In this paper, we explain how presidents strategically invest in administrative capacity, noting that presidents have few incentives to invest effort in capacity building in most agencies. We test our account with two analyses. First, we examine the time it took for the Bush, Obama, Trump, and Biden Administrations to nominate individuals to appointed positions. We find that presidents prioritize appointments to policy over management positions and that nominations occur sooner in agencies that implement presidential priorities. Second, we examine the responses of federal executives to the 2020 Survey on the Future of Government Service to see whether perceptions of presidential investment in administrative capacity match our predictions. We find that federal executives perceive higher levels of investment when the agency is a priority of the president and when the agency shares the president's policy views. We conclude with implications for our understanding of the modern presidency and government performance.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors declare the human subjects research in this article was reviewed and approved by Georgetown University (Certificate No. 00002441) and Princeton University (Certificate No. 12939).
This research was funded by the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at Vanderbilt University. Funding for the 2020 Survey on the Future of Government Service was provided by the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at Vanderbilt University. Additional support came from the Survey Research Center at Princeton University, the Massive Data Institute at Georgetown University, and the Partnership for Public Service.
© The Author(s), 2023.