The Art of Policymaking: Tools, Techniques and Processes in the Modern Executive Branch
Publication Year: 2016
The Art of Policymaking: Tools, Techniques and Processes in the Modern Executive Branch, Second Edition is a practical introduction to the specific tools, techniques, and processes used to create policy in the executive branch of the U.S. government. George E. Shambaugh, IV and Paul Weinstein, Jr. explain how government officials develop policy, manage the policymaking process, and communicate those policies to stakeholders and the public at large. The authors draw on both their academic and government experience to provide real-world advice on writing policy decision memos, preparing polling questions, and navigating the clearance process. An abundance of case studies show how actual policies are developed and how and why policies and processes differ across administrations. Finally, practice scenarios allow students to apply the tools and ...
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
Part I: THE POLICYMAKERS
- Chapter 2: THE WHITE HOUSE POLICY COUNCILS
- Chapter 3: THE WHITE HOUSE STAFF
- Chapter 4: AGENCIES AND POLICY IMPLEMENTATION
- Chapter 5: POLICY MANAGEMENT
Part II: TOOLS OF THE TRADE
- Chapter 6: POLICYMAKING MEMORANDA
- Chapter 7: THE STATE OF THE UNION AND THE BUDGET PROCESS
- Chapter 8: POLICY IMPLEMENTATION TOOLS
- Chapter 9: LEGISLATIVE CLEARANCE AND COORDINATION: SAPS, LRMS, AND OTHER POLICY ACRONYMS
- Chapter 10: POLLING AND THE POLICYMAKING PROCESS
- Chapter 11: COMMUNICATING AND MARKETING POLICY
Part III: CASE STUDIES
- Chapter 12: SOCIAL POLICYMAKING: WELFARE REFORM DURING THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION
- Chapter 13: ECONOMIC POLICYMAKING I: THE CLINTON ECONOMIC PLAN
- Chapter 14: ECONOMIC POLICYMAKING II: THE SIMPSON-BOWLES COMMISSION UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA
- Chapter 15: SECURITY POLICYMAKING I: DESERT SHIELD AND DESERT STORM UNDER GEORGE H. W. BUSH
- Chapter 16: SECURITY POLICYMAKING II: THE SURGE AND IRAQ WAR UNDER GEORGE W. BUSH
Part IV: SCENARIOS
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Shambaugh, George E., 1963-
The art of policymaking: tools, techniques and processes in the modern executive branch / George E. Shambaugh IV, Georgetown University, Paul Weinstein Jr., Johns Hopkins University.—Second edition.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-1-4833-8551-8 (pbk.: alk. paper)
1. Political planning—United States. I. Weinstein, Paul J. II. Title.
This book is printed on acid-free paper.
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List of Boxes[Page xiii]
- Box 1-1 Americans’ Level of Confidence in the Three Branches of Government 11
- Box 1-2 Roles of the Policymaking Process 14
- Box 2-1 The Structure of the Executive Branch 26
- Box 2-2 Executive Office of the President vs. White House Policy Councils 27
- Box 2-3 How the White House Ranks Staffers 31
- Box 2-4 National Security Council 32
- Box 2-5 National Security Council Organizational Chart Under Presidents Carter and Obama 34
- Box 2-6 Cookies 36
- Box 2-7 Establishment of the National Economic Council 37
- Box 4-1 Cabinet-Level Agencies 65
- Box 4-2 Major Non-Cabinet-Level Executive Agencies 67
- Box 4-3 Independent Agencies 69
- Box 4-4 Executive Actions 72
- Box 4-5 Preparing Legislation 74
- Box 4-6 The Rule-Making Process 75
- Box 4-7 The Regulatory Review Process 78
- Box 6-1 Format for a Decision-Making Memorandum 95
- Box 6-2 Sample Decision-Making Memorandum to the President 101
- Box 6-3 Format for an Information Memorandum 103
- Box 6-4 Potential Issues Raised in a Weekly Report 104
- Box 7-1 Major Steps in the Development of the President’s Budget Within the Executive Branch 113
- Box 8-1 Policy Implementation Tools 118
- Box 8-2 Criteria for Evaluating Policy Tools and Proposals 120
- Box 8-3 Primary Types of Targeted Tax Incentives 122
- Box 9-1 The White House Office and the Executive Office of the President 127[Page xiv]
- Box 9-2 Legislative Referral Memorandum 130
- Box 9-3 Statement of Administration Policy 134
- Box 10-1 1992 Campaign Poll 143
- Box 10-2 Ten Steps to Making a Good Poll 154
- Box 11-1 Structure of Obama White House Communications and Press Operations 162
- Box 11-2 Gun BuyBack Fact Sheet 167
- Box 11-3 Gun Buyback Event, Q&A, April 28, 2000 170
- Box 12-1 Memorandum to the Chief of Staff Regarding the Status of Welfare Reform 185
- Box 13-1 Introduction to Gene Sperling’s Information Memorandum to the President 196
- Box 13-2 President Clinton’s Economic Team 201
- Box 13-3 The 1992 War Room 205
- Box 14-1 The U.S. Government Total Revenues and Outlays: FY 1970 to 2020 212
- Box 15-1 Summary of Executive Orders 228
- Box 15-2 Impromptu Remarks by the Chief Executive 232
- Box 15-3 Memorandum to the President 237
- Box 17-1 A Ten-Step Policy Process 262
- ACA Affordable Care Act
- AFDC Aid to Families With Dependent Children
- APA Administrative Procedure Act
- BTU British Thermal Unit
- CBO Congressional Budget Office
- CEA Council of Economic Advisers
- CENTCOM Centralized Joint Command of the U.S. Military With Jurisdiction in the Middle East
- CEQ Council on Environmental Quality
- CIA Central Intelligence Agency
- COLA Cost of Living Adjustment
- COS Chief of Staff
- CRA Community Reinvestment Act
- DNC Democratic National Committee
- DNI Director of National Intelligence
- DOD Department of Defense
- DPC Domestic Policy Council
- DPP Democratic Progressive Party of Taiwan
- DSCC Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
- EEZ Exclusive Economic Zone
- EOP Executive Office of the President
- EPA Environmental Protection Agency
- EU European Union
- FCC Federal Communications Commission[Page xvi]
- FEC Federal Elections Commission
- FEMA Federal Emergency Management Agency
- GAO General Accounting Office
- GSA General Services Administration
- HHS U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- HUD U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
- INS Immigration and Naturalization Service
- ISF Iraq Security Forces
- JCS Joint Chiefs of Staff
- LRM Legislative Referral Memorandum
- NAFTA North American Free Trade Agreement
- NASA National Aeronautics and Space Administration
- NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization
- NEC National Economic Council
- NEPA National Environmental Policy Act
- NGA National Governors’ Association
- NSC National Security Council
- NSS National Security Staff
- NSTC National Science and Technology Council
- OC Office of Communications
- OCA Office of Congressional Affairs
- OCAF Office of Cabinet Affairs
- OIRA Office of Information and Regulatory Review
- OIA Office of Intergovernmental Affairs
- OLA Office of Legislative Affairs
- OMB Office of Management and Budget
- ONDCP Office of National Drug Control Policy
- OPA Office of Political Affairs[Page xvii]
- OPD Office of Policy Development
- OPE Office of Public Engagement
- OPEC Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries
- OPL Office of Public Liaison
- OSTP Office of Science and Technology Policy
- PCAST President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology
- PO Press Office
- PRC People’s Republic of China
- Q&As Question and Answer Sheets
- RNC Republican National Committee
- ROC Republic of China on Taiwan
- SAP Statement of Administrative Policy
- SBA Small Business Administration
- SO Speechwriting Office
- SOTU State of the Union
- SSA Social Security Administration
- SSI Supplemental Security Income
- UN United Nations
- UNSC United Nations Security Council
- USIP United States Institute of Peace
- WTO World Trade Organization
The first edition of The Art of Policymaking: Tools, Techniques, and Processes in the Modern Executive Branch hit bookstore shelves early in 2002. It provided students and practitioners with a detailed explanation of the specific tools, techniques, and processes used to create, analyze, and implement policy in the United States. The second edition expands the scope and depth of the first edition in multiple ways.
- New presidents. We expanded “Part I: The Policymakers” to reflect upon and compare the organizational structures and policymaking processes in the executive branch as they evolved under Presidents William J. Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack H. Obama. Just as the original edition offered important information and guidelines on how the White House policymaking process worked to a new president, the second edition is designed to assist President Obama’s successor.
- Rise of the budget process in policymaking. We expanded “Part II: Tools of the Trade” by adding a new chapter on the budget process and economic policymaking. We also expanded “Part III: Case Studies” to include a case study that focuses on budget negotiations in the Obama administration.
- Cross-administration comparisons. The second edition provides case studies regarding social policy, economic policy, and foreign security policy during different administrations. In particular, we supplement our analysis of the Clinton economic plan with an assessment of the Bowles-Simpson deficit reduction commission (on which co-author Paul J. Weinstein, Jr. served as senior adviser) during the Obama administration. In addition, we supplement our chapter on the beginning of U.S. war in Iraq during Desert Shield and Desert Storm with one analyzing President George W. Bush’s decision to change U.S. strategy and dramatically increase the number of U.S. personnel on the ground in Iraq through a policy that became known as “the surge.” With these additions, students can compare how economic and security policymaking varies across multiple administrations.
[Page xix]Why is this book still needed? While students of American government and public policy are generally well informed about the institutional characteristics of the American political system, and most understand basic political science theories about politics and governance, many lack a practical understanding of how to assimilate and apply this knowledge to the actual formation and implementation of policy. Furthermore, the extreme polarization of politics today has led many students, scholars, and practitioners to focus on executive-legislative relations. Although this is important, many are entering government and politics with strong ideological positions but little understanding about the role that the executive branch plays in actually creating and implementing policy.
The second edition of our book addresses these problems by explaining how senior officials within the executive branch of government manage the policymaking process. We also provide practitioners and students with a detailed description of the tools and techniques used throughout the executive branch to create and implement policy.
The art of policymaking is the art of leading people and managing problems by using a process that enables the president to make and implement the best possible decisions for the nation. When used effectively, the tools, techniques, and processes of policymaking enhance the president’s ability—and the abilities of those he charges with the responsibility to act—to lead the policymaking process by promoting the president’s agenda, by serving as an honest broker among competing stakeholders, and by acting as an incubator of ideas. The tools, techniques, and processes also help the president manage policymaking by providing staffing functions, by coordinating the agencies and departments within the Executive Office of the President, by designating accountability, and by monitoring policy implementation and execution. We argue, in particular, that the policymaking process operates best when the authority, responsibility, and accountability for a particular policy are clearly specified and all policymakers with a stake in the policy believe that the process provides a legitimate and effective means of voicing their concerns to the president or those responsible for policy development.
Understanding the specific tools and techniques used in policymaking is critical because the likelihood that policymakers will support the formulation, [Page xx]adoption, and implementation of a particular policy is often as much a function of the perceived legitimacy and effectiveness of the process of policymaking as its substantive merits. When the process is considered to be illegitimate or ineffective, policymakers will circumvent the process and use other means—such as leaking information to the media, ignoring established chains of command, and/or using alternative means to contact the president or other key decision makers directly—to promote their objectives. Such activity undermines the policymaking process because it tends to present the president or other key decision makers with a biased view of the issue at hand and it often sparks retaliatory action by others who do not share that view. The end result is often either an ill-considered policy or, more likely, political deadlock on both the issue at hand and other policy proposals considered to be important to political opponents.
In order to prevent this problem, it is vital for the student and the practitioner to understand the process itself along with the tools and techniques that can make it work effectively. When applied appropriately, they can facilitate policymaking by providing a recognized means of communication among interested parties, thereby enhancing both efficiency and the perception of procedural legitimacy. In contrast, when the tools and techniques are ignored, the process unravels. An effective process does not guarantee that the final policy decision will be the best of all possible decisions, but it increases the probability that the decisions made will reflect the input and evaluation of a variety of competing values and objectives. This, in turn, increases the likelihood that the policy will be supported and adopted. The goal of this book is, thus, to complement existing studies and theories of the policymaking process by providing students and practitioners with the tools, techniques, and processes necessary to make the policymaking process function effectively. By doing so, it also seeks to demonstrate the impact of procedural legitimacy on the policymaking process and the corresponding fruitfulness of incorporating the tools, techniques, and processes of policymaking into extant theories of the policymaking process.
We could not have written this book without the insights and contributions made by many individuals within the administrations of George H. W. Bush, William J. Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack H. Obama. Paul J. Weinstein, Jr. would particularly like to thank former Vice President Albert Gore, Jr.—who gave him his first opportunity to work in government and politics—and former President William J. Clinton for giving him the opportunity to serve his country and to hone the skills that are presented in this book. In addition, the authors would like to thank all those who helped make this book possible. Although it [Page xxi]is not possible to list all those who contributed to this project, a few people deserve special recognition: Kris Balderston, Erskine Bowles, John Bridgeland, Victor Cha, Marc Dunkelman, Peter Feaver, Tom Freedman, Al From, Ben Ginsberg, Stephen Hadley, Mark Jacobsen, Colin Kahl, Matthew Kroenig, James Kvaal, Lindsay Lewis, Gene Ludwig, Will Marshall, Thurgood Marshall, Jr., C. Thomas McMillen, Dana Milbank, Sarah O’Byrne, Jay Parker, Bruce Reed, and Alan Simpson. We thank Kelsey Larsen and Sirvart Tokatlian for their research and editorial assistance on the second edition. In addition, we would like to offer special thanks to Jacquelyn Shambaugh and Jessica Milano; George Shambaugh, III; Lynne Weinstein; William Straus; and Paul Weinstein, Sr. for their tireless support throughout this endeavor.
We also greatly appreciate the input and support of the editors at CQ Press.
About the Authors
We dedicate this book to Emily, Natalie, Parker, and the next generation of political leaders in the executive branch.
A potential or existing situation that necessitates presidential action or review. Examples of action-forcing events include the onset of a military conflict that threatens the United States, an upcoming vote on important legislation, and the issuing of an executive order by the president.
Policymaking management model that is highly decentralized and encourages creativity at the expense of accountability. It does rely on regularized and systematic patterns of providing advice to the president.
Policy becomes “administration policy” when the Office of Management and Budget prepares a Statement of Administrative Policy (SAP). See also Statement of Administrative Policy (SAP).
An “agency” or “department” is a federal entity that is chartered by Congress or the president to develop policies, run programs, and issue and enforce regulations.
As part of the Legislative Referral Memorandum (LRM) process, executive agencies may oversee and coordinate issues without direct presidential involvement. The strategy of identifying “agency-owned” issues allows the president to stay out of potentially contentious debates on issues or legislative proposals that are not of major importance to the country as a whole. See also Legislative Referral Memorandum (LRM).
Support for a proposal. Gaining buy-in from all interested parties is equivalent to achieving a consensus the proposal should move forward.
Status granted to agencies or individuals that Congress has determined should serve as preeminent advisors to the president and whose programs and responsibilities are of vital national interest. The president can include the heads of particular agencies in his cabinet, but only Congress can grant the whole agency cabinet status. Cabinet agency heads are included in the presidential line of succession.
Policy tools that use incentives, rather than penalties, to achieve a policy goal. Examples include grants, prizes, tax incentives, and loans.
[Page 269]Centralized Management Model:
Policymaking model that centralizes the decision-making process among a key set of senior officials who serve to filter information to the president. The process emphasizes that accountability and information flow vertically toward the top.
Central Limit Theorem:
A theorem that provides the mathematical justification for making inferences about a population based on a sample.
An unmotivated decision-making bias that results from an inability of individuals to process excessive or insufficient amounts of information. Individuals exhibiting a cognitive bias will tend to interpret information and events in ways that conform to what they expect to see, given their beliefs about how the world works and their understanding of the specific context at hand.
A document circulated to agency senior staff before a memorandum from an interagency working group is submitted to a cabinet secretary. Each member of the senior staff must express his or her viewpoint on the memorandum before it is submitted.
When calculating poll results, the range of the unknown variable within a population estimated from a sample and the confidence level that the range covers its true value.
Congressional Review Act:
The federal legislation that requires agencies to submit new regulations to the Congress and the General Accounting Office (GAO) before they can take effect.
One of the primary means of communicating and exchanging ideas in the policymaking process. It plays a critical role in agenda setting, policy formation, and policy implementation. The most important of these roles is setting agenda by identifying which events have sufficient importance to the executive and to the United States of America to necessitate the policymaker’s attention.
An individual who is directly subordinate to the head of an agency, department or office.
Events or meetings that generally involve only deputies.
See Focus Group.
One of the primary means used to evaluate policy options. This approach measures policy efficiency by determining the relationship between the value of the ends and the value of the means.
Presidential directives that carry the force of law. These orders derive their legal authority from the Constitution, treaties, and statutes. They do not require the approval of Congress to take effect, but they can be overturned by Congress (with the passage of a law) or by a future president.
[Page 270]Fact Checking:
Checking a public statement or release for factual errors. Sometimes factual discrepancies are incredibly subtle. What appears to be factually accurate to a speechwriter may, in fact, be a major error to a policymaker.
A group of individuals with specific similar characteristics who are asked to view or listen to a speech, commercial, or policy statement and state their degree of approval or disapproval of certain phrases, words, or proposals.
A situation in which decision makers in a group begin to evaluate and rationalize problems collectively, develop illusions of invulnerability and unanimity, view other groups and opponents as less capable, tolerate only self-censorship, and pressure internal dissenters to conform.
Independent Agencies, Departments, and Bureaus:
Entities that exist within the executive branch, and whose leadership are typically nominated by the president, but are not directly overseen by the White House. These agencies tend to have certain characteristics that enable them to avoid political pressure (to some extent) from the White House and Congress. These include full or partial self-funding, terms of office that do not coincide with those of elected officials, or membership allotments that are unaffiliated or cross political parties.
A memo providing information on an issue/potential action item requiring a decision at a later date. Unlike the decision-making memorandum, the information memorandum should not make policy recommendations. See also Decision-Making Memorandum.
Interagency Working Group:
A working group that involves several agencies and is directed to develop a policy proposal or position on a policy area.
“Approved leaks” refer to information that is intentionally provided to the media in an informal manner in order to mobilize public support. “Unapproved leaks” refer to information that is provided to people outside of the formal decision-making apparatus without the knowledge or consent of the executive. Unapproved leaks can weaken the president by making the internal control mechanisms seem irrelevant and thus promoting chaos within an administration.
Legislative Referral Memorandum (LRM):
The formal oversight process run by OMB to resolve policy conflicts and guarantee that resulting legislation or actions are consistent with the policies and objectives of the president. The guidelines for the LRM process are set out in OMB Circular A-19.
Mall Intercept Method:
A method of polling in which passers-by are asked for their opinions regarding a variety of issues.
Bias that results from a subconscious tendency to interpret information in ways that match some underlying motivation. In other words, people tend to see what [Page 271]they want to to see. In such circumstances, the policy decision is usually made first and is followed by extensive justifications and rationalizations.
Multiple Advocacy Model:
Policymaking model designed to expose the president to competing arguments and viewpoints in a systematic manner.
These include an agency’s budget office, the office of the general counsel, the office of the chief of staff, and an agency’s policy and research office.
Office of Management and Budget (OMB):
One of the most powerful agencies in the federal government, OMB is located in the Executive Office of the President (and physically across the street from the White House). The agency is charged by Congress to prepare the president’s budget submission each year and to maintain the federal government’s books. The agency is also responsible for overseeing the management of programs and the review of federal regulations.
Typically in November, OMB “passes back” drafts of agencies’ budgets for the next fiscal year, kicking off last-ditch negotiations before OMB prepares a final budget proposal in January. Passbacks require agency budgeteers to revise the drafts and address any concerns with OMB officials.
Policy Authorization Tool:
A tool that provides the legal basis to implement policy. Examples of policy authorizing tools include legislation, executive authority, treaties, and legal precedents.
Policy Implementation Tool:
The means by which a policy is designed to achieve a goal or a set of goals. Examples include targeted tax incentives, grants, regulations, and media campaigns.
The head of an agency, department, or office.
Events or meetings that generally involve only principals.
Legitimacy derived from the process by which decisions are made.
Ceremonial statements made by the executive that are of general interest (such as declaring National Flag Day). Occasionally, however, they are used for substantive statements of general policy (such as Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation) or for announcements of certain presidential decisions.
Offices that run the specific programs that Congress has established by statute. Examples include Head Start, Pell Grants, and food stamps.
The sum of government activities, whether pursued directly or through agents, that have an influence on the lives of citizens.
A sample group from a population in which all elements of the population have an equal chance of being chosen or a known probability that they will be missed.
[Page 272]Reliable Question:
A polling question that will be interpreted the same way by different respondents or by the same respondent at different times.
An approach to policymaking that divides the policymaking process into a series of sequential stages—including problem identification, formulation, adoption, implementation, and evaluation—and categorizes policy actions as they vary from stage to stage.
The situation room is located in the basement of the West Wing of the White House. It serves as a base of operations and provides support for the NSC and the President when managing sensitive issues and crises.
Marketing efforts used to promote support for a particular policy. Policy spin is factual evidence presented in a way to support a proposal or position. It is not meant to mislead but rather to inform the public in a way that puts a proposal in the best light.
Statement of Administration Policy (SAP):
Statements that provide a direct and authoritative way for the administration to let the Congress and, via the press, the American people know the views of the president on a particular bill or legislative issue.
Strain Toward Agreement:
The motivation of policymakers with common as well as competing interests to reach a collective solution to the problems at hand.
Individuals, agencies, departments, and interest groups in the policymaking community with vested interests in the issues or policies at hand.
State of the Union (SOTU):
An annual address presented by the president of the United States to the United States Congress. The address can be given by correspondence, but since the Wilson presidency, it has typically been delivered by the president before a joint session of Congress. The address reports on the condition of the nation and allows the president to outline his legislative agenda and national priorities to Congress.
A process of analyzing data to infer information about a population. It enables pollsters to use a small sample of individuals to provide a reasonably accurate picture of a much larger population.
One type of targeted tax incentive that reduces one’s tax liability (what a taxpayer owes).
One that clearly reflects the underlying issue that the analyst is interested in.
To assist the president in deciding his course of action on a bill, OMB may request that each interested agency submit a “views letter” that specifies its analysis and recommendation of a particular policy proposal within 48 hours. OMB then prepares a memorandum to the president on the enrolled bill, comprising these views [Page 273]letters along with its summary of the bill. OMB identifies significant issues raised by various agencies and provides its recommendations.
A rapid response operation that brings together representatives from every department into one room.
A mechanism that provides decision makers with important information on a regularly scheduled basis.
Since it was first constructed under President Theodore Roosevelt, the West Wing of the White House has served as the office building of the senior members of the White House staff. The building contains the Oval Office, the vice president’s office, and the National Security Council’s situation room, where the president’s staff monitors the world 24/7.