The Functions of the Federal Bureaucracy

The federal bureaucracy performs three primary tasks in government: implementation, administration, and regulation.

When Congress passes a law, it sets down guidelines to carry out the new policies. Actually putting these policies into practice is known as implementation. Often, policy directives are not clearly defined, and bureaucrats must interpret the meaning of the law. The bureaucracy often has some flexibility, known as administrative discretion, in actual implementation.

The routine of bureaucracy — collecting fees, issuing permits, giving tests, and so on — is the administration of its defined purpose.

The federal bureaucracy makes regulations (the rules by which federal and state programs operate) through an administrative process known as rule making. Regulations can be challenged in court, and they are not put into effect until the legal issues are resolved.