THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS GETTING THICKER AND TALLER, according to a new study released by Paul Light of the Brookings Institution . Light has found that thanks to Congress and U.S. presidents, new layers “of political and career management” are being added to the federal bureau-cratic hierarchy.
In 1961, there were just 451 senior titleholders in the federal bureaucracy; today, there are 2,592. Some understandable explanations account for this. Light notes that the expanding role of the federal government, embodied by the emergence of new agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security, accounts for some of the growth . It also can be blamed on the use of promotions and titles rather than pay for rewards “the effort to control the federal bureaucracy through ever- denser networks of political appointees,” and the creation of new congressionally mandated positions, such as inspector general or chief information officer.
The consequence of what Light calls government “thickening” is slower decision-making because information and directives have to pass through additional layers, less effective oversight because supervisors have to peel back so many layers, and bloated support staffs. For example, Light notes, “having a chief of staff has become a signal of one’s importance in the bureaucratic pecking order.” According to Light’s research, only one department secretary had a chief of staff in 1981. Today, all but one of the 15 department secretaries has chiefs of staff.
The AMERICAN LEGION Magazine
November, 2004. (Pg. 60)
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