How Does Congress Control the Bureaucracy?

According to College of the Redwoods, Congress controls the bureaucracy through oversight committees and privatization of government services. Congressional committees serve to hold bureaucratic agencies accountable and provide organizational goals, while privatization of government services allows the private sector to provide services that the bureaucracy does not perform efficiently.

Various committees and subcommittees exclusively provide oversight of each bureaucratic agency. Congressional members hold hearings to question leaders of bureaucratic agencies regarding agency operations. Agency leaders submit summaries and briefings of the progress of the agency. Many agencies are under the auspice of more than one committee, giving Congress more opportunities to exert control. When an agency does not perform, Congressional members often discuss issues in the media to gain public support. Each bureaucratic agency also submits a budget request to Congress for each fiscal year; Congressional members revise the budget or approve it. Congress also has the ability to create new agencies.

Congress also decides if the private sector needs to perform certain tasks of an agency. Through legislation and budgetary allocation, Congress has the agency accept bids from private companies for government contracts. This is common in the Defense Department, which allocates contracts for building military equipment to the private sector.