Bureaucratic reorganization may well constitute the most dismal swamp of policy analysis. Agencies are restructured, responsibilities reassigned, bureaus renamed, boxes are moved around—yet all too often, nothing happens. This failure, of course, leads to yet another fruitless round of thrashing about.
But organizational choices matter. At the start of the War on Terror, President Bush made two crucial decisions: he gave the CIA (rather than the FBI) control over the interrogations of high-value terror suspects and he gave the Defense Department (rather than State) control of postwar Iraqi reconstruction. These choices carried disastrous results. Bush’s earlier decision to grant Vice President Dick Cheney essentially free rein throughout the executive branch also had critical consequences for the substantive outcomes of his administration.
So it is with international climate change negotiations. Which American agency or entity would be the most capable choice to design effective international climate change architecture? This Essay examines the usual suspects—the Department of State, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Council on Environmental Quality, a “Climate Czar,” and a special climate change representative—and considers the advantages and pitfalls of each.
I conclude, however, that the (tentatively) best choice is one never mentioned by commentators: the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR). Although USTR does not perfectly fit the task, it has fewer shortcomings than other available agencies. While hardly without problems, the USTR represents the best maximization of advantages and minimization of problems.