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Too Much Bureaucracy or Too Little? Congressional Treatment of Defense Department Legislative Liaison, 1950s-1990s

PAM, Vol. 14 No. 2, (2009)

Legislative relations is a difficult and delicate responsibility for the public administrator, given that it is at the nexus of what has sometimes been called the politics-administration dichotomy. Legislators might simultaneously want good service from the very bureaucracy they reflexively criticize. This article is a history of Congressional treatment of Defense Department legislative liaison offices in the second half of the 20th century, especially through an annual statutory spending limit that existed from 1958 to 1990. The narrative documents Congress’s ambivalence whether to cut the budgets of these offices because they were part of the bureaucracy or to increase the budgets of such offices to assure fully funded services that legislators desire. These events indicate the difficulty to the public administrator of conducting legislative relations in a way that is both responsive to the demands of the legislative branch while protecting and furthering the mission of the agency as a whole.

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