- Historic Sites
August 1974 | Volume 25, Issue 5
Perhaps that is the most enduring criticism of the bureaucracy over the last forty-five years, not simply on the matter of pay schedules, but on the size and function of federal agencies as well. Although there have been six major reviews of government service in the recent past (the two most famous are the Hoover Commission Reports of 1949 and 1955), the elimination of moribund agencies and a clear appraisal of governmental priorities are at best haphazard. To be sure, more than 380 commissions, agencies, and committees have been abolished since 1933 (the bulk of them wartime units like the Office of Price Administration or New Deal programs like the Civilian Conservation Corps), and 324 others have been merged, reorganized, or consolidated—for example, the Defense Department in 1947 and the Executive Office of the President in 1971. But generally speaking there is no provision for a systematic evaluation of the total system, and changes are made piecemeal. Perhaps the weakest element in the Civil Service System, which embraces all but about 15 per cent of the total work force outside the postal system, is its work-review program.
Another weakness lies outside the government. For most of our history the civil service has been ignored by the press, and lately by television, which is the major news source for a majority of Americans. Given the size and power of the present-day bureaucracy, the situation borders on the scandalous. The fourth branch of government should be scrutinized as closely as the Presidency, Congress, or the courts. It is perhaps one measure of its quality that it has functioned well despite our ignorance. But it is equally clear that its power to affect our lives is great; it deserves to be challenged, criticized, and understood.