The Constitution is silent regarding the administrative structure. The framers of the Constitution were not concerned with the organization of the executive branch other than the office of the President. But having provided for the three Departments, Foreign Relations, the Military Forces, and Fiscal Affairs, it was evidently assumed that Congress would provide for additional Departments as the needs arose.
This conclusion is supported by the constitutional provision that the President can require an opinion in writing from the principal officers in each of the Executive Departments. The Constitution further provides that Congress may vest by law the appointment of inferior officers in the President alone, in the Courts, or in the heads of the Departments. It is on this basis that Congress creates departments, commissions and other federal authorities.
Today, the Executive branch of government is made up of the following types of administrative organizations:
- Executive Departments, ten in number, each headed, except the Department of Justice which is headed by the Attorney-General, by an officer with the title of Secretary;
- Executive agencies outside the ten regular Departments headed by single administrators;
- Boards and commissions, which may be further divided into regulatory, non regulatory and advisory; and finally,
- The government corporations.
Agencies outside the ten Departments are usually termed independent, in the sense that they arc not responsible to the head of any Department. Some of these enjoy a large degree of independence of the President while others do not, but all are subject to legislative control by Congress.
The bureaux or the agencies directly associated with the President in an overall planning and control play a vital role in the administrative setup of the country. There are between 200 and 400 bureaux in the Federal Government of which about 65 report directly to the President. Important out of these are the President’s personal staff of Secretariat, personal advisers, and administrative assistants; and Bureau of the Budget; the Council of Economic Advisers; Science Adviser; the National Security Council; Civil and Defense Mobilization and the Central Intelligence Agency.
The Independent Commissions are another type of agency and these arose along with the growth of government regulation. Typically they are given regulatory powers over some sector of economy—rail and thick transport, trade practices, power, communications, aviation, tariffs. The Commission membership ranges from three to eleven. Commissions are appointed by the President with the approval of the Senate for a stated number of years. The power of the President to remove a commissioner during his tenure is usually limited.
Then, there are the government corporations. Corporations, in America, as in other countries, enjoy a degree of freedom and flexibility in the performance of their functions which is Not open to the more orthodox type of agency. Usually, but not always, the corporation is created to undertake some specific project or to conduct some business undertaking. The Tennessee Valley Authority is the best known of the examples of the Corporation.
Organization of a Department:-
At the head of each Department, except the, Justice and the Post Office, is the Secretary. Secretaries are the political appointees who express the policy of the party in office. They are also members of the President’s Cabinet and are responsible to him for all intents and purposes. If any Secretary is selected by the President from the opposition party, he selects only those who are friendly to his cause. In most of the Departments the second ranking official is the Under Secretary who is the deputy of the departmental head and like his superior is a political appointee. There are no permanent Under-Secretaries comparable to those serving in the British Ministries. Each Department has Assistant Secretaries, in some one, in others to the maximum four, who again are usually political appointees, Many of them may be career men.
Customarily, the Departments are divided and sub-divided into subordinate units, such as bureaus, divisions, offices and services. The basis of division may differ from one Department to the other, but the most common basis is functions and actually speaking there is often much less difference among them than the titles would imply. A bureau in one Department is very similar in form and functions to a division in another Department. An office, however, may differ only in minor details from a service.
Powers and Duties of the Secretaries:-
While commenting upon the powers and duties of a head of the Department, John Sherman, a former head of the Treasury Department, declared:
The President is entrusted by the Constitution and laws with important powers, and so by law are the heads of Departments. The President has no more right to control or exercise the powers conferred by law upon them than they have to control him in the discharge of His duties. If he (a departmental head) violates or neglects his duty he is subject to the removal by the President or impeachment. But the President cannot exercise or control the discretion reposed by law in any head or subordinate of a department of the government.
But this is not the real position. The President, as said earlier, is the Director of Administration. He is invested with the power of removal and by virtue of vast discretionary powers conferred upon him by laws has a wide choice of ways and means to get his will dominate.
Whatever be the theory, the practice is otherwise. Being a political appointee, the Secretary is expected to inject the policies of the President in the conduct of the affairs of the Department he heads, especially when a strong willed President is determined to carry out a fixed policy. When he does not belong to the Presidential party, he must be friendly to the President’s policy.
The head of a Department is a legislator too, for he enjoys to a certain extent freedom in issuing orders pertaining to matters over which he presides. By a general Act of Congress, he may prescribe regulations, not inconsistent with law, for the government of his Department, the conduct of its officers and clerks, the distribution and performance of its business, and the custody, us¢ and preservation of the records, papers, and property pertaining to it. This broad provision is very often supplemented by legislation giving him power to issue ordinances over particular matters.
The Secretary of a Department, also brings circuitous influence on actual legislation. He must submit to Congress annually certain specified reports bearing on the activities of his department. He must also appear before various Committees of Congress in order to explain, give information and answer to inquiries on legislation pending before Congress. Secretaries write letters to Senators and Representatives, having political affinities with them, urging or opposing measures for discussion. Indeed they sometimes submit to Congress, on their own motion, elaborate draft of Bills which they wish to have enacted into law.
Finally, several heads of Departments exercise powers which are judicial in character. With the multiplication in the functions of government and growth of subordinate legislation and power of making Rules and Regulations, it has been thought expedient to give the heads of certain departments the authority to hear cases carried up from the lower administrative divisions under their control.