Administrative Discretion – Essay

Administrative Discretion NAME SCHOOL Should public administrators be restricted to only laid down rules in the discharge of their duties as espoused by Max Weber or should they have some amount of discretion? To me that is a very open question in regards to public administration and depending on the situation either administrators’ following guidelines is best or administrators following their best discretion can be the best for the situation at hand. So when answering this question I can go either way, situation and circumstances permitting.
In this paper I will go into further detail to explain why both sides of this question are equally applicable. When situations arise and public administrators have to make decisions in regards to the public safety, environmental safety, or the safety of anything in general it is important that they follow the laid down rules that their duties are bound by. Legal-rational authority “is based on a belief in the legitimacy of the pattern of normative rules and the rights of those elevated to authority under such rules to issue commands” (1). This can also be translated into “follow the rules of society! Everything has always worked better if everyone and everything follows this bureaucratic rule of thumb. One situation where public administrators should have been held to follow the laid down rules in regards to their duties was the finalization of the DoD, or Department of Defense’s budget. The ultimate work around was an extension to make a decision and funds were allocated for the mean time but potentially this could have been a major freeze on the majority of DoD operations to include the Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy, and Coast Guard.
On the other hand, there is another option that makes sense. Public administrators, while following the laid down rules they are to follow, can be very effective when allowed varying amounts of discretion in their actions. Weber states that legal-rational authority is “…superior to any other form in precision, in stability, in stringency of its discipline, and in its reliability. It thus makes possible a particularly high degree of calculability of results for the heads of organizations and for those acting in relation to it” (1).

Now taking that this type of bureaucracy that is followed works very well, in my career in the military I have learned that when particular situations arise, flexibility and speed is key. Thus in turn, public administrators are allowed that extra bit of flexibility just like in the case study 5 – Wichita Confronts Contamination. City Manager Chris Cherches used the flexibility he had managing the city and was able to save the city and state thousands if not millions of dollars that would be wasted if the EPA had been forced to manage the city’s cleanup operation.
Cherches swift action, flexibility and determination in service to his city was detrimental to not only saving the cost that would have been brought to the city and state but his actions show how being allowed the discretion in his position actually provided a better outcome than not. Ultimately, flexibility or discretion is the deciding factor when it comes to getting the positive result or outcome of any situation.
When it comes down to it, it is the actual situation or circumstance that dictates what the best course of action is to be, whether it is to follow the rules down to the letter or to have the discretion to make the decisions that will ultimately be the deciding factor in the positive outcome. With the examples give, on one hand you have congress who cannot come to an agreement over the finalization of a budget for the arm of the government, the Department of Defense and luckily was able to extend the term of the budget freeing up an allocated amount of funds.
On the other was the City Manager of Wichita, Kansas who was able to save not only the city but the state countless amounts of money in a cleanup operation. So as you can see it is not a question of what is right, answer A all of the time or answer B all of the time, it is the question of which situation applies; can you use answer A, answer B for the particular situation. In the real world, situation and circumstances dictate all actions and outcomes. References: 1. Stillman, R. J. , II (2010). Public Administration, Concepts and Cases. Boston, MA: Wadsworth

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