The Growth and Complexity of the Federal Government

Firstly, it is important to establish one simple but undeniably important proposition for further discussion: the United States federal government has outgrown the limits enforced on it by the Constitution. When America gained its independence over 200 years ago, the founding fathers had in mind a national government, which would have a restricted set of responsibilities. According to Moore (n.d.), “these responsibilities pertained mainly to protecting the security of the nation and ensuring “domestic tranquility,” which meant preserving public safety” (para. 2). However, the government today is comprised of various departments, including a Department of Education or a Department of Commerce, as well as numerous agencies.

The original idea behind the Constitution was to restrict the government’s involvement in domestic affairs, which was the primary task of Congress. The United States, however, gradually transformed as the government started playing a bigger role in the domestic economy. A quantifiable example of these changes would be the expansion of the U.S. government’s budget since the best measure of the influence of the authorities’ activity is how much they spend annually. Moore (n.d.) presents the results of a study that shows “real federal outlays have climbed from $0.1 billion in 1800 to $0.6 billion in 1850, to $8.3 billion in 1900, to $235.1 billion in 1950, to $1,450.0 billion in 1992” (para. 12). Therefore, federal spending has grown more than ten thousandfold since the nineteenth century.

When it comes to the impact of the federal government’s growth on the executive branch, the role of the President has expanded to include many tasks across different departments. Thus, the President has become the leader of the federal bureaucracy that “sets pollution standards for private industry, regulates labor relations, creates food and product safety standards, manages the nation’s lands and natural resources, enforces the federal criminal law” and has various other functions (Marshall, 2008, p. 514). The President’s wide array of capabilities and responsibilities stems from the expanded federal bureaucracy. This means that they need external expertise to make thousands of decisions across hundreds of different departments and agencies. Therefore, advisors provide the nation’s leaders with the necessary insights to take on multidimensional tasks. Any simple issue requires at least a dozen of advisors, including the Vice president, the White House Chief of Staff, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy, and many more, to meet with the President. It is apparent that by expanding the role of the executive branch, the growth of the federal government (which is already complex enough) creates the need for competent advisors as well as their well-coordinated cooperation.

As for the issues opposite the domestic policy, the President’s influence does not cease to grow in size due to the novelty of international threats, including both innovative weapons and the global rise of terrorism. National security threats are now not limited to states with armies; they include non-state actors operating high-tech munitions. John Dickerson (2018) from The Atlantic points out that “national security is today threatened less by slow-moving armies than by stateless terror groups who might weaponize a rented truck and by rogue states who might weaponize an email’ (para. 10). It is crucial to acknowledge that the list of imminent dangers to the United States is growing rapidly, which is why the President’s role as a commander in chief is more important than ever. To deal with ongoing and future crises, the leader of America needs to have advisors. The new reality dictates that these advisors have to be able to respond to new kinds of threats from a new type of aggressor (terrorist groups). Moreover, the advisors need to brief the President on the issues most prioritized by the Security Council, providing expertise in history, foreign affairs, and conflict resolution.


Dickerson, J. (2018). The hardest job in the world. The Atlantic. Web.

Marshall, W. P. (2008). Eleven reasons why presidential power inevitably expands and why it matters. Boston University Law Review, 88(505), 505-522.

Moore, S. (n.d.). The growth of government in America. Foundation for Economic Education.

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1. DemoEssays. "The Growth and Complexity of the Federal Government." September 3, 2022.


DemoEssays. "The Growth and Complexity of the Federal Government." September 3, 2022.