Heclo’s policy of issue networks is a new way of dealing with the connection between politics and its administration. Previously, the Iron Triangle was the way that the connection was dealt with. The Iron Triangle concept described the major players as congress, career bureaucrats and large interest groups. It was said that the groups had a give and take kind of relationship and eventually led to a reasonably easy way to create policy while somewhat satisfying each of the groups.
Basically, the Congress passes laws, Bureaucrats implement the laws and the interest groups support the congress.However Heclo describes the new way of doing business in Washington. Heclo does not say the Iron Triangle theory is wrong he just says that with the changing of times, the Iron Triangle Theory is not complete. Heclo says that we are naive and that we want to believe in the simplicity of how political administration is implemented. We want a main group in power and then other groups who are sub groups with a clear and defined hierarchy. Instead we have what Heclo calls “issue networks.
” I would also use what I have learned about Heclo’s theory in the way that I would handle my future role as an administrator.In my mind I imagined a system where, I as an administrator seemed to know what was best for the people and would bring about and implement wise and important changes on behalf of the people I represent. In fact, I may be the one who is informed of change by neighborhood groups or issue groups. I also have to make sure that I am allowing everyone to get their opinion into the decision while still being effective and fast enough to affect appropriate change. Issue Networks are a different kind of relationship and different kind of participants.There are networks of all different types that now are trying to influence and make policy. We still have the legislators and the bureaucrats but now the groups trying to influence law and its administration can be many and different sizes.
From the large interest groups like the AfL-CIO to smaller interest groups, lake parent-teacher associations and even single experts who may have a knowledge of the subject. Heclo describes these groups as varied and operating on many different levels. We may have a small group that is very vocal and show up at meetings but do not reflect the majority of people.
We may have a professor or expert who is called by legislators for advice or to clarify some part of policy. Also, people are more involved and well read on issues and understand the issues more completely. There are a few problems with this way of doing things and we can look at the “Reinventing School Lunch” policy to see how this system can be effective and also cause some delays and problems. The original goal of the food lunch program was to feed malnourished school children and to help farmers by buying up some of their extra crops and commodities.This program worked well for 50 years and was a popular and accepted program.
In the 1990’s the program was looked at and it was determined to look at and reinvent the school lunch program. There were many players in this reinvention and we have Helen Haas who is the head of the “food and nutrition services. ” She is the lady who develops a feud with the School food service association. There are also other players in the story including, school food workers, parent and teacher groups, the farmers, dietary advocacy groups, the dairy council, meat council, and various health groups.The question as to whether the reinventing school lunch policy story illustrates or does not illustrate Heclo’s theory is yes. It is clear that we are not dealing with only the “Iron Triangle” way of dealing with policy.
When you look at the way that the school lunch program was reinvented, it is clear that these groups were very influential and that their affect was substantial in creating new policy and modifying the law. The advocacy groups are basically the same thing as issue networks.There is a central player, Helen Hass who is at the very core of the change and then these groups come in to guarantee the policy change happens. It is clear that these groups are influential in building support in the policy change and making it happen. Looking back at the Katrina story, we could only hope for so much involvement and if the same types of groups had been involved I don’t think the Katrina disaster would have happened (not the hurricane, but the lack of action that led to the true disaster).Sometimes these many faction need to weigh in on an issue and we have all seen a policy become law quickly after publicity has brought it out to the public and people suddenly become involved.
When training public administrators, we must assure that they understand the role and power that all these faction play on the way that policy is created and implemented. To not understand this process you would be doing the public a great disservice and waste a lot of time. It absolutely does alter the ypes of jobs, tasks and roles that the administrator must perform. Administrators need to be able to not only understand this relationship amongst the issue networks, but also work around and also foster these relationships. Administrators would also need to understand that this might also bog down the process and slow down reform nearly to a halt if the factions become to involved.
Often times these groups may be the one to bring attention to the things that need reform and administrators must be open and willing to make changes.