NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

A Multiplication of Titled Bureaucrats

March 10, 1999

The Clinton administration has created as many new top bureaucrats in its cabinet departments as the past seven administrations created in the preceding 33 years, according to a new Brookings Institution policy brief. The author, Paul C. Light, warns to "expect the titles to multiply."

  • Since 1993, the 14 cabinet departments have created 16 new titles at the top of their bureaucracies.
  • The number of top presidential appointees and senior executives grew from 451 in 1960 to 2,408 in 1992.
  • Since then, the number of top positions has grown by 2.2 percent.
  • Light found that in some parts of the government, 30 to 40 bureaucratic layers separate the front-line employee from the agency head.

"It's impossible for the bottom to hear the top when messages go through dozens of interpretations on their journey down," Light comments.

At the government's middle level, the number of employees has grown -- despite the loss of 35,000 managers. Numerous agencies trimmed their mid-management rungs, Light asserts, simply by assigning different titles.

The title "team leader" seems to be particularly popular -- leading Light to comment that there appear to be more team leaders in government "than in all of Little League, Pop Warner football and peewee soccer combined."

Source: Paul C. Light, "The Changing Shape of Government," Policy Brief No. 45, February 1999, Brookings Institution, 1775 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036, (202) 797- 6000; Stephen Barr, "Title Creep Reported at Agencies," Washington Post, March 8, 1999.


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