Functions of the Executive
The Executive Branch, as provided for by the Constitution, has the US president as its head. The vice president deputizes the president and takes up the position of the president in event of the president’s incapacitation to carry duties bestowed on his office or upon demise of the president. Cabinet agencies are also part of the Executive branch and all that work in it. The role of the Executive Branch in the Bureaucracy includes formulation and implementation of government policies, running the administration, advising the president, as well as legislative work through drafting of bills (Nichilson-Crotty & Miller, 2012). The bills drafted by civil servants as part of the Executive Branch are later presented to Congress. As to policy implementation, the Executive is charged with the duty to implement decsins made by the Congress. Similarly, the cabinet and the government departments perform the policy formulation and implementation role for the presidency.
In the article “The Pendleton Act and the civil service” that appeared in the The American Historical Review Ari Hoogenboom presents the precursor to the 1883 Pendleton Act and the Civil Service, and some of the changes that came with the passage of the Act. Hoogenboom highlights the evils of the Spoils System. Hoogenboom (1959) explains that the Spoils System was one which involved the appointment of political friends to the civil service/government positions following the successful ascension to power of a president. The incoming president’s political friends would receive government appointments as gratitude to their service to the president during the campaign period. The Act was, therefore, seen as a remedy to a system that had class as its origin and politics as its benefactor.
Hoogenboom further explains how moral was especially low in the civil service as its composition was largely of misfits, who had all been employed on temporary basis. The low morale, according to Hoogenboom (1959) was due to fear that hovered over the employees, especially during a change in administration. Moreover, dismissals were common at the full glare of other employees, as a message to the remaining to remain vigilant and continue in their support of their benefactors lest the same fate befall them.
Hoogenboom (1959) explains that the Act’s precursor was the assassination of President Garfield by an insane office-seeker. It was, therefore, an attempt to bring much needed reform to the civil service, borrowing from the British system. Through its passage, the civil service moved from the benefactor to the classified and merit systems. The Act stipulated that all government appointments should be on the basis of merit and not patronage as was the case in the Spoils System (Hoogenboom, 1959). Additionally, the Act also established the Civil Service Commission, headed by three commissioners appointed by the president, but who also had policy making and administrative powers. The merit system, implemented through the commission, however faced opposition. The Commission, however, later prevailed to become the omnipotent and omnipresent entity in its current state.
The Act brought much-needed reforms to the civil service, moving it from a time when morale was low and was largely composed of misfits loyal to the incumbent and patrons to one that emphasized appointments based on merit. Additionally, the Act mandated Civil Service examinations for potential civil servants hoping to fill certain positions within the civil service. Pendleton further made it illegal to dismiss or downgrade a government employee purely on political or religious grounds. By limiting political appointments in the civil service while at the same time introducing the merit system, the Act completely reformed the U.S. civil service, instituting professionalism in a service that initially relied on unpredictable political whims.
Hoogenboom, A. (1959). The Pendleton Act and the civil service. The American Historical Review, 64(2), 301-318
Nicholson-Crotty, J. & Miller, S. M. (2012). Bureaucratic effectiveness an influence in the legislature. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 22(2), 347-371