Infographic: How Important Is Each Federal Agency?

During the shutdown, I shared answers to the question “Why are you essential?” It was terrific qualitative data about the important work conducted by government employees. There were a wide range of answers describing individuals who spent there days connecting people to vital services, building a more inclusive society, protecting us from harm, and providing support for scientific research.

Today, I want to share quantitative data in the form of an infographic from The graphic illustrates the percentage of people working at each agency. Looking at the image gives you an idea of what we value and what we think is important. My initial response to the infographic was to write a post that editorialized. I was going to analyze what it meant that only 6% of the Department of Educations versus 86% of Department of Homeland Security or 84% of the Department of Justice were working during the shutdown; however, I realized that I was more interested in what you, government employees, had to say.

Please share your thoughts after taking a look at the infographic.

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Scott Horvath

I think this post is a bit off the mark. I appreciate what you’re trying to present with “the numbers” but in some cases data does not always reflect reality…nor can it draw a conclusion such as which agencies are important as the title points out.

During “shutdown” hard choices had to be made at every agency. The remaining people working were not a reflection of value of that agency, nor was it a reflection of how important the work is at that agency. It was a matter of which services provide support for the protection of life, property, etc. There are many organizations who’s services don’t deal with the protection of life or property, but had to furlough their workers. You see that NASA, for example, is at the bottom of the list but yet everyone and their mother knows that NASA does do important work for the benefit of mankind…yet, that work isn’t under the guise of “protection of life or property.” Does that mean their jobs aren’t important? Does it mean their agency isn’t important? I don’t think so.

I’m sure you, and others, know that numbers can only say so much and can be used to ones advantage. However, context is needed to clearly understand the full picture. In this case numbers do not paint a clear picture of important work that our Government provides…it’s just a sliver.

Disclaimer: opinions are my own and not those of my employer.

Dale M. Posthumus

The data is interesting for what it is, but I agree with Scott, in that the data do not “show” who is more important. It is my understanding, and someone with the data could prove me right or wrong, that this administration was more willing than past administrations to determine that more positions were “essential”. Since no one was paid, including essential employees, it mattered little if someone worked or stayed home, from the paycheck viewpoint. In addition, with an expectation that the shutdown would not last forever, there is also a decision to be made as to what needs to be covered now and what needs to be addressed in the longer term. Thus, “essential” employees were more likely to be focused on short-term issues. I would like to see a more detailed report, if it exists, on furloughs by ageny within each of the departments.

Earl Rice

I will throw something in on this. The Veterans Health Administration only furloughed 89 employees, and the rest (240k some odd employees) worked and were paid like normal. The VHA is on a special 2 year budgeting plan (rather than annual). This FY money was initially approved in 2012. Early on it was determined that the VHA was (and would be) exempt from sequestration and government shut downs (unless they lasted for more than 2 years that is…and if they did last for more than 2 years, we all would have worse problems than the furlough). Likewise, when you are dealing with life and limb medical treatment, there can be no “shut down”. Veterans that are injured, ill, or what ever their ailment are, can’t wait for a “shut down” to end to be treated. And, FY14 budget for the VHA is larger than the FY13 budget. This is all while the other Agencies are waiting for the other shoe to drop in just a little over 45 days, when the budget continuation runs out and phase 2 of sequestration hits. And, I see no change in the grid lock. And, people wondered why I left a prestigious assignment in DOD to come to the VHA 18 months ago. I saw the future and it wasn’t pretty, knowing that sequestration was going to hit DOD the hardest, and would continue to do so for at least the next 3 to 4 years.