by Greg Walcher, E&E Legal Senior Policy Fellow
As Appearing in the Daily Sentinel
Since the days of George Washington, presidents have wished they could make government employees do what they are told. Actually, that frustration is much older than America. Peter the Great once said, “People think I rule Russia, but a thousand bureaucrats rule Russia.”
That’s one reason presidential candidates’ promises are often more difficult to deliver than they expected. It is a common comparison that “moving the bureaucracy is like trying to turn an aircraft carrier.”
Actually, turning an aircraft carrier is far easier than turning a bureaucracy. A modern aircraft carrier is over 1,000 feet long, weighs 100,000 tons, carries 6,000 sailors, and 70 airplanes. Yet it can turn around inside its own length in about three minutes. Carriers have two major advantages over bureaucracies when it comes to turning them. First, a ship is a mechanical object that responds to mechanical controls. Second, its personnel operate in a military command-and-control structure. Someone gives orders, and others follow them. The admiral never stands on the bridge wondering why he ordered the ship to turn, but it isn’t turning.