What Can We Learn About Policy Analysis and Change from the Language of Oversight?

15 Pages Posted: 29 Aug 2013

Date Written: August 29, 2013


This paper centers on language as a foundational component of policy regimes. In particular, the paper focuses on the language contained in a new dataset of reports issued by the the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in the U.S. as providing a common glue, or lens, through which to view bureaucratic policymaking and oversight across a range of issues. The language of policy analysis is influential in two respects. First, the language of policy analysis signals to executive agencies a need to focus internally on management initiatives, or externally, on policy initiatives. This has tremendous importance for whether bureaucracies focus internally on efficiency or externally on achieving the goals encoded in policy. Second, this language influences the information bureaucracies are likely to generate through the regulatory process and the relevance of this information for decision-making at higher levels of government.

The language of policy analysis supports an integrative policy regime that spans both policy issues and executive agencies. Furthermore, the binding language of policy analysis evolves and develops in systematic ways with the larger macro political context. Using this new data set on GAO reports from 1991 through the present, cluster and text analysis illuminates the language of GAO reports as indicative of a policy regime and relates the development of the regime to larger political developments in the United States. The paper concludes by offering insights relating the language of policy analysis to policy change and information processing in the administrative state in the U.S.

Suggested Citation

Workman, Samuel, What Can We Learn About Policy Analysis and Change from the Language of Oversight? (August 29, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2317641 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2317641

Samuel Workman (Contact Author)

University of Oklahoma ( email )

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205 Dale Hall Tower
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405-325-5297 (Phone)

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