The size of the federal government is a consistently politicized topic. Whether you think it is too big or too small or just right, you can learn more and develop an opinion with help from a first-of-its-kind publication by the Administrative Conference of the United States.
This first edition of the Sourcebook of the United States Executive Agencies was published in December 2012 to break down information and numbers by what they refer to as the “executive establishment,” which is the executive branch and all the other Federal agencies, offices, bureaus, and boards that serve the President that do not fall neatly under any of the three branches of the Federal government.
From Three to Many
The executive establishment traces its roots to 1789 when the first Congress created three executive departments: Treasury, War and State. For 60 years, these three departments carried out the nation’s essential functions and responsibilities regardless of whether they fit under the departments. Then in 1849, Congress created the Department of the Interior and after that the rest of the executive departments that we know today were established, reorganized and shuffled together over time. The Department of Homeland Security is the most recently established agency that was created in 2002 combining together 22 federal agencies from various departments.
Regarding the number of federal government employees, the most dramatic increase happened under FDR’s administration. During the New Deal era from 1933 to 1944, federal employment expanded from 600 thousand workers to 3.3 million workers. In 2012, the executive establishment was made up of 2.85 million civilian employees compared to the legislative branch with 31 thousand civilian employees, the judicial branch with 32 thousand civilian employees and the military with 1.4 million service members.
These numbers do not include the number of contract employees and local and state employees whose salaries are paid for with federal funding.
The Role of the Political Appointee
The publication also explains the types of political appointees and their role in the executive establishment. The top leadership positions in the executive establishment’s departments and agencies are political appointments that must be nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. In 2012, there were 1,130 positions in the executive establishment requiring Senate confirmation.
Another type of political appointee is the Senior Executive Service (SES), which is a corps made up of about 7,000 senior managers across the executive establishment. The Office of Personnel and Management determines the number of positions in each agency that will be filled by members of the SES. Then there are also Schedule C positions who serve at the pleasure of the head of the department of agency. Both SES and Schedule C appointees do not require Senate confirmation.
For more information about political appointees, check out the Plum Book, to which this book is an important companion publication. Read about the Plum Book in our blog post, “A Plum Book of Political Positions”.
Thanks to the information and statistics provided in Sourcebook of the United States Executive Agencies, readers can develop an informed opinion about the size and organization of the government.
HOW DO I OBTAIN THE “Sourcebook of the United States Executive Agencies”?
- Buy it online 24/7 at GPO’s Online Bookstore.
- Buy it at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday-Friday, 9am to 4pm, except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.
- Find it in a Federal Depository Library.
About the Author: Our Guest blogger is Emma Wojtowicz, Public Relations Specialist in GPO’s Office of Public Affairs.