Bureaucracy shrinks since 1990

Federal workers

October 28, 1992|By Carol Emert | Carol Emert,States News Service

WASHINGTON -- The federal bureaucracy, which often is criticized as bloated and cumbersome, is actually smaller than it was 50 years ago.

And the number of people on the federal payroll shrank between 1990 and 1991, according to a report released last week by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Federal civilian employment peaked during World War II at 3.4 million, but was reduced to 2 million by 1947, according to the report, "Public Employment: 1991." By 1951, it was back up to 2.5 million and tallied between 2.8 million and 3 million until 1984.

Since 1985, the total increased steadily until 1990, the report says. Between October 1990 and October 1991, federal civilian employment declined by 2,809 -- 0.1 percent -- leaving about 3.1 million federal workers.

By contrast, state government employment rolls increased by 18,584, or 0.4 percent, in the 1990-1991 period and local government employment grew by 169,906 workers, or 1.6 percent, the report says.

The largest sector of federal employment is "national defense and international relations," with 1,019,000 people, or 32.8 percent of the work force, the report says.

The next largest sectors are postal service, 25.9 percent; natural resources, 7.5 percent; hospitals, 7.4 percent; financial administration, 4.7 percent; police protection, 2.7 percent; health, 2.4 percent; social insurance administration, 2.2 percent; air transportation, 1.8 percent; and judicial and legal, 1.5 percent.

Maryland has the sixth-highest number of civilian federal workers, with 133,187. Neighboring Virginia has 161,047, and the District of Columbia 212,031.

California has the most federal non-defense workers, 314,590, and Vermont has the fewest, 5,072.

The report is based on data from the Office of Personnel Management.

TEDDY ROOSEVELT -- The headquarters of the Office of Personnel Management was rechristened yesterday as the Theodore Roosevelt Federal Building in honor of the 26th president, who also served as a U.S. Civil Service commissioner from 1889-1895.

Roosevelt is still remembered for his efforts to reform the federal bureaucracy by weeding out corruption and strengthening the system of merit-based hiring and promotions.

Perhaps his most famous moment was leading Baltimore police against postal employees who were buying votes for President Benjamin Harrison.

Harrison had appointed Roosevelt, but the postal workers were arrested anyway.

HATCH ACT WARNING -- Sen. Phil Gramm, a Texas Republican who delivered the keynote address at the Republican National Convention, has fingered the Hatch Act as one of the first things to go if Democrats regain the White House in November.

Under the Hatch Act, federal employees are forbidden from participating in most political activities.

After an address at the National Press Club, Mr. Gramm, a former college professor and a possible presidential contender in 1996, was asked to name three or four bills he "might dislike incredibly" that he would expect to be enacted immediately at the urging of a Democratic administration.

Mr. Gramm's answers:

* Statehood for the District of Columbia, "which will give them two senators in perpetuity."

* Mandated "taxpayer funding of elections."

* Repeal of the Hatch Act, "which will put 3 million government employees into partisan politics."

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