Skip to main content

Core Documents of Our Democracy: United States Government Manual

The resources found in this guide are vital sources of information that support the public's right to know about the workings and essential activities of the Federal Government.

General Information

This is the official handbook provided by the federal government on the agencies of the three branches of government.

The SuDoc classification number is AE 2.108/2:
This resource is ONLINE ONLY

About the United States Government Manual

The United States Government Manual, the official handbook of the Federal Government, is issued by National Archives' Office of the Federal Register (OFR) and provides information on the agencies of the legislative, judicial, and executive branches. It also includes information on quasi-official agencies; international organizations in which the United States participates; and boards, commissions, and committees. The Manual begins with reprints of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

A typical agency description includes:

  • A list of officials heading major operating units.
  • A summary statement of the agency's purpose and role in the Federal Government.
  • A brief history of the agency, including its legislative or executive authority.
  • A description of its programs and activities.
  • Information, addresses, and phone numbers to help users locate detailed information on consumer activities, contracts and grants, employment, publications, and other matters of public interest.

The Manual is published as a special edition of the Federal Register (see 1 CFR 9.1). Its focus is on programs and activities. Persons interested in detailed organizational structure, the regulatory documents of an agency, or Presidential documents should refer to the Federal Register or one of its other special editions.

What is available?

  • The U.S. Government Manual for 1995-96 and all subsequent annual editions to the present are available on govinfo.
  • Most editions are available in PDF format, and more recent years are available as XML.
  • GPO and OFR partner to offer bulk data downloads of files from 2011 forward from Data.gov and GPO’s Bulk Data Repository.
  • View a currently updated online Government Manual

United States Government Manual on govinfo (1995-Present)

Searching the Government Manual

You can locate and search editions of the Government Manual by:

  • Using Basic Search for keyword and metadata fielded searches (see Metadata Fields and Values section),
  • Using Advanced Search; fields specific to The Manual will display after you select United States Government Manual in the Refine by Collection column,
  • Refining search results by clicking on links in the Refine Your Search panel on the left hand side of the page (the sections under Refine Your Search correspond to the metadata available for the documents), and
  • Browsing on The Government Manual browse page.

General govinfo Search Tips

Important: Only the most recent edition is searchable using Basic Search unless you specify iscurrent:false or iscurrent:all in your search criteria. All editions are searchable when using Advanced Search. Learn more about what’s included in search results.

Search Examples

Search Government Manual by Agency - These examples will search for Government Manual documents with Department of Homeland Security as the agency.

  • Using Basic Search, enter: collection:govman agency:"department of homeland security"
  • Using Advanced Search, select United States Government Manual under Refine by Collection, then under Search in select Agency in the first box and enter Department of Homeland Security in the second box

Search Government Manual by Date - These examples will search for Government Manual documents published in 2009.

  • Using Basic Search, enter: collection:govman publishdate:2009 then select the checkbox next to View Historical Results
  • Using Advanced Search, select Date is in the box under Date Range, enter 2009 in the next box, then select United States Government Manual under Refine by Collection
  • From the Government Manual browse page, navigate to the 2009-2010 Edition and click to expand

Search Government Manual by Section - These examples will search for Government Manual documents from the Legislative Branch section.

  • Using Basic Search, enter: collection:govman sectionhier:legislative 
  • Using Advanced Search, select United States Government Manual under Refine by Collection, then under Search in select Section in the first box and select Legislative Branch from the second box
  • From the Government Manual browse page, navigate to an edition and expand the sections to find documents in the Legislative Branch section

Search Government Manual by Personal Name - These examples will search for Government Manual documents with Al Gore in the text.

  • Using Basic Search, enter: collection:govman "Al Gore" then select the checkbox next to View Historical Results
  • Using Advanced Search, select United States Government Manual under Refine by Collection, then under Search in, enter: Al Gore in the second box

Print Version (1973-2013)