Executive Branch Bureaucracy of the United States

Presidential Commissions

Presidents occasionally name temporary commissions to investigate and report on a problem or issue, though those reports do not always result in policy action. Examples are the commissions formed to investigate the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Significant events or pressing problems at times prompt presidents to form a presidential commission, a temporary body formed by a president to investigate and report on a particular problem or issue. President Franklin D. Roosevelt named the first of these commissions to investigate the Japanese attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. In 1946 President Harry S. Truman, established a commission to investigate civil rights in the United States. Based on its report, Truman ordered the desegregation of the armed forces of the United States and guaranteed racially fair employment in the federal bureaucracy. Other famous commissions investigated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, the urban riots of the 1960s, the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986, and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. These commissions typically are led by experienced public officials, sometimes with cochairs who come from the two major political parties. With the assistance of staff, they hold hearings, gather information, and issue reports. Commission findings do not always form the basis of subsequent policy decisions.