What are Administrative Agencies?

An administrative agency is a government body which is given the authority to supervise and implement certain legislative acts. Apart from the term agency, they are also referred by the names corporations, commissions; departments etc. a group of experts in their respective fields together form the administrative agency. Majority of the administrative agencies that has an impact on day to day activities are independent agencies.

Federal administrative agencies are powered with federal acts whose powers can be both amended & withdrawn by the statute. These agencies are managed by the executive branch falling under the government control. Hence these agencies report to the president.

Chief of the administrative agencies is referred to as principal officers confirmed by the senate before they assume office.

Administrative agencies perform various functions like framing regulations, enforcing the law, finding facts, etc. hence administrative agencies represent all the three government branches namely executive, legislative & judicial.

Quasi-legislative functions: legislative functions of administrative agencies mainly deal with issuing regulations which adds force to the law & also adds to the statutory law. Legislative functions involve several steps.

  • The First & foremost step involves setting up proposed regulations.
  • These proposed regulations are then made public in order to get public comments.

After these steps, guidelines are issued by the agencies to supplement these regulations. These guidelines highlight the responsibilities of the agency to enforce the regulations & also provide guidance on how individuals must comply with the regulations & identify those who fail to comply with the regulations.

Quasi-judicial functions: Tribunals are created by the agencies in order to deal with various kinds of disputes arising from the regulations of the agencies. Congress provides instructions to deal with disputes under an administrative process. In case of failure by the congress, administrative procedure act would control this judicial process. The tribunal functions similar to that of article III court & levies fines as per the applicable law. The main benefit of this tribunal process is that consent orders issued by the tribunal give up the right for judicial review i.e. the concerned parties cannot make further application against the administrative decision.

Executive functions: Enforcement of regulations passed by the administrative agencies comes under their executive functions. Complaints which involve violation of conduct are investigated by the administrative agencies. Apart from investigation, administrative agencies also advise the law makers to pass & execute laws.

Purpose of Administrative Agencies

The main purpose of establishing administrative agencies is as follows:

Administrative agencies act as a helping hand when the government lacks the required expertise. On delegation of authority to the agency, they frame rules which fulfill statutory purposes.

History of Federal Agencies

The first federal agency known as the interstate commerce commission or ICC was created in the year 1887 to deal with discrimination in rates & illegal pricing practices. Later in the year 1995, the ICC was abolished & the powers were transferred to “Surface Transportation Board”.

From the “Federal Trade Commission” in the year 1914, there is a total of eighty-five federal agencies to date which has been given the power to regulate various kinds of private activities.

Types of Agencies

The independent agency of the federal government of the United States in which technical part of any of three branches can also be called as fourth branch. One example of the fourth branch is the US intelligence community.

Agencies are of various types & one among them is the independent agency.

Independent agencies vary with other executive agencies in terms of their features & functions. Many of the agencies generally have a secretary or a director appointed by the president of the country. An independent agency on the other hand has a board with five to seven members in the board who divide the powers of the agency. This board is also appointed by the president with the confirmation of the senate. This board cannot be removed unless & until for a good reason.

Various types of independent agencies include Federal Communications Commission formed in the year 1934, Securities & Exchange Commission in the year 1934, National Labour Relations Board in the year 1935 & Environmental Protection Agency in the year 1970.

Powers of the Agencies

Agencies are delegated with wide range of powers & they are:

  • Power to license: This is the power given by the Federal Communications Act & this power requires that none of the parties can enter into production activities without getting this license.
  • Power to rate: Agencies have also been given the power fix the rates which are charged by various companies subject to the jurisdiction of the agency.
  • Power to regulate: This includes the power to regulate the practices followed by the business. Under this, the FTC has been given the power to ensure that the companies do not engage in fraudulent or unfair activities.

An agency like Securities & Exchange Commission has a control over the securities issue & also the activities of the stock exchanges.

Administrative agencies act differently when compared with courts because they have been given the responsibility to perform activities which can help in reaching a particular goal. Administrative agencies are considered to be specialized bodies with legislative powers. Their years of experience have given them the required knowledge to perform various statutory duties.

Administrative agencies have two types of people. The head who is considered to be a single administrator serving for limited number of years. Under them come few permanent staffs who involve themselves in policy framing. They also perform the task of collecting & presenting all the required information to the commissioner who is considered to be the superior personnel of the agency.

Rulemaking of Administrative Agencies:

Administrative agencies are involved in three types of rulemaking namely procedural, legislative and interpretative.


The term adjudication can be defined as a legal procedure in which the judge would review various evidences & arguments & come to a conclusion which defines the rights & obligations of the involved parties. The person who judges or reviews is an adjudicator & he adjudicates or reviews & makes the required decision.

Federal Register

Federal register is the official journal of the federal government which contains the rules relating to agencies & public notices. This journal is published weekly. This register is promulgated by the office of the federal register & the same is printed by the publishing office of the government.

Context and Applications

This topic is significant in the professional exams for both undergraduate and graduate courses, especially for



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