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Fact Sheet on the New True Size of Government

Paul C. Light

Even as Democrats and federal employee unions battle the Bush Administration’s proposal to put thousands of federal jobs up for competition with the private sector, the government’s largely-hidden workforce created through contracts and grants has reached its highest level since before the end of the Cold War. According to new estimates generated on behalf of the Brookings Institution’s Center for Public Service, federal contracts and grants generated just over 8 million jobs in 2002, up from just under 7 million in 1999, and 7.5 million in 1990.

When these “off-budget” jobs created by contracts and grants jobs are added to the “on-budget” headcount composed of civil service, uniformed military personnel, and postal service jobs, the “true size” of the federal workforce stood at 12.1 million in October, 2002 up from 11 million in October 1999. The 2002 true size of government is still smaller than it was at the end of the Cold War in 1990, but is only smaller because of a nearly a reduction of nearly 1 million civil service and uniformed military jobs over the 1990s, almost all of which were cut at the Departments of Defense and Energy, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

According to estimates of the contract and grant workforce compiled by EagleEye Publishers on behalf of the Center for Public Service, the federal government has now added back more half of the headcount savings produced by the end of the Cold War. All totaled, the end of the Cold War produced a reduction of more than 2 million on- and off-budget jobs at Defense, Energy, and NASA by 1999.

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