4 / Holding Government Bureaucracies Accountable union leaders, veterans' organization officials, civil rights leaders, and rep- resentatives of numerous other interest groups as well as individual citizens, all of whom had views on the duties that I was charged to perform "well and faithfully." They all had a claim on me. In one respect or another, they felt I was accountable to them. I shared that feeling, although not always with joy. Accountability in the executive branch of the federal government starts with the president. The President's Oath of Office, specified in the Consti- tution, is even briefer than that taken by all other officers and employees: I, , do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.1 With an oath of similar intent, elected and appointed officials at all levels of government in the United States officially undertake their duties and thereby become accountable. Accountable for what? In our national government, overall executive responsibility is vested in the president, whose specific powers and duties are rooted in the Consti- tution. The clause "he shall take care that the Laws be faithfully executed" 2 establishes the need for a bureaucracy and the president's role as its head. Similar provisions in many state constitutions and charters for local gov- ernments give legitimacy to executive-branch bureaucracies. The substance of accountability places at least four requirements on elected chief executives and public administrators throughout the bureau- cracy: 1. Make laws work as intended with a minimum of waste and delay. 2. Exercise lawful and sensible administrative discretion. 3. Recommend new policies and propose changes in existing policies and programs as needed. 4. Enhance citizen confidence in the administrative institutions of government. Each of these merits separate discussion. MAKING LAWS WORK AS INTENDED This appears perfectly clear, and one might assume it would lead to prompt and decisive action. However, many laws are the product of com- promises in ideas and language. Often the crucial agreements are achieved through deliberate ambiguity, and the conflicting forces then merely shift the field of battle from the legislative halls to the administrators' offices.
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