NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Despite Reinvention, Federal Employment Grew In The 1990s

October 27, 2000

Vice President Al Gore has claimed his "reinventing government" campaign pared the size of government by 300,000 jobs to its smallest level since 1960. Actually, says Paul Light of the Brookings Institution, the majority of Gore's 300,000 jobs came from the massive post-Cold War downsizing at the Defense and Energy departments.

But whether "on budget" in the civil service or "off budget" in the contract, grantee or mandate work force, the real federal work force would grow under either Gore or George W. Bush, due to their proposed spending programs.

  • From 1990 to 1999, more than 2.2 million civilian, military, contractor and grantee jobs were sliced from the Defense and Energy departments, while the non-Defense, non-Energy federal work force actually increased.
  • The Department of Transportation work force grew by more than 200,000 employees since the early 1990s, while the Department of Justice added nearly 120,000 jobs.
  • The real federal work force is already substantial, topping 12.2 million full-time equivalent employees in 1999.
  • Add in the estimated 4.7 million state and local government employees who worked under federal mandates, and the true size of the federal government last year was 17 million, or more than eight times the number of civil servants.

Absent radical changes in what the federal government does, it is hard to imagine further cuts in the total number of employees who must do the work, says Light.

Source: Paul Light (Brookings Institution), "Smaller Government? Sure, And We've Got a Bridge... " Los Angeles Times, October 20, 2000.


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