GLOSSARY OF TERMS
Choose one of the categories below to narrow your choiceOrganizations: Government
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)
Agency of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that responds to environmental health emergencies; investigates potential environmental health threats and conducts research on the health impacts of hazardous waste sites.
Website: www.atsdr.cdc.gov.Referenced by...
Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB)
A bureau under the Treasury Department.
The TTB enforces provisions of the Federal Alcohol Administration Act. It is responsible for collecting excise taxes on alcohol, tobacco, and firearms.
It also approves liquor stores and and permitting for tobacco and alcohol - including their labeling and marketing.
It was created by the 2002 Homeland Security Act.
Website: www.TTB.gov.Referenced by...
One of the country's reserve military forces.
Similar to the National Guard, but the Reserves are under the direct authority of the military - and not subject to be called to duty by a state's governor.
Attorney General (AG)
The U.S. Attorney General is the chief law enforcement officer and attorney of the government, and head of the Department of Justice (DOJ).Senate confirmation required for directors
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF)
Bureau of Competition
The Bureau of Competition is the part of the Federal Trade Commission that reviews corporate mergers and other anticompetitive practices.
Bureau of Consumer Protection
The Consumer Protection Bureau is the part of the Federal Trade Commission that helps consumers avoid fraud, deception, and other unfair business practices.Senate confirmation required for directors
Bureau of Economics
The Bureau of Economics is the part of the Federal Trade Commission that supports antitrust and consumer protection investigations.
Bureau of Indian Affairs
Bureau of International Organization Affairs (IO)
A bureau within the Department of State, it is the U.S. government's primary interface with the United Nations (UN)
It maintains diplomatic missions in Austria, Canada, Italy, Kenya, and Switzerland - as well as in New York - to develop international policy at the U.N. in concordance with other nations and international organizations.
Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
The Bureau of Labor Statisics is a government agency that measures and reports on the U.S. labor market, working conditions, and consumer prices. The information is used by Congress to help make relevant laws. For more, visit www.BLS.gov.
Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
Website: www.BLM.gov.Referenced by...
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM)
Bureau of Reclamation
Part of the Department of the Interior (DOI) that manages water in the western United States - including dams, powerplants, and canals.
The agency is the country's largest wholesaler of water, and second-largest producer of hydroelectric power.
The President's Cabinet is the group of the President's highest level advisors.
Article 2, Section 2 of the Constitution states that "(The President) may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices".
The Cabinet consists of...
The following are not official Cabinet positions, but have Cabinet-level rank...
For more about the Cabinet, visit www.Whitehouse.gov/administration/cabinet.Senate confirmation required for directors
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)
The federal agency within the Department of Health and Human Services that administers Medicare and works with state governments to administer Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
For more information, visit www.CMS.gov.
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
The foreign intelligence service for the United States.
Civil Rights Division
Part of the Department of Justice (DOJ) that enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, disability, religion, familial status and national origin.
It was created by the 1957 Civil Rights Act .
Website: www.justice.gov/crt.Referenced by...
Employees of the federal government (other than military)
Community Relations Service (CRS)
Federal agency under the Department of Justice (DOJ) that works with local governments and communities to reduce conflicts and tensions arising from things such as race, religion, sexual orientation, and disability.
It provides resources and assistance such as mediatiation and training. It has no investigatory or law enforcement authority.
The agency was created by the 1964 Civil Rights Act .
Website: www.justice.gov/crs.Referenced by...
Congressional Budget Office (CBO)
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is a branch of Congress that provides objective and impartial analysis of economic issues (including budgets) that representatives propose and vote on.
For more, visit the CBO website at www.CBO.gov.
Congressional Research Service (CRS)
The Congressional Research Service is an agency run by the Library of Congress which provides members of the Senate and House of Representatives with impartial information to help them legislate policies.
Unlike most other federal agencies, the Congressional Research Office does not publish its reports to the public. Instead, it makes its reports available only to members of Congress, who may individually decide whether to make them publicly available. You also can request a report from your representative.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is the federal agency responsible for protecting consumers against unfair lending practices and other practices with regard to financial products and services.
It was founded as a result of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act - enacted by Congress in response to the recession and financial crisis in the late 2000s.
Website: www.ConsumerFinance.gov/the-bureauSenate confirmation required for directors
Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
A government independent agency that regulates the safety of most consumer products and informs the public of hazards and recalls.
The agency does not regulate products that are regulated by other agencies, such as...
Council of Economic Advisors
Court of Appeals
Federal appeals courts (also known as circuit courts that hear appeals from district courts.
Appeals usually are heard by a panel of three judges randomly selected from available judges of the court. Decisions can be appealed to the Supreme Court.
For a list of Courts of Appeals, visit BallotPedia.org.
Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is possibly the most powerful court in the United States, other than the Supreme Court. It decides cases regarding federal agencies - such as regulations they impose.
The court is made up 11 judges.
The court also is served by several part-time "senior" judges.
Several of this court's former judges later served on the Supreme Court, including John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia, and Brett Kavanaugh.
Other notable people who have served on the D.C. Circuit Court include Robert Bork and Kenneth Starr.
Website: www.cadc.uscourts.gov.Referenced by...
Trial courts that hear federal crimes.
Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)
Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB)
An independent federal agency that advises the president and Department of Energy (DOE) on public health and safety issues at defense nuclear facilities.
It was formed in 1988 by the National Defense Authorization Act, toward the end of the Cold War and soon after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
The board has only advisory power.
Dept of Agriculture (USDA)
The federal agency responsible for administering policies related to food, farming, agriculture, and forestry.
For more, visit www.USDA.gov.
Dept of Commerce
Dept of Defense (DoD)
Website: www.defense.gov.Senate confirmation required for directors
Dept of Education
The Department of Education establishes general policies for education in the United States.
One of its missions is to prohibit discrimination and ensure equal access to education.
Website: www.Ed.gov.Senate confirmation required for directors
Dept of Energy (DOE)
Cabinet-level department of the federal government that administers policies regarding energy and nuclear material.
Website: www.Energy.gov.Senate confirmation required for directors
Dept of Health and Human Services (HHS)
The principal government agency for protecting the health of Americans. It is comprised of agencies that do research and provide services including public health, food and drug safety, and health insurance.
For more, visit www.HHS.gov.
Dept of Homeland Security (DHS)
Cabinet department that oversees the protection of United States' territories. This includes preventing and responding to terrorist attacks, and responding to natural disasters.
It was created by the 2002 Homeland Security Act.
Agencies that make up DHS include...
Website: www.dhs.govSenate confirmation required for directors
Dept of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
Website: www.HUD.gov.Senate confirmation required for directors
Dept of Justice (DOJ)
Website: www.Justice.govSenate confirmation required for directors
Dept of Labor (DOL)
Website: www.dol.govSenate confirmation required for directors
Dept of State (DoS)
The Department of State typically is referred to as the State Department.
It is the federal agency responsible for the country's foreign policy - including international relations and treaty negotiations.
Website: www.State.gov.Senate confirmation required for directors
Dept of the Interior (DOI)
Federal lands make up about 1/5 of the United States. The Department of the Interior is responsible for managing this land - from maintaining national parks to leasing land for grazing or oil drilling to preserving cultural resources.
Agencies that make up the Department of the Interior include...
Website: www.DOI.govSenate confirmation required for directors
Dept of the Treasury
Cabinet-level agency responsible for ensuring the United States' financial security. Its functions include...
Website: www.Treasury.gov.Senate confirmation required for directors
Dept of Transportation (DOT)
Website: www.Transportation.gov.Senate confirmation required for directors
Dept of Veterans Affairs (VA)
The Department of Veterans Affairs (most often referred as simply the VA) provides services to U.S. military veterans and their families.
One area of the VA - the Veterans Health Administration - is one of the country's main health care systems.
Director of National Intelligence (DNI)
The principal advisor to the president on intelligence issues related to national security.
Website: www.DNI.gov.Senate confirmation required for directors
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
Economic Research Service (ERS)
Federal agency under the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
It provides information and research on agriculture and economics.
It was created in 1863.
Election Assistance Commission (EAC)
The Election Assistance Commission is a four-member, non-partisan commission recommends voting system guidelines. It also maintains the national mail voter registration form. There currently are no commissioners assigned to this commission.
For more, visit www.EAC.gov.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
Federal agency that enforces federal laws regarding discrimination or harassment by employers (or potential employers).
Website: www.EEOC.gov.Referenced by...
Farm Service Agency (FSA)
Federal Advisory Committee
Temporary committees established by the executive branch to provide expert advice on a particular subject.
They are required to follow guidelines specified in the 1972 Federal Advisory Committee Act, including transparency to the public and having a membership that is "fairly balanced in terms of points of view represented".
They must be disbanded once their mission has been completed.
For more, read this Congressional Research Service report.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
The prime federal law enforcement agency of the United States.
In addition to investigating federal crimes, the FBI also is the primary agency for domestic intelligence. The FBI director reports to both the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence.
Website: www.FBI.gov.Referenced by...
Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP)
Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
An independent federal agency that regulates interstate communications - including those by radio, television, wire, cable, and satellite.
It is directed by five commissioners who are appointed by the president and serve a 5-year term (unless filling an unexpired term). Commissioners may not have a financial interest in any commission-related business. No more than three can be of the same political party.
The FCC was created by the 1934 Communications Act.
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)
The FDIC is a Government Owned Corporation that protects the money you deposit in banks.
It was created by the 1933 Banking Act (Glass-Steagall) to prevent panicked withdrawals from banks - by assuring depositors that their money will be safe even if the bank goes out of business.
The FDIC is funded with premiums paid by member banks.
Federal Election Commission (FEC)
U.S. independent regulatory agency that administers and enforces laws regarding federal election financing.
Website: www.FEC.gov.Referenced by...
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)
An independent agency within the Department of Energy (DOE) that regulates interstate electricty sales, hydroelectric facilities, and pricing for electric and natural gas power.
According to its website, there are some things that are outside the commission's jurisdiction, including...
Federal Housing Administration (FHA)
The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insures mortgages - protecting lenders in case the homebuyer defaults on their mortgage.
This typically is for buyers who can't afford a large enough down payment to qualify for a loan. A bank will lend to these borrowers because the FHA will insure the lender gets paid back.
This helps people who don't have much in savings buy a house.
In exchange, home buyers requiring an FHA guarantee pay a Mortgage Insurance Premium.
Website: www.FHA.gov.Referenced by...
Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA)
Federal Insurance Office
Office under the Treasury Department that monitors the insurance industry to identify problems that could contribute to a financial crisis.
It also monitors the availability of insurance (except health insurance) to traditionally underserved communities and consumers.
It was created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA)
Independent federal agency that governs relations between the federal government and government employees.
It was created by the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
The Federal Trade Commission is the fedaral agency that protects consumers against deceptive unfair business practices. The FTC also maintains a website (www.consumer.ftc.gov) that provides alerts on products and scams, and services such as the national
You can learn more about the FTC at FTC.gov.
The FTC consists of three organizations...
You can learn more about the FTC at FTC.gov.
Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN)
A bureau of the Treasury Department.
FinCEN collects and analyzes data about financial transactions to fight financial crimes.
Website: www.FinCEN.gov.Referenced by...
Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC)
The FSOC watches for risks in the U.S. financial system. It was created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
The council attempts to identify banks and other financial companies considered so large that their failure could pose a threat to financial markets (designated as too big to fail).
If nonbank financial companies get too big, the council can require they be regulated by the Federal Reserve. The council also can recommend that the Federal Reserve adopt stricter rules for factors such as liquidity and risk management as companies grow in size.
Members include the Secretary of the Treasury and the heads of nine federal financial regulatory agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
The FDA is the government agency that regulates several foods, drugs, and other products to ensure their safety and efficacy.
Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)
Agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) responsible for the safety of meat, poultry, and egg products.
Website: www.FSIS.USDA.gov.Referenced by...
General Services Administration (GSA)
Federal agency that manages the basic functioning of other federal agencies.
Its functions include managing government buildings, purchasing equipment and supplies, and hiring contractors.
Government Accountability Office (GAO)
Government Owned Corporation
A corporation that is owned by the federal government and exists to provide services to the public.
They are more politically independent than federal agencies (such as the Environmental Protection Agency) or federal independent commissions (such as the Federal Communications Commission or Nuclear Regulatory Commission).
Government Owned Corporations include...
Government Printing Office (GPO)
Government Sponsored Enterprise
Government Sponsored Entities are private companies created by Congress for the purpose of making it easier for consumers to borrow.
They essentially do this by buying loans such as mortgages and student loans from banks. This gives the banks money for new loans.
They also can receive support from the government, such as a line of credit from the U.S. Treasury.
The most well-know Government Sponsored Enterprises are mortgage resellers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Health Resources and Services Administration (HHRSA)
Part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It is the primary federal agency for improving access to health care services for those with the least access.
HHRSA also is responsible for determining what types of preventive care should be covered in certain health plans under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
Federal agencies, commissions, and boards that are not controlled by the president or Congress.
Members are appointed by the president and approved by the Senate, but once appointed they usually can only be removed for good cause or when their term expires.
Independent agencies include...
Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
Internation Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB)
Website: www.DOL.gov/agencies/ilab.Referenced by...
IRS Oversight Board
An independent body created by Congress in 1998 to improve how the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) serves taxpayers.
It currently consists of nine members...
Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT)
A Congressional committee made up of members of both the House of Representatives and Senate that researches issues regarding taxation.
Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction
Library of Congress
Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC)
Merit Systems Protection Board
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Agency of the Department of Labor (DOL) that works to prevent illness, injury, and death from mining.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Government agency that manages the United States space program.
National Centers for Environmental Information
National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC)
Website: www.dni.gov/index.php/nctc-home.Senate confirmation required for directors
A reserve force of the U.S. military. It is organized by state.
Members typically live as civilians, serving one weekend per month. But they can be called at any time (either by the president or their state's governor) to deal with domestic emergencies or overseas combat missions.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
The NHTSA is the federal agency responsible for regulating cars and other motor vehicles. Issues the agency deals with include...
National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
Federal agency under the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
It coordinates all federally funded agricultural research.
It was created by the 2008 Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (also referred to as the 2008 Farm Bill).
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
An agency of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that performs health-related research.
It is made up of more than 25 separate organizations called Institutes and Centers.
National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)
Federal agency created to prevent unfair labor practices and resolve disputes between labor unions and companies. It ensures that employers follow the provisions of the National Labor Relations Act.
The agency is run by five members, each appointed to a 5-year term.
For more information, visit www.NLRB,gov.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
National Park Service
Website: www.NPS.govReferenced by...
National Security Adviser
The senior advisor to the President on issues regarding national security.
The formal title of the position is Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs.
National Security Agency (NSA)
National Security Council
The President's primary forum for considering national security and foreign policy matters.
It is chaired by the President. Attendees include the...
National Taxpayer Advocate
National Trade Council (NTC)
A White House office created in 2017 by newly-elected President Donald Trump. It is unclear at this time what role the NTC will play.
Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
Agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that provides technical assistance to farmers and other land managers.
It formerly was called the Soil Conservation Service.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP)Referenced by...
Office of Compliance (OOC)
Federal agency created by the 1995 Congressional Accountability Act (CAA). The agency administers the workplace protections for Congressional offices that the act provides for.
Website: www.Compliance.gov.Referenced by...
Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE)
The Office of Congressional Ethics of the House of Representatives is an independent agency that reviews allegations of misconduct against representatives and their staffs.
If further investigation for possible charges is needed, the OCE refers the complaint to the House Ethics Committee. Even if the committee decides to take no action, the report from the OCE still is made public.
The is no such office for the Senate. The Executive Branch has a related office - the Office of Government Ethics (OGE).
Website: oce.house.gov.Referenced by...
Office of Government Ethics (OGE)
The Office of Government Ethics advises the president and his or her administration on issues in which there might be a conflict of interest.
The OGE has no investigative or enforcement authority. It acts mainly in an advisory role to help prevent conflicts of interests from arising.
It was created by the 1978 Ethics in Government Act.
This differs from the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) for the House of Representatives, which investigates ethics complaints against representatives and their staffs.
Office of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs (IO/HRH)Referenced by...
Office of Language Services
Part of the State Department that provides interpreters and translators for the president and other federal officials.Referenced by...
Office of Legal Counsel (OLC)
Office within the Department of Justice (DOJ) that provides legal advice on presidential (and other executive branch) actions.
The OLC has been nicknamed the president's law firm, and at times has formulated opinions that appear to merely find justification for a president's questionable action. These decisions are interpretations of the law, and do not carry the force of law.
These decisions include...
Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
Office of National Resources Revenue (ONRR)
The Office of National Resources Revenue is part of the Department of the Interior (DOI).
When a company such as an energy or mining company leases land from the U.S. government, this is where they send the money.
Office of Personnel Management (OPM)
The government independent agency that oversees the recruitment and employment policies of the federal government.
Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR)
Office of Special Counsel (OSC)
Federal agency with the primary role of protecting federal employees and applicants from prohibited practices.
Authority for the agency comes from these laws...
Website: www.OSC.gov.Referenced by...
Office of the Inspector General (OIG)
Part of a government department or agency that monitors that agency for fraud, abuse, or other mismanagement.
Office of the Pardon Attorney
Office of the Department of Justice (DOJ) that assists the president when deciding to offer clemency to someone who committed a federal criminal offense.
The office researches cases and provides a recommendation to the president for each applicant.
Office on Violence Against Women (OVW)
Office in the Department of Justice (DOJ) created to help communities develop programs to prevent domestic violence and sexual assault, and to strengthen services to victims.
It was created by the 1994 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC)
A Government Owned Corporation that takes over the paying of pensions to retirees when a company's pension fund is inadequate to pay the pensions it owes to retirees. One way this can happen is the pension is underfunded and the company becomes bankrupt.
It was created in 1974 by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).
There are limits to the the amount a retiree may receive. Therefore a retiree whose pension has been taken over by the PBGC might lose part of their pension.
The PBGC is funded by the companies it insures - through premiums and the money left in pensions it takes over. However, if it should run out of money because it is paying more in pensions than it has, there would be two options...
* Bonus Material: You might read about two different funds the organization maintains. The single-employer fund guarantees pensions from individual companies. The multiemployer fund guarantees pensions sponsored by unions which can involve several companies.
Acronym for President Of The United States
President's Council of Economic Advisers (CEA)
President's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ)
Acronym for Supreme Court Of The United States
The Secret Service is a federal law enforcement agency.
It is known mostly for its role in protecting the president and others associated with the president, but it has several roles in protecting the country's infrastructure (including financial).
It was established in 1865 to suppress counterfeiting. In 2003 the Secret Service became part of the Department of Homeland Security
Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
The Securities and Exchange Commission is a government agency that regulates the stock market and other securities in order to protect investors from fraudulent practices. It is comprised of five commissioners, appointed by the president and approved by the Senate.
For example, SEC rules prohibit insider trading of stocks - in which someone (such as a company executive) uses confidential information to buy or sell a stock before the public has access to that information.
For more, visit www.SEC.gov.
Small Business Administration (SBA)
The Small Business Administration helps American small businesses obtain loans, counseling, and other types of assistance.
Social Security Administration (SSA)
Supreme Court (SCOTUS)
As specified by the Constitution, the United States' government consists of three branches...
The judicial branch consists of the U.S. federal court system. The Supreme Court is highest court in that system. It consists of nine justices (judges) . Justices are appointed by the president, and must be confirmed by the Senate.
When a lower court's decision is appealed to the Supreme Court, the court may...
Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA)
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration provides independent oversight of IRS activities - including the prevention and detection of fraud, waste, and abuse within the IRS and related entities. (www.Treasury.gov/tigta)
U.S. Board on Geographic Names
The U.S. Board on Geographic Names is responsible for ensuring that geographic names in the United States are consistent throughout the government.
Consistent naming eliminates misunderstanding and allows various government agencies to work together more easily.
It is part of the Department of the Interior, and was created in 1890 by an executive order from President William Harrison.
U.S. Copyright Office
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
Part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) responsible for processing travelers and goods entering the country.
It was known as the U.S. Customs Service until 2003, when it was merged with parts of other agencies.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)
U.S. Forest Service
Agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that manages and protects national forests and grasslands in the United States.
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
U.S. Postal Service (USPS)
Official organization that delivers mail in the United States.
Though regulated as a federal agency, the USPS effectively is a corporation whose operations are funded by its sales. It receives virtually no federal funding (other than funding for a few specific purposes).
U.S. Trade Representative
Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
White House Chief of Staff