Alphabet agencies

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Editorial cartoons parodied the New Deal as Roosevelt's private game with alphabet agencies.

The alphabet agencies, or New Deal agencies, were the U.S. federal government agencies created as part of the New Deal of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The earliest agencies were created to combat the Great Depression in the United States and were established during Roosevelt's first 100 days in office in 1933. In total, at least 69 offices were created during Roosevelt's terms of office as part of the New Deal. Some alphabet agencies were established by Congress, such as the Tennessee Valley Authority. Others were established through Roosevelt executive orders, such as the Works Progress Administration and the Office of Censorship, or were part of larger programs such as the many that belonged to the Works Progress Administration. Some of the agencies still exist today, while others have merged with other departments and agencies or were abolished.

The agencies were sometimes referred to as alphabet soup. Libertarian author William Safire notes that the phrase "gave color to the charge of excessive bureaucracy." Democrat Al Smith, who turned against Roosevelt, said his government was “submerged in a bowl of alphabet soup."[1] "Even the Comptroller-General of the United States, who audits the government's accounts, declared he had never heard of some of them."[2] While previously all monetary appropriations had been separately passed by Act of Congress, as part of their power of the purse; the National Industrial Recovery Act allowed Roosevelt to allocate $3.3 billion without Congress (as much as had been previously spent by government in ten years time), through executive orders and other means. These powers were used to create many of the alphabet agencies. Other laws were passed allowing the new bureaus to pass their own directives within a wide sphere of authority.[2] Even though the National Industrial Recovery Act was found to be unconstitutional, many of the agencies created under it remained.

Partial list of alphabet agencies[edit]

Agencies created between 1933 and 1938 are New Deal Agencies.

Initialism Year Agency
AAA 1933 Agricultural Adjustment Administration
BPA 1937 Bonneville Power Administration
CAA 1938 Civil Aeronautics Authority (early Federal Aviation Administration)
CCC 1933 Civilian Conservation Corps
CWA 1933 Civil Works Administration
DRS 1935 Drought Relief Service
DSH 1933 Subsistence Homesteads Division
EBA 1933 Emergency Banking Act
EPA 1970 Environmental Protection Agency
FAA 1958 Federal Aviation Agency
FAP 1935 Federal Art Project (part of WPA)
FCA 1933 Farm Credit Administration
FCC 1934 Federal Communications Commission
FDA 1906 Food and Drug Administration
FDIC 1933 Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
FERA 1933 Federal Emergency Relief Administration
FHA 1934 Federal Housing Administration
FLSA 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act
FMP 1935 Federal Music Project (part of WPA)
FSA 1935 Farm Security Administration
FSRC 1933 Federal Surplus Relief Corporation
FTP 1935 Federal Theatre Project (part of WPA)
FWA 1939 Federal Works Agency
FWP 1935 Federal Writers' Project (part of WPA)
HOLC 1933 Home Owners' Loan Corporation
IRS 1862 Internal Revenue Service
LUP 1934 Land Utilization Program
NASA 1958 National Aeronautics and Space Administration
NIRA 1933 National Industrial Recovery Act
NLRA 1935 National Labor Relations Act
NLRB 1934 National Labor Relations Board/The Wagner Act
NRA 1933 National Recovery Administration
NYA 1935 National Youth Administration
PRRA 1933 Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration
PWA 1933 Public Works Administration
RA 1935 Resettlement Administration
REA 1935 Rural Electrification Administration (now Rural Utilities Service)
SEC 1934 Securities and Exchange Commission
SES 1933 Soil Erosion Service
SSB (now SSA) 1935 Social Security Board (now Social Security Administration)
TVA 1933 Tennessee Valley Authority
USHA 1937 United States Housing Authority
USMC 1936 United States Maritime Commission
USPS 1792 United States Postal Service (then the Post Office Department)
WPA 1935 Works Progress Administration

In national security[edit]

Since the 1990s, the term "alphabet agencies" has been commonly used to describe the agencies of the U.S. national security state. Many are members of the United States Intelligence Community,[3][4] and several were founded or expanded in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.[5][6][7][8] Alphabet agencies in this sense of the term may also be called three-letter agencies,[9] because they often use three-letter acronyms.

Initialism Year Agency
ATF 1972 Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
CIA 1947 Central Intelligence Agency
DEA 1973 Drug Enforcement Administration
DIA 1961 Defense Intelligence Agency
DHS 2002 Department of Homeland Security
DOJ 1870 Department of Justice
FBI 1908 Federal Bureau of Investigation
FEMA 1979 Federal Emergency Management Agency
ICE 2003 Immigration and Customs Enforcement
NGA 2003 National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
NRO 1961 National Reconnaissance Office
NSA 1953 National Security Agency
ONI 1882 Office of Naval Intelligence
OSI 1949 Office of Scientific Intelligence
TSA 2001 Transportation Security Administration

Cabinet departments[edit]

Partial list

Initialism Year Department
DOE 1979 Department of Education
DOT 1967 Department of Transportation
HHS 1953 Department of Health and Human Services
USDT 1789 Department of the Treasury


  1. ^ William Safire (2008). Safire's Political Dictionary. Oxford University Press. p. 15. ISBN 9780195343342.
  2. ^ a b Flynn, John. The Roosevelt Myth, Garden City Books, 1948.
  3. ^ Bittle, Jake (12 October 2021). "John le Carré's Genius for Surveillance". The New Republic.
  4. ^ Dreyfuss, Bob (11 May 2018). "That 'Deep State' You Keep Hearing About? It Doesn't Exist". {{cite magazine}}: Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)
  5. ^ Elder, Grant (November 7, 2014). Wiki vs NWO (New World Order): Moving to Collaboration from Domination. FriesenPress. ISBN 9781460248683 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ Attkisson, Sharyl (November 4, 2014). Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama's Washington. Harper Collins. ISBN 9780062322869 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ Saeger, Michael (1997). Defend Yourself Against Criminal Charges. ISBN 9781570711626 – via
  8. ^ Doss, Kevin; Shepherd, Charles (August 17, 2015). Active Shooter: Preparing for and Responding to a Growing Threat. Butterworth-Heinemann. ISBN 9780128027837 – via Google Books.
  9. ^ Bigley, Sean (26 September 2021). "Applying to a Three-Letter Agency? Don't Overlook Their Suitability Criteria". ClearanceJobs. Retrieved 29 January 2022.