Bureaucracy is neither good nor bad; it is just an approach to organizing work. The problem with bureaucracy in our government is that no one has seriously tried to change how we approach the organization of government since the inception of the Republic. From the Federal level, the answer to any new or emerging problem is to create another cabinet position, bureau, or agency, expand the powers of the Executive, and justify the action based on the "Necessary and Proper" and "Commerce" clauses of the Constitution.
When we started out, George Washington had four cabinet positions:
Since that basic start we have grown to the following cabinet positions:
Secretary of State
Secretary of the Treasury
Secretary of Defense
Secretary of the Interior
Secretary of Agriculture
Secretary of Commerce
Secretary of Labor
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Secretary of Transportation
Secretary of Energy
Secretary of Health and Human Services
Secretary of Education
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Secretary of Homeland Security
In addition there are six positions whose leaders have cabinet level rank, but are not secretaries of departments:
Vice President of the United States
White House Chief of Staff
Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
Director of the Office of Management and Budget
Director of the National Drug Control Policy
US Trade Representative
The only cabinet position we have deleted, without combining or expanding it is the Office of the Postmaster General. Under the Secretary of Defense, an office originally designed to combine the War Department and the Department of the Navy, are the Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force.
There is no explicit definition of the term "Cabinet" in either the United States Code or the Code of Federal Regulations. However, there are occasional references to "cabinet-level officers" or "secretaries," which when viewed in context appear to refer to the heads of the "executive departments" as listed in 5 U.S.C. § 101.
Article Two of the Constitution provides that the President can require "the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices.
Since the Second World War, presidents have increasingly relied on advisors, such as the director of the National Security Council, thus creating a second group of advisors, often with more power than some of the cabinet secretaries.
So what does this tell us? Basically, we haven't taken a hard look at how information technology and changing global relationships have affected the business of government.
When desktop computing made its debut in the 1980s there was a ground swell of support across corporate America based on an expectation of increased productivity. By the end of the 90s that productivity had not materialized to any great degree. This was known as the Productivity Paradox and was disappearing almost as soon as it was identified. What occurred with the placement of a computer on worker's desks was the simple result of doing the same job in the same way, sometimes just faster, often with an increase in the usage of paper. There was some increase in productivity noted in startups, companies that were so new they hadn't established any business practices so they "didn't know any better". They incorporated desk top computers into the very fabric of the company.
The real breakthrough occurred when companies started to link computers via networks. Networks created incredible power through their ability to move information rapidly to a range of users.
It is time for the Federal government to re-evaluate its "business practices". Yes, I know that government is not a business, but there can be best practices based on an approach to the goals and objectives desired; for example, a free flow of unclassified information across the government to present a consistent picture of the economy. Bureaucracies also grow their own constituencies, so a shake up every so often displaces the constituencies that or may not be helping move toward achieving the desired goals. Time to break some glass and not just shift the deck chairs on the Titanic.