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CSU

Government Documents

This is a guide to government resources that are commonly used in research.

About This Page

This page shows users locating research tools published by federal, state, and local governments within the United States and internationally. On this page, there is an overview of general resources for broader topics. Additional pages on this guide highlight more subject-specific resources for government information. 

Databases and Government Information

Additional Relevant Databases

The following list is additional databases that will likely contain information that is related to the discipline of military and veteran-related topics and which service members and veterans may find useful information. 

Branches of the Federal Government

U.S. Constitution

The Founding Fathers, the framers of the U.S. Constitution, wanted to form a government that did not allow one person to have too much control. With this in mind, they wrote the Constitution to provide for a separation of powers or three separate branches of government.

Each branch has its own responsibilities and at the same time, the three branches work together to make the country run smoothly and to assure that the rights of citizens are not ignored or disallowed. This is done through checks and balances. A branch may use its powers to check the powers of the other two in order to maintain a balance of power among the three branches of government.

The Bill of Rights - First 10 Amendments to the US Constitution

Branches of the United States Government

Graphic is depicting the three branches of the US Government which are the executive, judicial, and legislative branches.

Legislative - Makes Laws

Congress is composed of two parts: the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Senate

The Senate has 100 elected senators total; 2 senators per state. Each senator serves a 6-year term.

House of Representatives

The House has 435 voting representatives; the number of representatives from each state is based on the state's population. Each representative serves a two-year term and may be re-elected.


Executive - Carries Out Laws

The executive branch is composed of the president, vice president, and Cabinet members.

President

The president is the head of state, head of the U.S. government, and the commander-in-chief of the U.S. military.

Vice President

The vice president not only supports the president but also acts as the presiding officer of the Senate.

Cabinet

The Cabinet members are nominated by the president and must be approved by the Senate (with at least 51 votes). They serve as the president's advisors and heads of various departments and agencies.


Judicial - Evaluates Laws

The judicial branch of government is made up of the court system.

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is the highest court in the country. The nine justices are nominated by the president and must be approved by the Senate (with at least 51 votes).

Other Federal Courts

There are lower Federal courts but they were not created by the Constitution. Congress established them around the country to handle federal business as the country grew, using the power granted by the Constitution.

The Executive Branch

The executive branch carries out and enforces laws. It includes the president, vice president, the Cabinet, executive departments, independent agencies, and other boards, commissions, and committees.

American citizens have the right to vote for the president and vice president through free, confidential ballots.

Key roles of the executive branch include:

  • President—The president leads the country. He or she is the head of state, leader of the federal government, and Commander in Chief of the United States armed forces. The president serves a four-year term and can be elected no more than two times.
  • Vice president—The vice president supports the president. If the president is unable to serve, the vice president becomes president. The vice president can be elected and serve an unlimited number of four-year terms as vice president, even under a different president.
  • The Cabinet—Cabinet members serve as advisors to the president. They include the vice president, heads of executive departments, and other high-ranking government officials. Cabinet members are nominated by the president and must be approved by a simple majority of the Senate—51 votes if all 100 Senators vote.

Executive Branch Agencies, Commissions, and Committees

Much of the work in the executive branch is done by federal agencies, departments, committees, and other groups.

Executive Office of the President

The Executive Office of the president communicates the president's message and deals with the federal budget, security, and other high priorities.


Executive Departments

These are the main agencies of the federal government. The heads of these 15 agencies are also members of the president's cabinet.

Executive Department Sub-Agencies and Bureaus

There are many sub-agencies and bureaus under the umbrella of the executive branch of government. usa.gov has a comprehensive list of these areas of government.

To find it:

Images shows user the homepage of usa.gov/branches-of-government

  • ​​​​Scroll down to the 'Executive Branch.' Then find the section labeled 'Executive Branch Agencies, Commissions, and Committees.'

image shows users where on the webpage the Executive Branch of the U.S. Government is located.

  • Expand the dropdown menu and select the agency you are looking for. 

Images shows users how to expand the menu options of the dropdown menus.

Images shows users how to scroll down to find the Executive Department Su-Agencies.

The Legislative Branch - Congress

 

Steps in the Legislative Process 

The Judicial Branch

Seal of the Supreme Court of the United States The Supreme Court of the United States
Seal for the Federal Court of Appeals Circuit System. United States Court of Appeals For the Federal Circuit
Map of the federal court system districts Federal Court System

 

Federal Court Role and Structure

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is the highest court in the United States. Article III of the U.S. Constitution created the Supreme Court and authorized Congress to pass laws establishing a system of lower courts. In the federal court system’s present form, 94 district-level trial courts and 13 courts of appeals sit below the Supreme Court. Learn more about the Supreme Court.

Courts of Appeals

There are 13 appellate courts that sit below the U.S. Supreme Court, and they are called the U.S. Courts of Appeals. The 94 federal judicial districts are organized into 12 regional circuits, each of which has a court of appeals.  The appellate court’s task is to determine whether or not the law was applied correctly in the trial court. Appeals courts consist of three judges and do not use a jury.

A court of appeals hears challenges to district court decisions from courts located within its circuit, as well as appeals from decisions of federal administrative agencies.

In addition, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has nationwide jurisdiction to hear appeals in specialized cases, such as those involving patent laws, and cases decided by the U.S. Court of International Trade and the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

Learn more about the courts of appeals. 

Bankruptcy Appellate Panels

Bankruptcy Appellate Panels (BAPs) are 3-judge panels authorized to hear appeals of bankruptcy court decisions. These panels are a unit of the federal courts of appeals and must be established by that circuit. 

Five circuits have established panels: First CircuitSixth CircuitEighth CircuitNinth Circuit, and Tenth Circuit.

Article I Courts

Congress created several Article I, or legislative courts, that do not have full judicial power. Judicial power is the authority to be the final decider in all questions of Constitutional law, all questions of federal law and to hear claims at the core of habeas corpus issues. Article I Courts are:

*Content is taken directly from the U.S. Federal Court System Website


Government Published Web Sources On the Judicial Branch

Branches of Government - Web Sources

The federal government publishes tons of information on the offices, departments, agencies, and other parts of the government that are publically available. Below are some of the most relevant web sources on the three branches of government. 

Executive Branch


 Legislative Branch

Government Published Statistics

Check out the Statistics page on this guide for additional government-published statistics.