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Evolution of Administrative Agencies’ Role in our Society Essay Sample

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Evolution of Administrative Agencies’ Role in our Society Essay Sample


The Administrative agencies are formed by through act in the federal constitution, the Congress and other law making organizations.  They are created to address social problems, for crisis management and administration of crucial matters that can only be dealt with experts appointed in these agencies.  They are basically under the control of the Executive with little statutory powers to act in their own prerogative. But due to the powers vested in them by the federal government, they have sometimes been accused of circumventing the constitutional powers of the legislature.  They are either independent or under the direct control of the executive. They work in line with the enabling statute and are subject to the examination by courts (Jrank, 2009)

Evolution of Administrative Agencies through History

The establishment of Administrative agencies goes way back in 1789 when the legislation was enacted that dealt with customs laws, administration of veteran pensions and ocean vessels. They have evolved over time and by the end of 19th century they experienced fundamental changes in the roles. In 1887, the Interstate Commerce Act was enacted that established the Interstate Commerce Commission. With the growth of the country’s economy, administrative agencies continued to play a crucial role both in legislative and quasijudicial functions that range from prosecution, adjudication, supervision, rule making and investigation. In order to control the agencies’ activities, the Federal Register Act of 1935 was passed. This was followed by the 1946 Federal Administrative Procedures Act that stipulated that all agencies should have similar standards of operations The US administrative agencies are either subject to the executive or exist as autonomous organizations. For instance the Federal Aviation Administration is independent but the US Department of Agriculture is under the executive. They are governed by the administrative law which originate from the federal government or agencies’ law which is formed in the process of their duties. (Koch, 1965)

The initial agencies were the treasury, Navy, Offices of the Attorney General, Departments of War and State. In 1849, the Department of the Interior was established. This was closely followed by the formation of the Department of Justice in 1870 and Department of Post Office in 1872. The inception of these Departments was necessitated by the growing expansion of the Federal duties. These agencies started publishing their departmental rules and regulations which were not well received by the public especially by the Treasury Department in 1868 and the Patent Office in 1869. Consequently Regulations Commissions were formed between 1865 and 1900 to establish standards and restore sanity in the industry. Among the Commissions that were created was the 1887 Interstate Commerce Commission mandated to regulate economic agencies. The regulatory commissions were required not to engage in political activities but were to concentrate on economic problems in the agencies. Because these commissions were numerous they soon faced challenges due to duplication of duties. They were also manipulated by the very industries they were supposed to be regulating.

Regulatory commissions were also set up to oversee operations the public health and other safety concerns. The manner at which the meat industry was handling its operations at the time raised serious concerns over the effectiveness of these agencies.  Allegations were reported concerning the stale canned meat that was served to soldiers working with the American Government. To help deal with the situation, Food and Drug Act of 1906 was passed. This agency was charged with ensuring that the health standards are adhered to in drugs, medical services and labeling of foods. The Food and Drug Administration, formerly the Bureau of Chemistry, was formed under the act and mandated to implement the laws (Mathew, 2007).

The Great Depression of the 1930’s led to the formation of various programs mainly in the agricultural and business sector. In 1933 the Agricultural Adjustment Commission, National Recovery Administration, Civilian Conservation Corps, Insurance Corporation, and Public Works Conservation commissions were created with the aim of turning the ailing economy around. Congress also passed regulations in banking and farm relief culminating into the formation of Tennessee Valley Authority. In 1934, the Federal Communications Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commissions came into being.  This New Deal by the then president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was met with criticism from the public that he had increased public spending, centralized power system and hiked taxes (Rauch, 1944)

The 1960s to the 70s saw revolutionary changes in the administrative agencies.  In 1971, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was created, thereafter in 1973 the Consumer Product Safety Commission was formed. Fifteen components were pulled from other departments and put under the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970. It was not smooth sailing for these regulatory agencies. They were blamed for the rise in interest rates at the time, proliferation of bankruptcy among small businesses and the declining competitiveness of US products in international markets. In addition, they were bedeviled with rampant trade malpractices, red tape and bureaucracy.  They had grown significantly in number further complicating their responsibilities, multiplication of costs and causing unnecessary delays in operations (Mathew, 2007).

These excessive powers by the Agencies brought strife between them and the Congress. Subsequently, the Congress enacted legislations to curtail their powers and bring them under its control. This led to the passage of Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and Congressional Review Act which nullified Agencies’ regulations.  Their regulations were further subjected to the president directives through the Paper Reduction Act and the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Besides, the White House forced them to work under the charge of elected officials.

Presidential edicts in 1971 served well to review the regulations of these agencies. President Richard Nixon’s 1971 OMB memorandum required all agencies to avail their proposed regulations summaries to the White House.  Cost Benefit analysis rule was passed by President Gerald Ford in 1974 as a requirement in developing their regulations. President Jimmy Cater reviewed the regulatory framework of Agencies further defined their roles. But no one exerted more pressure than President Ronald Reagan. He instituted more controls on the agencies. He issued Executive Order 12291 and 12498 that required the Agencies to lay down regulations in line with White House Policies. Clinton issued yet another Executive Order number 12866 which still put considerable control on their operations. But this order was later amended by President George Bush in 2007 by Executive Order 13422 empowering the White House and granting it  the management of agencies’ activities in addition to  issuing policy statements, memos and guidelines.  He also appointed officers and installed them in agencies (Mathew, 2007)

Powers of Administrative Agencies

As agencies engage in their day to day operations, they are mandated to develop policies that govern their operations. But they can only rules through a court order or by the Congress.  Federal agencies are required to implement directives of the Congress.  They are at the discretion of the president who influences the creation of new agencies and consolidation of existing agencies. However presidential control varies from one agency to other. We have a total of 15 major departments and each has a Secretary who is a presidential appointee and must be contented to by the Senate. He/She is under the direct prerogative of the President.  Within these 15 Departments, there may be other agencies under them. For instance the Department of Health and Human Services has the Food and Drug Administration under its jurisdiction whereas the Department of Labor overseas the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OMB Watch, 2009)

Besides the there are other regulatory commissions which are independent of the state and therefore free from political control.  Among them are; the Federal Communications Commissions, and the Interstate Commerce Commission. Boards and commissions head the independent commissions. The members to these commissions can only be dismissed from office under credible allegations of misconduct or for any other reason. They are excluded from proposed reviews by the White House. Some agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency combine both features of a federal and independent agency. Its administrator is a presidential appointee. The Pensions Benefit Guaranty Corporation works independently devoid of federal interference. In short, departments and agencies have varying procedures and relationship with the President and the Congress (OMB Watch, 2009)

Limitations of Administrative Agencies 

The Executive Order 12866 requires all agencies’ intended regulatory actions to be communicated to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). OIRA also requires them to show the economic significance of their proposed regulations. OIRA has the final say in deciding the significance of a proposed rule and suggest a review if necessary. The Executive Order 12866 also required agencies to compile a list of ongoing regulations and have them published in the Federal Register on a semi-annual basis. The order further stipulates a 10 working day period within which OIRA must notify the agency of possible regulations reviews beyond which they will be deemed significant.

And for a rule to be declared significant, the agency is required to hand in a draft, an elaborate explanation for the intended regulation, potentiality for implementation and the expected costs and returns. Rules cannot be termed economically significant if they cannot cause $100 million or more positive impact in the economy. Economically significant rules are further subjected to Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA). The process of RIA evaluation is rigorous and an agency has to complete has hundreds of pages. The outcome is normally published in the OIRA website. If the proposed rule satisfies OIRA then it’s published in the Federal Register as a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPR) (OMB Watch, 2009)

Further the Executive Order no. 13422 stipulates that issuance of guidance documents must fully comply with OIRA regulations. Therefore the White House controls the agencies through the OIRA. The white house has powers to issue prompt letters on rule making. The OIRA Administrator is presidential appointee who serves under the direction of the president.  Agencies budget is passed by the White House the through the OMB. The OIRA is also mandated to ensure those agencies’ rules and activities are in tandem with White House. President George Bush exploited this opportunity and made directives to agencies which influenced their functioning. Furthermore these agencies are subject to oversight and investigations which monitor their programs and activities which also ensures that they are working in tune with the Congress.  At the same time, agencies decision making process is also subject to the courts which review their operations in order to establish whether the statutory procedures were adhered to.   The table below clearly depicts that out of a total 8631 reviews submitted by the agencies between 1994 and 2007 only 1253 were published in the Federal Register. The highest number of successful ‘Economically significant reviews’ was 134 in 1994 and 2007 ranked among the poorest with a mere 85 reviews accepted as significant (OMB Watch, 2009). As has been said, the administrative agencies do not have much power.

Table: All Agencies Subject to OIRA Review

Table adapted from OMB Watch (2008) website at http://www.ombwatch.org/node/3645 

Impact of Department of Transportation on the Trucking Industry

The Department of Transportation availed credit for the transportation projects through the passage of 1998 Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA). This credit line has three forms namely; standby credit, direct loan and guarantee for loan. This credit extension has attracted both private and international investments in the transport industry which has positively improved the road infrastructure and in turn boosting business in the truck industry (TIFIA, 2008)

The Southern Border Trucking has recorded phenomenal economic gains in the trucking industry and to the economy as a whole.   The exports to Mexico have since rose from $41.5 billion in 1993 to a high of $78 billion in the year 1998. This translates into an annual increase of 14%. This has made Mexico topple Japan and become US second biggest patterned in business. Trucking business accounted for about 73% percent of the total transport business between United States and Mexico in 1998. Truck business remains the best mode of transportation between these two countries because it greatly reduces unnecessary delays in transport, it’s flexible, carries various sizes of goods. As a result the annual number of trucks crossing the border has increased substantially to 1,300,000 by 1998. 75% of goods carried by these trucks were destined for California state. California, the 6th largest world economy, has a high demand for goods due to its vastness and industries (Sullivan, 2000)

Texas has seventy seven thousands miles of roadway which are linked to Mexico via 24 bridges. Highway number 59(Laredo) is projected to rise in traffic by 90% in 2011 to 5,400 vehicles per day whereas Victoria County is estimated at 24,200 trucks per day. Laredo port accounted for 36.1 percent of goods transported.

These truck businesses have caused booming business besides providing direct employment to drivers and truck manufacturers. The four lanes high way has been the reason of increased transportation of goods in Wisconsin and the neighboring states. Truck drivers have reported that they experience less fatigue on the expanded highway that has four lanes. Residents are able to get their goods on time (Sullivan, 2000)


The administrative agencies have and do continue to contribute to the success of the American dream. Despite the fact they are under the jurisdiction of the federal government, they have coordinated well and changed the history of America. However, more powers should be vested in these agencies for them to effectively carry out their duties because as it’s they’re puppets of the White House and this does not allow them to be consistent with their policies through different regimes.


Jrank, (2009). Administrative Agencies. Retrieved 20th March 2009 from http://law.jrank.org/pages/4066/Administrative-Agency.html

Koch, C. (1965).Administrative Law and Practice. Columbia University Press.

Mathew, M. (2007). Brief History of Administrative Government. Retrieved 20th March 2009 from http://www.ombwatch.org/node/3461

OIRA Reviews Table Adapted from OMB Watch (2008) website. Retrieved 20th March 2009 from http://www.ombwatch.org/node/3645)

OMB Watch, (2009). Players in Rule Making. Retrieved 20th March 2009 from http://www.ombwatch.org/node/3462#A

Rauch, B. (1944). History of the New Deal. Retrieved 20th March 2009 from. http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/history/A0835397.html

Sullivan, B. (2000). NAFTA Transportation: The Impact on the Texas Highway System. Retrieved 20th March 2009 from http://digitalcommons.utep.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1006&context=iped_techrep

TIFIA, (2008). Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 1998. Retrieved 20th March 2009 from http://tifia.fhwa.dot.gov/

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