Government Bureaucracy (U.S.)

The United States government bureaucracy was created in 1789 by George Washington, its first president, with only three cabinet departments. Since that time, the number of departments within the government has increased immensely with the creation of additional agencies, bureaus, government corporations, administrations and authorities that add to the bureaucracy of the United States government.

There are three major types of office within the United States bureaucracy: cabinet offices such as the Department of State, independent offices such as the Central Intelligence Agency, and government corporations such as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The United States government was originally dominated by wealthy men, partly due to their high levels of literacy, wealth and the personal networks that made sure that they retained the highest positions of power. This changed when President Andrew Jackson took office in 1828 and began to open up government jobs to ordinary citizens. The government bureaucracy at this point began to fill with people who were associated with one party or another as a direct result of a spoils system where party loyalty was rewarded with a government job.

This changed in 1883 with the Pendleton Act which created a new framework for hiring candidates to federal office. Instead of being hired because of party patronage, candidates were hired based on their qualifications and experiences, meaning in theory that the best candidates entered the government's bureaucracy. It also protected employees from being unceremoniously fired when the government lost its office during elections.

The Hatch Act in 1939 prevented government employees from running for elected office in order to stop the government bureaucracy from becoming political. Federal workers were also prevented from actively campaigning for other candidates.

The 1930s saw the size of the federal bureaucracy increase dramatically due to President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, which was created to help lift the American economy out of the great depression caused by the Wall Street crash of 1929. Although many of those agencies have since vanished, several are still around in one form or another including: the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Social Security Administration (SSA), the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). These agencies form the basis of the welfare state.

The welfare state was expanded by President Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s as part of his Great Society Plan with programs such as Medicare, Head Start, the Job Corps, and the Office of Economic Opportunity. These programs continue to play an active role in the United States government bureaucracy. The welfare state continued to grow in the 1970s under President Richard Nixon with the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) within the Labor Department. Nixon also established many new cabinet departments.

The United States federal bureaucracy is concerned with more than just the social and economic welfare of its citizens. There are many more well-known government agencies which are part of the government bureaucracy which protect America and its citizens from enemy threats, both foreign and domestic. The most well-known government agencies involved in security are the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National Security Agency (NSA). There is also the slightly less known Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). As a result of ever changing and evolving threats to American Security at the end of the 20th Century the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) were all increased in size to combat the threats of drugs, violent crime and illegal immigration.

As a result of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11th 2001, the United States security bureaucracy was expanded and reorganized. The Office of Homeland Security was created in October 2011 within the Executive Office of the President, and had 22 individual federal agencies united under its auspices. In 2003, the Congress made the Office of Homeland Security a cabinet position rather than remaining part of the Executive Office of the President.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do and Why They Do It
James Q. Wilson.
Basic Books, 2000
Holding Government Bureaucracies Accountable
Bernard Rosen.
Praeger, 1998 (3rd edition)
The Case for Bureaucracy: A Public Administration Polemic
Charles T. Goodsell.
Chatham House, 1994 (3rd edition)
Keeping a Watchful Eye: The Politics of Congressional Oversight
Joel D. Aberbach.
Brookings Institutuion, 1990
Congress, the Bureaucracy, and Public Policy
Randall B. Ripley; Grace A. Franklin.
Dorsey Press, 1987 (4th edition)
Executive Governance: Presidential Administrations and Policy Change in the Federal Bureaucracy
Cornell G. Hooton.
M. E. Sharpe, 1997
Bureaucracy and Foreign Policy
Francis E. Rourke.
Johns Hopkins Press, 1972
Improving Government Performance: An Owner's Manual
John J. DiIulio; Gerald Garvey; Donald F. Kettl.
Brookings Institution, 1993
Deregulating the Public Service: Can Government Be Improved?
John J. Diiulio Jr.
Brookings Institution, 1994
Inside the Reinvention Machine: Appraising Governmental Reform
Donald F. Kettl; John J. Diiulio.
The Brookings Institution, 1995
The Promise of Representative Bureaucracy: Diversity and Responsiveness in a Government Agency
Sally Coleman Selden.
M. E. Sharpe, 1998
Public Service and Democracy: Ethical Imperatives for the 21st Century
Louis C. Gawthrop.
Chatham House Publishers, 1998
Presidents and the Politics of Agency Design: Political Insulation in the United States Government Bureaucracy, 1946-1997
David E. Lewis.
Stanford University Press, 2003
Controlling the Bureaucracy: Institutional Constraints in Theory and Practice
William F. West.
M. E. Sharpe, 1995
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