Publication:
AN AGENCY’S PATH TO INDEPENDENCE: HOW TO GAIN ADMINISTRATIVE AUTONOMY AS A U.S. GOVERNMENT AGENCY

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Authors
Richardson, Cathy
Subjects
agency autonomy
decentralization
hiring
mission
independent agency
executive agency
informal autonomy
Federal Trade Commission
FTC
Environmental Protection Agency
EPA
Food and Drug Administration
FDA
Advisors
Matei, Cristiana
Morag, Nadav
Date of Issue
2022-09
Date
Publisher
Monterey, CA; Naval Postgraduate School
Language
Abstract
U.S. government administrative agencies that are subject to political polarization may find it difficult to fulfill their long-term missions while addressing short-term political needs, lacking sufficient autonomy to do their jobs. This thesis asks what U.S. government agencies can do to foster autonomy from political influences to be neutral arbiters or administrators. This thesis reviews the history of U.S. government agencies and analyzes the viability of their seeking wholesale autonomy. It also examines the impact of formal agency structure on agency autonomy for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)—an independent agency—and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—executive agencies. It further outlines three informal factors that may contribute to some level of autonomy in all three agencies. This thesis finds that wholesale autonomy of agencies is not a viable option at this time, and a formal structure of independence does not guarantee autonomy. It recognizes, however, that focusing on a clear mission, hiring qualified candidates, and decentralizing authorities provide a certain level of autonomy, as experienced by the EPA, FTC, and FDA.
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Thesis
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Department
National Security Affairs (CHDS)
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Approved for public release. Distribution is unlimited.
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Copyright is reserved by the copyright owner.
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