The creation of new administrative agencies and the realignment of existing governmental authority are commonplace and high-stakes events, as illustrated by the recent creation of the Department of Homeland Security after 9/11 and of new financial regulatory agencies after the global recession of 2009. Scholars and policymakers have not devoted sufficient attention to this subject, failing to clearly identify the different dimensions along which government authority may be structured or to consider the relationships among them. Analysis of these institutional design issues typically also gives short shrift to whether authority should be allocated differently based on agency function. These failures have contributed to reorganization efforts that have proven ill-suited to achieving policymakers’ goals due to mismatches between the perceived defects of existing structures and the allocations of authority chosen to replace them. This Article introduces a framework for assessing how governmental authority may be structured along three dimensions: centralization, overlap, and coordination. Using examples from diverse policy areas including national security, financial markets, and environmental protection, it demonstrates how differentiating among these dimensions and among particular governmental functions better illuminates the advantages and disadvantages of available structural options. Though recognizing that the optimal allocation of authority is inexorably context-specific, the Article concludes with preliminary observations about how certain allocations of authority are likely to better promote important social policy goals than others.


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