Beyond agency core mission

Yoon Ho Alex Lee*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


A long-standing view among legal scholars, political scientists, sociologists, and regulators posits that it is important for each regulatory agency to have a narrowly defined core mission and to focus on activities that are central to accomplishing it successfully. Although this view has no doctrinalfoundation, rhetoric grounded on it crops up frequently in regulatory dialogues, especially in opposition to prospective agency regulations. The purpose of this Article is to formalize this "core mission model" of the administrative state and analyze its benefits, costs, and risks. An important starting point for the analysis is that, unlike a private corporation or a non-profit organization, a regulatoy agency is not a free enterprise in a competitive market. Instead, as a "creature of statutes," it stands in a principal-agent relationship with Congress, whose job in turn is to respond to society's various needs and problems, as they arise, by delegating responsibilities to new or existing agencies. Given this relationship, the core mission model has to be operationalized in one of two ways: Either as an ex post prioritizing strategy (on the part of the agency) or as an ex ante delegating strategy (on the part of Congress). Both strategies, however, entail significant costs on the government and society. As an ex post prioritizing strategy, the model would promote selective attention on the part of the agency.,.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)551-603
Number of pages53
JournalAdministrative Law Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Administration
  • Law


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