This essay will discuss the importance of implementation in the policy making process. It will describe the role that governmental agencies play in the implementation process, the affect that implementation has on policy, outline how governmental agencies affect policy through the implementation process and describe what types of factors affect policy implementation.
Before addressing the previously listed issues, it is first necessary to describe what implementation is, specifically in regards to the policy making process. Policy implementation is commonly referred to as “what happens after a bill becomes a law”. As Stage 4 of the five stage policy process, Policy Implementation is defined as “Application of the policy by the government’s administrative machinery” (Anderson, 4). In simpler terms, “implementation encompasses whatever is done to carry a law into effect, to apply it to the target population (for example, small businesses or motorcycle operators), and to achieve its goals” (Anderson, 209).
The importance of implementation in the policy making process cannot be overemphasized. The weeks, months, and sometimes years, that are spent drafting legislation or other policy adoption methods, are all for nothing without proper implementation. Accordingly, “the consequences of implementation for the content or substance of policy, and for its impact and degree of success, are every bit as important as what transpires during the formulation and adoption stages” (Anderson, 210). Actually they may even be more important that what transpired during the other phases in many cases, especially since policies are oftentimes intentionally vague.
This is generally necessary to get policy adopted but leaves much interpretation to the implementing agency or system. As a result “administrative agencies often are provided with broad and ambiguous statutory mandates that leave them with much room for choice in deciding what should or should not be done on some matter” (Anderson, 216). Many times the policy that has been adopted is nothing more than guidance to an agency to accomplish some task or achieve some goal although the specific definition of each is not clearly specified. This means that “such statutory mandates are essentially directives to agencies to go out and makes some policy” (217). With such importance placed on the implementation of policy it is important to understand the role that governmental agencies play in the implementation process.
The role played by governmental agencies depends as much on the agency itself as it does the policy as it is understood that “policy implementation is formally the province of a complex array of administrative agencies, now often referred to as bureaucracies (Anderson, 216). These bureaucracies include the legislature, the courts, and numerous agencies under the umbrella of administrative organization.
The legislature devotes much time and resources towards the adoption of policy and thus has a vested interest in making sure the implementation of the policy does not occur in a contrary manner. Although the legislature is not specifically tasked with the administration of policy, they are numerous ways in which they influence the implementation. The legislature reviews current policies through the use of investigations and hearings, through which they use their persuasive power to influence the agency charged with implementation of the policy. The legislature also has influential power when agency heads are installed as they must be approved by the senate. One major way that the legislature can control implementation is through the budgetary process as funds for policy are not always included in original law and must be sought after policy adoption. Budgets can also be changed after the fact. All of these things are ways that the legislature affects policy implementation after adoption but they also affect policy implementation with deliberate specificity in the policy. This control device limits the flexibility of the implementing agency thus keeping the policy as close to the original goal as possible.
The role of the courts during policy implementation is most often related to their interpretation of policy. Courts have significant power in this arena as they “can facilitate, hinder, or largely nullify implementation of a policy through their decisions” (Anderson, 220). Courts also take a regulatory role during implementation of some types of policy such as naturalization hearings or bankruptcy proceedings.
The third category of agencies that have a role in policy implementation are those that are grouped together as administrative organization. These include the executive branch, independent regulatory commissions, government corporations, and independent agencies. The departments within the executive branch have a clear role in policy implementation in that they are directly tasked with the administration of policy, often by adding the details lacking in the intentionally vague policy. For example, the legislature may pass a lay which requires “protection of reproductive rights” while it will be up to some administrative agency to actually determine what that means.
As introduced in the third paragraph, the affect that implementation has on policy is that it attempts to accomplish the goals of a given policy. Conversely, “if implementation fails, then all that preceded was of no avail” (Anderson, 210). There are numerous ways that governmental agencies affect policy through the implementation process as “administrative agencies engage in a wide range of activities and make multitudes of decisions as they administer the laws within their jurisdiction” (Anderson, 234). These include, but are not limited to, rulemaking, adjudication, law enforcement, and program operations. Rule-making, as defined by the Administrative Procedure Act is “an agency statement of general or particular applicability and future effect designed to implement, interpret, or prescribe law or policy or describing the organization, procedure, or practice requirements of an agency”. Based on this agencies have quite a bit of flexibility in the implementation of policy. One way to view the procedure of rule-making is to describe it as micro-legislation meaning that the agency itself is in essence developing policy based on the guidance or boundaries of actual policy.
The next way that governmental agencies affect policy is through adjudication which is similar to interpretation done by the courts. Adjudication may be prohibitive or proscriptive and may apply to a specific provision or the entire policy. The third way agencies affect policy is through their enforcement obligations. In this capacity “a statute may be enforced vigorously or even rigidly, in a lax manner, or not at all” (Anderson, 238). Many antiquated rules are no longer enforced although they still exist as laws. The lack of enforcement means that the rule is nothing more than rhetoric. Other examples of non-enforcement are directly related to the federal system in the US. Many laws that are passed by the Federal Government are intentionally not enforced at the state level when the state disagrees with the policy. This is seen at lower levels as well such as Los Angeles County’s official decision not to impound cars of unlicensed drivers (a state law) as this would hinder the transportation abilities of illegal immigrants who cannot get a license to drive in the state of California.
It would be impractical, if not impossible, to effectively list all of the types of factors that affect policy implementation so for the sake of brevity this essay will only discuss funding, compliance, and enforcement. Funding is a fairly simple factor to understand, policies often require resources to carry out. These resources must be funded in one way or another and failure to do so will often result in failure of the policy. Intentionally not funding policy adoption is a means of influencing the policy implementation. As a factor of affecting policy implementation, compliance is the level to which policy is adhered to. There are countless reasons why an individual or group may choose to comply with a given policy including belief in the merits of the policy, social conditioning, or fear of the repercussions of not complying with a policy.
Conversely, individual reasons for noncompliance may include disagreement with the merits of the policy, realization that the policy is unenforceable, or a myriad of other reasons. For companies or groups the reasons may also include knowledge that even if eventually enforced, the time spent violating a policy are worth the benefits gained. Somewhat related to compliance is enforcement which was briefly discussed in a previous paragraph. The level to which a policy is enforced greatly influences the policy implementation itself.
As seen throughout this writing, the importance of policy implementation is no less that of the other stages of policy process. The actual details of the policy are often developed in the phase. This success of this phase relies heavily on a number of different governmental agencies and processes as well as participation from the recipients of the policy.