Identify a federal department or agency you believe to be relatively efficient and effective.  Describe the agency's functions and identify several reasons for your positive evaluation of this...

Identify a federal department or agency you believe to be relatively efficient and effective.  

Describe the agency's functions and identify several reasons for your positive evaluation of this agency.

Expert Answers
scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I have to disagree with some of the above posts.  While I have no beef with the Postal Service and certainly agree that I get my mail in a timely manner, I can't argue that it's truly efficient when it is supposed to be a revenue-neutral agency, and it is currently unable to meet that stipulation--to me that is not being efficient because part of the way the Post Office is managed is causing it to lose money.

I also have to question the Social Security Administration being considered efficient.  Disability is handled by the Administration, and it is a program rife with fraud. Similarly, numerous cases across the United States have demonstrated that it is relatively easy for one to obtain a fake social security card or to steal someone else's social security number.  While some of these are law enforcement issues, the Social Security Administration is ultimately responsible for ensuring that their services are not easy to use in a fraudulent manner.

I would make the argument that I have not had experiences with any federal agency more inefficient and incompetent than the VA.  From taking up to seven years to determine if combat veterans are eligible for disability assistance, to overseeing the National Cemetery Administration which we now know has possibly messed up as many as 6700 burials at Arlington, to bungling the Post 9/11 GI Bill causing unemployed veterans to go without benefits they earned, it takes the cake as far as inefficiency goes.

Now, my top two picks for efficiency--The Peace Corps and the IRS.  The Peace Corps, since its inception in the 60s, has run quite smoothly and has had a tremendously positive effect upon impoverished areas of the world and the participants who go abroad. I know that the IRS is unpopular, and I swear that I don't work for them, but they seem to be very efficient at tracking down people who do not pay their taxes (as long as it is politically expedient for someone at the top:) and also in quickly processing tax returns that are correctly completed.  Truthfully, if one e-files his taxes, he can track the process of them relatively easily on the IRS website, and if a return is due, it is generally handled promptly.

MaudlinStreet eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with all these posts, and would like to add to the idea of the Social Security Administration actually being an incredibly efficient agency. Despite all the propaganda against this program popular today, Social Security remains one of the strongest federal programs. For example:

  • There is no Social Security crisis. By 2023, Social Security will have a $4.6 trillion surplus (yes, trillion with a 'T'). It can pay out all scheduled benefits for the next quarter-century with no changes whatsoever.1 After 2037, it'll still be able to pay out 75% of scheduled benefits--and again, that's without any changes. The program started preparing for the Baby Boomers retirement decades ago.
  • The Social Security Trust Fund is full of U.S. Treasury Bonds. And those bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States. The reason Social Security holds only treasury bonds is the same reason many Americans do: The federal government has never missed a single interest payment on its debts. So the trillions of dollars in the Social Security Trust Fund, which are separate from the regular budget, are as safe as can be.
  • Social Security doesn't increase the deficit in any way. By law, Social Security funds are separate from the budget, and it must pay its own way. That means that Social Security can't add one penny to the deficit.

There's few gov. programs that can say the same...

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Postal Service.  While this department is much maligned, the butt of numerous jokes, and people constantly complain about how it isn't profitable or that stamps cost too much, think for a moment about what this long standing department of government actually does.

I can buy a $.44 stamp and put it on an envelope, and send it anywhere in the entire 3 million square miles of the US, and 98 times out of 100, it gets there. Seems like a bargain to me.  I get the mail sent to me received, sorted, and delivered right to my door, six days a week....for free.  I can pack a box with good stuff for a soldier in Afghanistan or Iraq, and it only costs $12.50 to send it into a war zone.  Again, quite a bargain.  I can address a car door, or a coconut, and as long as it has enough postage, they'll mail it for me (not that I would want to).

It has also provided good paying, stable jobs, for a couple centuries now, and today's postal carrier has good benefits and retirement.

The Social Security system is also very efficient, given how much money they have to collect every month, and how many checks they have to send out, on time, month after month, and their administrative costs (what they spend of their revenue to carry out their duties) is less than 2%. I'd stack that up against almost any business and win.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that given the level of cynicism towards government, you will get divergent responses and might even get some humorous responses.  I am having a difficult time to formulate a response without cracking some type of grin.  I will go conventional though.  I think that the Department of Education has proven itself to be fairly efficient and effective.   Over the last decade, the department has driven the focus of education to ensure that the term "No Child Left Behind" is on the lips and mind of all the stakeholders involved in education.  Whether or not one agrees with the mandate is irrelevant in this setting.  There has been a level of focus and effective drive in ensuring that school districts meet the needs of all students in monitoring progress and driving the learning of all in the modern educational paradigm.  I think that this focus has been efficient in that everyone across the nation is subject to the same analysis about the learning process.  If we comb through the history of education, it is difficult to find a level of nationalized focus so prevalent and so embedded in so quick of time in the educational dialogue.  For this, I would consider the department to be effective in being able to accomplish what it set out to do.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I have to agree with the Post Office.  Most people grumble whenever the price of stamps goes up, but my mail is always delivered on time, without too much wear and tear, and fairly quickly.   Of course, with the advent of email and other technology like instant messaging, twitter, etc. fewer people are sending mail and packages thus causing the rate of stamps to rise and the department to come up with other ways to make up for that loss.

The National Parks department is also one that operates efficiently.  I've been privileged to visit many parks from California to Florida, and they are all very well kept with professional folks running the places to ensure your visit is a positive one. 


bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a great question but, unfortunately, I don't believe you'll find many positive answers since so many of our government agencies are run so inefficiently. I deal with the USPS regularly, and though I have few complaints about their service, it is a fact that they lose hundreds of millions (or is it in the billions?) of dollars each year. This fact alone discounts any true realization of efficiency, at least at the higher levels of USPS. I have had some direct dealings with the Department of Homeland Security as well as with the FBI, and I found both departments highly efficient (at least in case). However, neither organization has a reputation for consistent high achievement.

marbar57 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I find that the Department of the Interior, specifically the United States Forest Service, is an efficient and effective government agency.  They do a good job nationwide of taking care of the national parks and monuments, preventing and putting out forest fires, maintaining the numerous trails and campgrounds, and helping keep all of us safe.  Everywhere I've gone, the rangers are friendly, helpful, and plentiful!  In some of our campgrounds, there's even nature programs for the children to enjoy and participate in while they're staying there.  There's even a national online campground reservation system that's pretty nice.  We've reserved the same group site for fifteen years! 

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I know several people who work for the FBI, and when I hear their stories I find them impressive--not just because of the "cool" factor but because these are grounded, sensible people who are efficient and able to accomplish things others cannot.  They're humble and don't brag, but they manage to do what needs doing without fuss or complication.  They're practical movers and shakers.  This is obviously just a layman's view of a tiny slice of the organization; but if these people are any indication, the FBI is doing just fine.

clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'm going to say The Forest Service and the US National Park Service.  The United States physically covers a huge amount of square miles... and our forest and park services have managed to preserve and maintain much of it through protected state and national forests/parks/etc.

As a taxpayer, I will always be willing to pay for any service that preserves places like Glacier, Pisgah, and Yellowstone.