Vol. 4, Issue 8, December 12, 2006
Fizzy Tea Hits the Spot

Congress Fails to Streamline Federal Org Chart... Again

In the rush to complete the legislative session, there are generally many things Congress leaves undone. Faced with pressing issues such as stopgap authorizations for the federal budget and urgent pork-barrel projects forced through in the waning hours, many lower-priority but worthy bills are left on the table, sent back to the head of the line if indeed they appear in the next Congressional session at all.

Such was the case for HR 8456, the Federal Organization Chart Act, which has once again been shelved at the eleventh hour.

"It is extremely frustrating to see perennially ignored issues such as this tabled again and again in favor of more politically rewarding bills," groused Rep. Marvin Gerson (R-Wisconsin), who sponsored the bill. "The Federal Org Chart is a national disgrace, and is actually becoming a noticeable drain in resources. I want to know when we will be able to take action on this."

The Federal Organization Graph, or F.O.G. as it's normally referred to, is a massive hierarchical organizational chart which was first created in 1936 as part of the Works Progress Administration program under the New Deal. It was originally drawn on the wall of a conference room in the Capitol by a team of 68 workers over 6 months. The chart was intended to provide the first ever comprehensive flow chart of every agency, office, and official in the United States Government, a task deemed necessary by the profusion of agencies and programs under the New Deal.

"Despite some creative spelling and the spurious inclusion of a "Department of Moonshine" by some unknown wag, the original F.O.G. was a significant document in American history," said Pepperdine University professor Magnus Portman. "Unfortunately, the government didn't stand still, and neither did the org chart."

In the decades since 1936, the chart has been expanded and modified continually. By 1946 it had expanded from its original size of 6 feet by 12 to cover all four walls of the conference room, when the room was dismantled and the entire chart moved to a storage room in the Capitol basement. From 1950 to 1996, the chart was considered classified information and was not publicly available, although diligent government clerks continued to update it. When the Freedom of Information act led to its declassification in 1996, historians were astounded to realize that the chart now occupies a surface area equivalent to that of a football field. In 2001, the Department of Energy was called in as the chart had apparently extended beyond the ability of the Library of Congress' computer systems to handle. Five supercomputing centers today are struggling to accurately render and manage the meticulously hand-drawn chart.

"The chart can be examined as an archeological site of sorts, with historical layers of agencies defined by their epochs," said Portman. "The big problem is that the government never gets rid of any agency or position, but instead supersedes them or connects them to a different agency, often creating new agencies in the process." The Department of Moonshine, for example, despite having been entered originally as a joke by a hobo during the New Deal, is now nestled so high up in the hierarchy that many later agencies actually report to it, including NASA.

"NASA as a subdivision of the Department of Moonshine... Maybe there's a greater truth in this thing," mused Portman.

Bookmark and Share