Looking for an oasis in today's newspaper? Craving something to read that has nothing to do with the election? Want something beyond returns, winners and loser, the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, no reaction or commentary on the big news of Nov. 4? You came to the right spot.
Today is quiz day. First question: Name out town's single biggest government operation. Would you pick:
A) the Central Intelligent Agency, B) Congress, C) the Department of Health and Human Services, D) the District of Columbia government, or E) the Navy Department.
The answer is, nearly all of the above. In best bureaucratic tradition, the answer depends on several things.
If you are talking about sheer numbers, the District government, with more than 40,000 employes, is the winner, hands down. If you are talking about a "branch" of government, the legislative branch, which includes Congress, is number one with 37,000 people. The Senate and House have 7,300 and 19,000 employes, respectively. Other legislative branch agencies, the Library of Congress, General Accounting Office, Government Printing Office and so forth make up the remainder.
For a single unit, the biggest is the Department of Health and Human Services. HHS, formerly the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, has more than 35,000 employees. Back when it was HEW -- and included the offices that are now the Department of Education -- the department had 4,600 more people here.
Navy, for a long time, was the largest federal operation in Washington. But it has slipped in recent years as Congress and HEW (now HHS) hired more people. Navy now has only 34,000 civilian workers locally. The Army, which tries to keep up, has just over 24,000 and the poor old Air Force only about 6,500 civilians here.
The CIA does not freely give out personnel data (nor does the super-secret National Security Agency). But both are estimated, locally, to be in the range of the Justice Department, which has about 16,400 people here. Although metropolitan Washington is short on farms, and farmers, the Department of Argiculture is one of the biggies here with just over 13,000 people. Still it is a piker when compared to Commerce with 23,000 and Treasury, with 18,000. The Department of Energy seems much bigger than its local payroll, which has 8,000 worker -- not including outside consultants, of course. Transportation has 10,000 people, and Interior, which we don't hear much about, more than 11,000.
There is some dispute over which federal agency here is smallest, because some are so small that if two people retire, or three are hired, their relative positions change. Among the little guys are the Commission on Fine Arts, which had six staffers at last count, and the Coastal Plains Regional Commission, which recently had eight employes. The Advisory Commission on Federal Pay last spring had only two employes, but it has recently done some hiring, putting it up with the Coastal Plains Regional Commission. The Alaska Natural Gas Transmission System has about 50 people here and 17 elsewhere, one presumes in Alaska.