6 Obscure Federal Agencies You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Politics, Bizarre, NakedLaw, News

In the vastly underrated, ridiculously funny political satire In the Loop, there’s a scene in which the characters are trying to find a top-secret government war committee.

One of the characters says, “What you have to do is you’ve got to look for the ten dullest-named committees happening out of the executive branch…he’s going to hide it behind a name like “Diverse Strategy”. Something so dull, you’re just going to want to self-harm.”

In the real world, Princeton economist Alan B. Krueger echoes these sentiments saying, “One of the lessons I have learned from the current financial crisis is that it is worth paying close attention to warnings concerning obscure, quasi-public agencies that are (1) known by their abbreviations, and (2) perform dull but critical functions.”

The point is there are a lot of obscure, boringly-named federal agencies that most of us don’t even know about. Some of these federal agencies wield significant power; others are a bit more harmless.

Here are 6 obscure federal agencies you probably didn’t know exist.

#1: Minerals Management Service

In the midst of all the commotion surrounding the BP oil spill, one interesting thing that came to light was that Minerals Management Service is an obscure federal agency that oversees offshore drilling. According to News Herald, this agency knew that the “supposedly fail-safe system designed to protect against the leak of thousands of barrels of oil was not fail-safe”

If it wasn’t for an exploding oil rig that killed 11 people, you and I probably wouldn’t have a clue what the Minerals Management Service is. But thanks in part to these regulators not doing their job, we’ve spent the past two months dealing with a nonstop gusher in the Gulf that not only killed those 11 workers but that has also caused many to lose their jobs.

#2: Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, or PBGC, was created by Congress to “insure participants in defined-benefit pension plans against losing their pension if their employer is in financial distress or fails to fully pre-fund its pension obligations.” About 44 million Americans are protected by PBGC.

Unfortunately, it appears the PBGC will soon be unable to meet its obligations for retirees. The agency is constantly facing billions of dollars in deficit, and it seems that a taxpayer-funded bailout may be inevitable.

#3: Office for Human Research Protections

According to their website, the Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) “provides leadership in the protection of the rights, welfare, and wellbeing of subjects involved in research conducted or supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).” In short, they make sure human subjects in research are protected.

The agency most recently made the news as human rights groups are seeking the OHRP’s help to investigate claims that medical professionals helped the CIA perform experiments on detainees after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It’s this obscure agency’s duty to investigate these allegations to ensure no illegal human experimentation was carried out.

#4: Millennium Challenge Corporation

The MCC was created to provide international assistance to some of the poorest countries in the world. Since 2004, MCC has been creating partnerships with impoverished countries, but only with those countries “committed to good governance, economic freedom, and investments in their citizens.”

The Millennium Challenge Corporations gives these countries large-scale grants for creating solutions to eradicate poverty. They also give smaller grants to countries that don’t quote meet these criteria but are “firmly committed to improving their policy performance.”

#5: Office of the Comptroller of the Currency

According to the agency’s website, “The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) charters, regulates, and supervises all national banks. It also supervises the federal branches and agencies of foreign banks.” The agency was founded all the way back in 1863 as a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

The OCC was the center of criticism in 2008 as it came to light that the agency was blocking efforts to help thousands of Americans who were facing foreclosure. Critics said the OCC did nothing to stop predatory lending practices, putting countless Americans in an awful situation.

#6: U.S. Board on Geographic Names

Did you know anyone can propose a name for an American geographic feature? Rivers, glaciers, mountains…you name it, literally! Every year, hundreds of Americans propose names to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.

This obscure naming agency is responsible for deciding upon the names of the geographic highlights of our beautiful land. The federal agency was created in 1890 to “maintain uniform geographic name usage throughout the Federal Government.”

The number of federal government agencies boggles the mind

Here’s a list of every federal government agency and department in America.  Crazy, huh?