The four basic types of bureaucracy in the federal government today are cabinet departments, government corporations, independent regulatory agencies, and independent executive agencies. The departments, such as the Department of the Interior, are large bureaucratic agencies each headed by a member of the cabinet, such as the Secretary of the Interior or, for the Department of Justice, the attorney general. There are fifteen departments in the bureaucracy today and each heads a large section of the bureaucracy with many agencies within it and governed by it.
Government corporations are very similar to private corporations. They provide a service to the private sector and charge for that service. Government corporations include the United States Postal Service and the Tennessee Valley Authority. The service that those corporations (and all government corporations) provide could be handled by the private sector, but, for one reason or the other, the government has decided to provide instead.
Independent regulatory agencies do just what their name suggests – they regulate. They regulate the activities of most sectors of society and often the actions of many other agencies. Such agencies include the SEC, which oversees Wall Street and the FRB, which regulates the Federal Reserve. The independent regulatory agency the FCC regulates forms of communication such as TV and radio broadcasting. Other agencies, such as the FDA, regulate the food that goes to grocery stores for people to eat. Regulation is an important role of the bureaucracy and, as can be seen by those few examples, independent regulatory agencies affect nearly every aspect of one’s life.
The final type of bureaucracy, independent executive agencies, is basically a catch all for the types of bureaucracy that don’t fit nicely into one of the three types already described. Independent executive agencies are not very numerous and generally cover such areas as research and infrastructure needs. The GSA, NSF, and NASA are all independent executive agencies which are pretty well known. The GSA has been said to be like the government’s landlord for its dealings in the government’s infrastructure and the NSF and NASA are both highly focused on scientific research. Those job descriptions don’t fit any of the other three types of bureaucracy; therefore, such agencies definitely count as independent executive agencies.
Overall, the bureaucracy is a rather large part of the government. The four types of bureaucracy together make up what people consider “bureaucracy” as a whole, but it is not that simple. Departments, government corporations, independent regulatory agencies, and independent executive agencies each have their own tasks to perform and they perform them rather separately, as well as often better than people give them credit.