Shortly after the beginning of the 20th century, the federal government entered a new phase – the rise of the administrative state. Among the forces propelling this development was the Progressive Movement, which sought greater government engagement with and regulation of various sectors of American society. An autonomous Department of Labor, with Cabinet status, was established in 1913, along with the Federal Reserve. The Federal Trade Commission was created the following year. With the entry of the United States into World War I, regulatory activities further expanded, and the number of administrative agencies and federal employees increased. With the postwar era, the expansion of the federal government momentarily slowed, but began again with the onset of the Great Depression and the launching of the New Deal. The colossus that was constructed to combat the national economic emergency was soon refashioned and augmented to enable the United States to victoriously end a world war. With the return to peace in 1945, the federal government stood as a giant complex organization, with over 3.8 million employees. During the next 45 years, it would continue to expand in terms of both its principal units and resources. In the immediate past few years, however, some downsizing has occurred.
This book reviews trends regarding various aspects of the operations of the federal government during the past 50 years, as evidenced by personnel, budget, and other data. It also identifies and discusses, in cameo form, various developments during the period that are considered significant for federal operations during the next century. Some of these are crafted innovations, such as mission performance planning and measurement; some are imposed restraints, such as the Supreme Court’s Chadha decision rendering so-called congressional or legislative vetoes unconstitutional. Some developments are still evolving, such as the electronic government phenomenon, and await conclusive assessment.