The government-industrial complex: The true size of the federal government, 1984-2018

Research output: Book/ReportBook


The Government-Industrial Complex explores the recent history and impact of the federal government’s blended workforce of federal, contract, and grant employees. Drawing upon Dwight D. Eisenhower’s description of the military-industrial complex, government-reform expert Paul Light argues that the federal government now depends on seven-nine million full-time-equivalent government-industry employees. Light’s analysis examines changes in the size of the government-industrial complex, explains the federal government’s dependence on contract and grant employees, and explores potential reforms to protect the nation against what Eisenhower called the potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power. Light chronicles the role of hiring caps, cuts, and freezes in promoting the use of contract and grant employees and shows the impact of war and peace on the changing size of government. Light offers short histories of the role that Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama played in the changing number and distribution of the federal government’s federal, contract, and grant employees. Light also discusses the Trump administration’s early strategies on downsizing and deconstructing government while describing the demographic, bureaucratic, and political problems that explain the federal government’s dependence on contract and grant employees. He then describes a sorting system for assuring that the right employees are in the right jobs to assure the greatest value and accountability, and he concludes with a description of the “next gen” public service needed to achieve the more perfect union and blessings of liberty promised in the Constitution’s preamble.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages230
ISBN (Electronic)9780190851798
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018


  • Civil service
  • Contracting
  • Dependence on contract and grant employees
  • Eisenhower’s farewell address
  • Federal downsizing
  • Hiring freezes
  • Outsourcing
  • Public service
  • Threats to liberty
  • Trump

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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