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Congress regularly enacts legislation providing for redundant administrative programs. For example, there are more than 100 federal programs for surface transportation, 82 programs to ensure teacher quality, 80 programs to promote domestic economic development, and 47 programs to provide employment and job-training services. Recent high-profile legislation–-such as the financial-industry reform measure and the health-care reform measure–-add new programs without repealing existing ones directed at the same policy goals. Prior academic analyses generally have not considered why Congress pursues redundancy. This article addresses that question through both theoretical and institutional analysis.

The article first constructs an organizational theory that attributes redundancy in administrative programs to the congressional committee system. Specifically, the article demonstrates that two critical components of the existing committee system-–fragmented jurisdictions and parliamentary prerogatives–-systematically bias legislative outcomes in favor of redundancy. Building on leading theoretical accounts of congressional committees from political science, the article then presents a novel cost-benefit analysis of this tendency toward redundancy. It shows that redundancy allows legislators to increase distributive favors for constituents and interest groups but that redundancy is also linked to the desirable pursuit of informational efficiency. Thus, the institutional structures facilitating redundancy have mixed effects.

Consequently, the article describes and analyzes specific institutional reforms that trade off the distributive costs and the informational benefits associated with redundancy. One approach would subject more legislative decisions to external advisory processes such as that used to close unneeded military facilities. A second and more promising approach would preserve existing committee jurisdictions but would scale back committees’ parliamentary prerogatives, thereby encouraging redundancy in program design but discouraging redundancy in program implementation.

Publication Citation

91 B.U. L. Rev. 1815-1872 (2011)