The Professor: Cabinet Government Needs Help

The Professor opened the class by saying, “I know you are all working hard to apply the skills of the Cabinet candidates to the problems you have identified. I’ll give you something else to think about while you are problem solving. You won’t find this in many, if any, textbooks; it is something I have personally observed during my career in government service, especially my time as a Special Assistant to President Reagan. Cabinet government doesn’t work in our world and it probably never did, even in the days of our founders.

“Most Cabinet-level officials are people known to the President or highly recommended by people he respects. Cabinet candidates are seldom chosen from the agency or department they are tapped to manage. Their loyalty is to the President and they have committed themselves to use the scope of their unit to forward the President’s policies and campaign promises. And that is what they do for the first three or four months.

“Then, a subtle change occurs. They begin to see themselves as representing their department or agency in the internal struggle for resources and power.

“In some areas, the entrenched bureaucracies understand this process and use it with every contact with their principal to forward the cause for their agency or department. In others, it happens as certainly as night follows day. After all they are judged by the effectiveness and public perception of their unit. Every staff meeting they hold is dominated by the needs of the bureaucracy to grow and gain power on the Washington stage. By the end of the first six months, the process of Cabinet leaders lobbying for their department in meetings with the President is blatant.

“There are only two forces that are devoted to promoting the need for the President’s Cabinet to focus on executing the President’s policies and directives. The Chief of Staff and his or her resources and the National Security Council, which is really the President’s staff, are dedicated to ensuring the entire Administration is carrying out the President’s mission. In total, this is probably less than 300 people acting to keep the bureaucracy of all the agencies and departments working in a coordinated manner to achieve the well-being of the nation.

“As you are assigning your Cabinet candidates to problem-solving, assure yourselves that they are strong enough and skilled enough to carry out the President’s program year after year.”


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Filed under Barry Kelly, Conservative views, Eight Decades of Insights, General, management theory, political solutions

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