessive paperwork leading to bureaucratic delay.

rotation in office

The practice of citizens serving in public office for a limited term and then returning to private life.

spoils system

A system in which newly elected officeholders award government jobs to political supporters and members of the same political party.


The right to bring legal action.

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