NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 3, 2010

The era of big government has returned with a vengeance, in the form of the largest federal work force in modern history, says the Washington Times. 

The Obama Administration says the government will grow to 2.15 million employees this year, topping 2 million for the first time since President Clinton declared that "the era of big government is over" and joined forces with a Republican-led Congress in the 1990s to pare back the federal work force. 

  • Most of the increases are on the civilian side, which will grow by 153,000 workers, to 1.43 million people, in fiscal 2010.
  • From 1981 through 2008, the civilian work force remained at about 1.1 million to 1.2 million, with a low of 1.07 million in 1986 and a high of more than 1.2 million in 1993 and in 2008. In 2009, the number jumped to 1.28 million.
  • Including the civilian and defense sectors, the federal government will employ 2.15 million people in 2010 and 2.11 million in 2011, excluding Postal Service workers. 

According to the Obama Administration: 

  • Some 79 percent of the increases in recent years are from departments related to the war on terrorism: Justice, Defense, Homeland Security, State and Veterans Affairs.
  • The Pentagon will have 720,000 employees this year and 757,000 employees next year -- up from a low of 649,000 in 2003.
  • The Department of Homeland Security will grow by 7,000 a year in 2010 and 2011, and the Veterans Affairs Department will grow by 12,000 in 2010 and an additional 4,000 in 2011.  

Obama is in a situation similar to that of Clinton, who took office when the budget deficit was at a record high and government bureaucracy was expanding, even though the Pentagon was shedding workers with the end of the Cold War.  Clinton in 1996 declared that "the era of big government is over" and took steps to work with Congress to control spending and cut the work force, which already had been trending lower.  As he left office in 2000, Clinton boasted that his administration had helped cut 377,000 government jobs, leaving the smallest civilian federal work force since 1960.  Obama, though, appears to be accepting a larger federal work force, says the Times. 

Source: Stephen Dinan, "Largest-ever federal payroll to hit 2.15 million," Washington Times, February 2, 2010. 

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