Bell Ringers
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By sunshinecavalluzzi
On April 17, 2019

Bell Ringer: Bureaucratic Discretion

USVI Disaster Relief & Bureaucratic Discretion

Governor Albert Bryan (D) of the U.S. Virgin Islands, in testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy, argues in favor of expediting disaster relief to the USVI, specifically advocating for Congressional direction to FEMA to use its discretionary authority to waive a local match funds requirement.


"Bureaucratic Discretion" refers to the authority exercised by members of the bureaucracy (unelected policy experts working within the executive branch) to carry out policy, deciding how it will be implemented. Bureaucratic discretion can take the forms of, among other things, allocating grant programs, imposing fines, and issuing rules and regulations.

Bell Ringer Assignment

  • Why were bureaucrats given discretion under the Insular Areas Act to waive local match requirements for insular areas? According to Governor Bryan, has this waiver been commonly granted in the US Virgin Islands? (NOTE: An “insular area” is defined by the United States Department of the Interior as “A jurisdiction that is neither a part of one of the several States nor a Federal district. This is the current generic term to refer to any commonwealth, freely associated state, possession or territory.”)
  • What requests is Governor Bryan making of Congress regarding the actions of FEMA toward the U.S. Virgin Islands?
  • AP Government- Questions to Consider: How does this hearing reflect Congressional use of its oversight authority? What incentives exist for Congress to enable substantial bureaucratic discretion in policy execution? How does bureaucratic discretion align with the assertions of Federalist 51? What impact might linkage institutions have on the execution of bureaucratic discretion?

Additional Resources



    • Branches Of Government
    • Bureaucracy
    • Bureaucratic Discretion
    • Congressional Oversight
    • Policy Implementation
    • Separation Of Powers


    AP U.S. Government Key TermsBureaucracy & RegulationExecutive BranchLegislative Branch


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