What are Federal Agencies and Commissions?

The character of the American system of government is centered upon the principle of checks and balances which involves a tripartite balance of powers between the three branches of government. Each branch has the power to establish agencies, boards, and commissions maintained in their respective capacities to handle specific issues or an issue of such importance that a stand-alone organization is needed to oversee its administration.

Federal agencies are administrative institutions to which the management and enforcement of laws and public policies are assigned. These agencies are established in accordance with the 1946 Administrative Procedure Act (APA), that is, the “enabling act” under which statutes granted by Congress confers powers on agencies to carry out various delegated tasks. Administrative agencies generally include independent federal agencies and executive branch departments. Independent federal agencies differ from the cabinet-level executive departments in that the executive departments are part of the president's cabinet, therefore they are far more amenable to political control, with the president having the power to appoint and remove the heads of the departments without reason unlike the heads of the independent agencies that cannot be removed unless with good cause.

Agencies under the Executive Branch

Under the executive branch, there are two broad groups of agencies: administrative departments and Independent executive agencies. The heads of these agencies are political appointees chosen by the president and approved by the Senate during his/her term in office. Executive departments are otherwise known as cabinet-level departments because the heads of the departments, named secretaries, are part of the president's cabinet each advising the president on any subject relating to the duty of that department. Independent executive agencies also report directly to the president but are not part of the cabinet-level departments. The executive branch departments and agencies include:

 

Executive Departments

Independent Agencies, Boards, and Commissions

Agencies under the Legislative Branch

The leaders of the legislative branch agencies are either appointed by the president with the consent of the senate or by the Congress itself. These agencies are responsible for a specific industry or public service and their principal—the legislative—delegates rulemaking authority to them. The legislative agencies are the most widely known federal agencies and run a tenure of 4-15 years. They include: