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Department of Homeland Security: Bureaucratic Structure

The objective of this memorandum is to communicate the views of an analysis regarding the effectiveness of the bureaucratic structure in the DHS. The analysis is based on recent public views following the continued threats for the U.S security. Bureaucracy as a concept continues to receive criticism from both academicians and ordinary citizens. In every field of human activity, and all forms of organizations are governed by a selected group of representatives. This group comprises elites who are best suited and interested in the activity. The DHS should not try to attain a formula to alleviate the elites but an open system that allows an inclusive and flexible decision-making process. The theory of departmental or governmental bureaucracy entails harnessing information in the bottom ranks of the entity.

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The Most Suitable Models

Following the increased rate of insecurity in the U.S, researchers have observed that the bureaucratic structure is derailing the decision-making process creating time for terrorists’ attacks to take place. At the topmost rank, the president, for instance, handling foreign policy issues receives a summarized document containing recommendations harnessed from hundreds of policy analysts. The problem with this kind of structure is that there is no incentive to pass the truth on the superiors. The system encourages information based on pleasing the superiors by telling them what they expect to hear. In many bureaucratic structures, particularly within the government, superiors will not want to hear criticisms of their policies or leadership (Patton, Sawicki, & Clark, 2013). Every leader wants to believe that their policies are effective. The bureaucrats who have a good knowledge of how bureaucracies operate and how superiors react in most cases opt to keep quiet if the decisions are ill-fated.

However, successful organizations or government agencies will be enjoyed by the few who can predict and meet public demands. Contrary, those who are used to propaganda to entice their superiors only feel success in the bureaucratic systems. Only those in the lower ranks will have a good understanding of what goes on, and the top officials will rely on distorted information passed to them via the hierarchical system. However, the question remains whether bureaucracies form the most desirable form of organization or there are alternatives. This public policy debate is undergoing, thus, this report will offer an explanation to identify whether there are more effective models than bureaucratic systems. However, this report will recommend that a cross-functional model that encourages leading from a central point rather than the top is a better form of administrative practice.

The Concept of Bureaucracy

Critiques have argued that the DHS bureaucratic system is a manifestation of inefficiency, secrecy, and self-interest (De Wispelaere & Stirton, 2012). For example, many of the U.S presidents have found themselves with little knowledge of events that are well understood by the media. The case of President Nixon is a good example; he thought he had a better understanding regarding the Vietnam War only to realize that the public was more informed by reading the New York Times. The intelligence officials at the lower ranks provided warnings, but this information went through screening through the hierarchy and offered the President a report that suggested that all was well.

Without strong political supervision, it has been evident that the DHS bureaucratic structure lacks appropriate incentives to steer good service (Knill & Tosun, 2012). Bureaucrats only concentrate on using their influence to protect personal interests such as promotion, tenure, and the right to interfere with set guideless instead of pioneering the attainment of institutional goals. Even though specialization is a good factor that encourages the handling of specialized duties by particular experts, it is unfortunate that workers cannot undertake tasks that fall outside their job description. Unlike in other models such as the mission-driven model that encourages interdependence and teamwork, in a bureaucratic system, everyone sticks to their class. Therefore, bureaucratic systems end up being less efficient if critical details are omitted at one stage of operation. In a bid to ensure efficacy, it is advisable if bureaucracies encourage decentralization of power.

The findings show that the hierarchical organization discourages a democratic approach when it comes to matters of decision-making. The staffs at the lower ranks lack an appropriate platform to air their grievances or question the decisions of the superiors. Only those at the executive positions have the privilege to make decisions on behalf of the entire organization. In most cases, top officials are unaware of a situation that might be of importance or a problem existing in the lower levels of the organization. The evidence indicates that the workers at the lower level are under constant pressure and threats to stay quiet and adhere to decisions that come from the executives. This case is expected to remain in most government and private organizations that are strictly bureaucratic. Even though the DHS bureaucratic structure enhances responsibility and self-efficacy, superiors find ways to cover flaws and often blame workers at lower ranks. Although the bureaucratic system can be a fruitful system if not mismanaged, it is desirable for an organization to adopt the mission-driven model since it is motivated by the desire to meet the requirements of the public.

The bureaucratic system in the DHS works under strict formal guidelines. The findings indicate that these guidelines prevent flexibility in decision-making since it stipulates how to perform all tasks. While such rules are time conscious and cost-effective, for any organization to perform beyond expectations needs occasional alteration of the status quo. This rigidity discourages innovation and workers tend to be reluctant in helping their colleagues become productive. The increased concentration of individual expertise may mislead an organization to an error in the accomplishment of a duty. Furthermore, realizing and resolving a problem might be hard for a bureaucrat if it happens outside the scope of one’s specialization. Earlier findings regarding the September 11 terrorist attacks indicate that the US intelligence system had information about the impending attacks, but due to the time-consuming procedures, the country was caught unprepared to respond effectively (Teodoro, 2011).

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Bureaucratic systems encourage the division of labor among its employees. All activities are subdivided into small units with each worker taking a portion of the task (Patton et al., 2013). Although working in separate units leads to the accomplishment of an entire task, the system becomes independent of everyone’s efficacy. If a worker at one stage is ineffective, then the whole system is affected, and the results are undesirable. Bureaucracy does not encourage consultations among workers hence they are heavily reliant on the performance of colleagues. Therefore, utilizing the mission-based model can be a better alternative for organizations since teamwork is encouraged. There are high consultations across the team and tasks are often done in groups to ensure contribution from all members.

Alternatives to Bureaucracy

The mission-driven model is a desirable way of organizing businesses or governments. This model has defined goals that are influenced by public demand. The public perception of services or products serves as a directive upon which an institution reflects on during decision-making. Although bureaucracies are also goal-oriented, they are less likely to work beyond the expectations of the employer to satisfy customer needs. Mission-based models are best applicable in government institutions and private companies. The practices and procedures of the mission-based model encourage human interactions that favor quality service that pleases the recipients. While bureaucrats strive to provide services to the public, the mission-based approach combines quality and service that targets attaining public satisfaction.

Comparison of the Alternatives

The bureaucratic model is in-focused in nature while the mission-based model is more customer-focused. The in-focused mission entails the advancement of self-interest such as playing loyalty to policymakers, tenure and making the profit for the benefit of the organization. The bureaucratic system tends to assume that it has customer-related missions. Their mission statement states their prioritization of customers but in real practice, most bureaucrats lack effective customer relations. When the core mission is customer-based, then such will be reflected in all employees since their priority is to meet customer needs. The hierarchical structure of a bureaucracy discourages appropriate interrelationships between superiors and subordinates (Teodoro, 2011). This environment does not nurture a customer-focused mission, as it is the case with the mission-based model. When an organization has an in-focused mission posing as a customer-based mission, then workers will be dispassionate. On the other hand, when the model is truly a customer-oriented, then the workers will firmly agree by acting passionately.

In bureaucracies, individuals are empowered to handle situations based on their lines of specialization or depending on their level of command within the ranks. Although this approach encourages mastering of specific elements in a given level, it discourages self-development and suppresses innovation. On the other hand, a mission-driven organization empowers individuals to handle situations based on experience, expertise or potentiality rather than their ranks (Teodoro, 2011). This aspect indicates that an employee at a lower level can increasingly be empowered to handle situations without necessarily having to go up the organizational hierarchy. Such concerns make the mission-driven organizations more flexible and desirable since they focus on empowering workers at all levels. Thus, there are minimal conflicts of workers seeking to climb the hierarchical system to influential levels.

Desirable administrative policies should consider balancing organization’s demands with the human demands regarding both workers and customers. While the bureaucratic approach presents equality by treating all employees and clients the same, that might not be enough since people have varying requirements. The mission-driven offers a desirable alternative since it shows concern for individual needs. Multi-functional teams serve as alternatives for specialization at certain levels. The multi-functional teams alleviate the functional barriers evident in the DHS bureaucratic system (Teodoro, 2011).

The Future of DHS Bureaucratic System

While the DHS bureaucratic system is highly utilized to enable a swift flow of information and facilitate the decision-making process, the system is a bit rigid and suppresses employee empowerment. The mission-driven approach seeks to eliminate rigidity by empowering employees to make decisions that affect their functioning at their level of operation. However, the DHS bureaucratic system can serve better if it can enhance its mission to a truly customer-based regarding quality and effectiveness. These changes are realistic if only workers are empowered to make decisions at their levels of operations while ensuring frequent consultations from superiors. This assertion implies that the DHS needs to alter its hierarchical structure and adopt a more decentralized system such as the mission-based model.


De Wispelaere, J., & Stirton, L. (2012). The Politics of Unconditional Basic Income: Bringing Bureaucracy Back In. Journal of Political Studies, 61(4), 915-932.

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Knill, C., & Tosun, J. (2012). Public policy. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Patton, C., Sawicki, D., & Clark, J. (2013). Basic methods of policy analysis and planning. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Teodoro, M. (2011). Bureaucratic ambition. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

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