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245 8 Mechanisms of Power The principal departments comprising the national security apparatus are the State Department and the Defense Department. There are several independent and semi-independent agencies that also contribute, including the Central Intelligence Agency, the U.S. Agency for International Development , the former U.S. Information Agency, and others. These agencies are presented first, followed by State, Defense, and the Intelligence Community. The national security apparatus has evolved considerably since the constitutional convention. The Spanish-American war of 1898 ushered in a new era, with the United States finding itself with imperial outposts in the Caribbean and the Philippines. The requirements of World War I led to the creation of wartime organizations that were quickly stood down after the war and had to be re-created for World War II. These same organizations were made permanent after World War II and throughout the Cold War. The Second World War exposed deep organizational problems in conducting great-power war, and those problems were the subject of unification hearings following the war. The current national security system is rooted in the National Security Act of 1947, a product of postwar deliberations. Major amendments to the act were made in 1949, 1953, 1958, and 1986. Truman and Eisenhower both pursued reorganization through formal mechanisms, specifically the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of Government. The first commission stood between 1947 and 1949, and the second between 1953 and 1955. Both were headed by former president Herbert Hoover and are typically referred to as the Hoover Commissions. 246 National Security Apparatus The 1960s also produced change. The decolonization of Africa was followed by a great-power competition there. Kennedy initiated an era of counterinsurgency that required new organizations and nation building in the Third World to counter Communist-inspired insurgencies. The era led to costly policies in Latin America and Southeast Asia that brought down Johnson and Nixon. Backed by popular support, Carter led reform efforts aimed at the military and intelligence agencies. Those reforms, too, proved costly. The end of the Cold War produced reform in the context of a personal and ideological competition between Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and President Bill Clinton. Clinton’s and George W. Bush’s reliance on military intervention and nation building underlies reform efforts today. Common Themes Departments and agencies represent experience, specialized knowledge and skills, and the statutory authorities to do the work of government. They also provide institutional memory and continuity of effort across presidential administrations. As such, they represent a conservative force that presidents must overcome to pursue their agendas. To assist in the pursuit of a chosen policy agenda, presidents have the authority to appoint, subject to Senate confirmation, their own management team. The highestlevel appointments include secretaries and deputies for the cabinet departments (see figure 4). A great deal of a department’s work is conducted under the auspices of assistant secretaries. Congress limits the number of assistant secretaries per department but allows the department to determine their purpose. Where the executive branch has failed to perform certain functions, Congress establishes specific assistant secretaries by statute. For example, the Defense Department is required by law to have an assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict. As assistant secretary positions proliferated, Congress authorized an intermediate layer of under secretaries as a span-of-control mechanism to reduce the number of offices reporting directly to the secretary and deputy secretary. Under secretaries and assistant secretaries have a variety of deputies and assistants that are also political appointees that do not require Senate confirmation. Mechanisms of Power 247 The permanent departmental bureaucracy is made up of Civil Service and Senior Executive Service employees. Metaphorically, the political appointees steer at the behest of the president and the permanent staff rows. Agencies are headed by directors and deputy directors with a similar management structure of political appointees and civil servants. There are frequent calls to reduce the number of political appointments (more than seven thousand positions).1 Some appointments are doled out as political patronage. Appointees often lack the necessary specialized knowledge and executive skills. Positions often go unfilled for long periods while members of the Senior Executive Service fill in capably. Some positions are temporarily filled by appointees who lack Senate confirmation and full authorities. Presidential initiatives are stunted by the lack of Senateconfirmed appointees. The president’s appointees have responsibilities that are difficult to reconcile . They are at once the president’s representatives embedded in...


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