US Forest Service’s Bureaucracy and Rules


The modern government apparatus is based on a strict bureaucratic structure and rules which help the state to control its employees and the community. The decade of the 1990s will be a period of dramatic changes, upheavals, and events that pose unforeseen and unexpected challenges and opportunities for large-scale bureaucracies. Getting around to these opportunities involves understanding global trends.

Philosophers and politicians admit that global trends are driving forces that alter the shape and direction of a bureaucracy as well as a nation. The US Forest Service was faced with problems typical for many bureaucracies, declining budgets and increasing administrative costs. Work overload and increased pressure led to low morale and poor motivation among employees. Associate Chief Dale Roberston introduced a pilot study aimed to investigate motivation problems and increase creativity among employees. It was found that the conflict had been cost by lack of entrepreneurship and innovations inside the organization.

Bureaucratic structure stipulated strict regulations and limit creativity of employees. Any management that does not anticipate and respond to these global trends may not compete successfully in tomorrow’s hypercompetitive global market.

The example and policies of the US Forest Service vividly portrays the role and impact of bureaucracy on the functions and management of this organization. In order to change the situation, a new, bottom-up approach, was introduced. “The Pilot Study demonstrated that a bottom-up approach to reducing bureaucracy could be effective by changing thinking, behavior, and work culture on the ground, institutionalizing these changes within the workforce, and encouraging managers to create a more entrepreneurial work environment” (Varley, 1994).

A Concept of Bureaucracy

Following Weber, in bureaucratic environment, the organizations lost their independence and autonomous entrepreneurial spirit. They are flexible in adapting to the ever changing bureaucratic rules (Weber, n.d.). Consequently, less attention is paid to pursuing market opportunities, especially by organizations that have domestic markets. Creative solutions are presented by organizations that are exposed to real market competition abroad.

The study also highlights the fact that, in order to simplify administrative control, the state administration concentrated the organizations and established large organizations (Varley, 1994). These organizations are not large enough to be competitive in the international markets; in many cases, they are too large to adapt with sufficient flexibility to the changing market. It becomes clear that bureaucratic coordination persists and is not actually replaced by market control.

The development of the private economy is based on the acceptance of the need for market competition. Market competition is stimulated by increasing the number of rival firms. Real service competition requires bureaucratic organizations to be dependent upon their market competitiveness rather than meeting government demands. The case of US Forest service suggests that measures should be taken for establishing new private ventures and privatizing state-owned firms. In order to reduce the role of the government in the economy, several steps have been taken during the last couple of years.

New institutions are formed to reduce the enforced vertical relations between the central bureaucratic organizations and the business units. These new institutions include bankruptcy law, a competitive banking system, a personal and value-added tax system, and a bond and stock market. Political and economic transformation is going to produce considerable changes in the society in the years to come.

The management challenges of the US Forest Service

The management challenges involve strict and centralized structure of authority and span of control. According to the law, if this public corporation is to have more income than expenditures, the difference is to be saved internally, and if there is ever a shortfall it would treat it as an internal loss. The case of the US Forest Service specifies that there is the interest of implanting the operating basis of a business concern in the corporation.

Not having its budget incorporated with other national budget items is supposed to make it an efficiently managed, independent, and profitable organization. In fact, the terms of the law do not bring about more efficient management. Since spending power grows out of the budget, budgeting officers are valued for their ability to write budgets that call for a great deal of money and manpower (Varley, 1994). Their concern is to convince the Ministry of Finance, without managing to balance income and outflow, that all expenditures are necessary. Naturally, expenditures would tend to rise faster than receipts–and nobody thought that particularly odd. So, within the bureaucratic organization, managerial skills become a matter of how much money could be extracted from the budget.

Modern Bureaucracy and the US Forest Service

I suppose that one distinctive feature of a modern bureaucracy like the US Forest Service is that the authority and responsibilities that those working in it carry are clearly delimited. When a given process is divided into its component functions, and an organization built around this way of doing business, if any of these functions stop, then the expected results will not materialize. This is fine for “programmed jobs” that fall in the usual bureaucratic processes, but if the organization does an “un-programmed job,” work may stop in mid-stream (Varley, 1994).

Even knowing that this problem cannot be resolved without the cooperation of all the staff, when confronted with a situation like this they will withdraw into their little shell of Japanese habits. Out of fear of being stuck with responsibility for doing anything new or because it is too much trouble, sometimes managers knowingly and intentionally decide not to make a decision (Kaufman 1977).

Herbert Kaufman’s argument and bureaucracy

Using the case study, I can say that it supports Herbert Kaufman’s argument that most rules and constraints originate from somebody’s demand for it. These ideas are supported by the fact that changes in the national environment call into question the role and responsibilities of the bureaucratic monopoly of domestic market and its nature as a public corporation. First of all, the technological revolution in forestry tends to link different state departments, and the line between state and federal authority is growing unclear. This trend goes along with increasingly diverse and intense demands on existing technology (Kaufman 1977). A number of organizations are also trying to enter the telecommunications field. Those movements are behind the opening of circuits and removal of restrictions on terminal equipment to be used.

Conflicts and threats faced by the US Forest Service

Corporate structure that does not satisfy that demand squelches individual creativity. The US Forest Service will be drained of life, so no matter what managerial studies or sciences the bureaucracy subscribes to, it will not be able to motivate people for long. Trust will disappear. The bureaucracy that does not face competition in the market will not make any effort to provide the best service, and if it does not face criticism under a free press, it will not improve itself.

Obviously, the speed at which external change takes place has implications for the pace of change inside individual organizations. Questions regarding the similarities and differences of change dynamics at both the societal and organizational levels remain to be ensnared. Another common set of issues that cuts across the external and internal levels of bureaucratic organizations relates to the differentiation and integration of economic activities.

At the firm level, much has been written about how tasks should be grouped into subunits and how activities should then be managed across the subunits. At the state and federal levels, much has been written about the parallel question of how economic activities should be divided in individual organizations and how coordination should be achieved among organizations. For instance, bureaucratic activities of vendors and manufacturers or manufacturers and distributors should be strictly be coordinated. At each level of bureaucratic organizations, both market and hierarchical mechanisms are operative (Kaufman 1977).

Solutions followed by the US Forest Service

It is evident that the conflict can be reconciled by strong leadership and democratic principles applied to all government institutions. After committing to leadership, the US Forest Service projects must be executed with excellence to gain the leadership desired–and to have a satisfied customer. Three innovation program elements must be considered: projects, resources, and culture. The first step is to take an inventory of each of these elements and match the results to the innovation strategy.

Bureaucratic organizations go through lifecycles. Bureaucracy has created many successful, large organizations. These organizations have commercialized products and services that have added to the life of the organization and its balance of trade (Varley, 1994). To save these bureaucracies from extinction–and the dislocations that would result–it is necessary to refresh them. These principles will allow large bureaucracies to transform themselves into innovative, vital, and productive organizations (Weber, n.d.).


In sum, management and structure of the US Forest Service vividly portrays that organization depends upon rules and laws established by the traditional state authority. The owner ultimately runs the bureaucracy, but there tends to be a great deal of teamwork. All staff members tend to share, in some way, responsibility for bureaucratic decisions. Politics plays a minor role, since there are a limited number of people trying to satisfy their needs and these people tend to be committed to a unified goal: making the bureaucracy a success.


Finer, H. n.d. Administrative Responsibility in Democratic Government.

Kaufman, H. 1977, Of Our Own Making.

Shapiro, A. 2003, Flying in the Face of Bureaucracy: The Forest Service Pilot Study, 1985-1992. Web.

Varley, P. 1994, “What if we could start over” Kennedy School of Government. pp. 1-9.

Weber, M. n.d. The Essentials of Bureaucratic Organization. Contemporary Politics. Pp. 15-23.

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