"The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy."
- – Oscar Wilde
"If the populace knew with what idiocy they were ruled, they would revolt."
- – Charlemagne
"Have you ever watched a man being burned alive, optio?"
"Have YOU ever seen a man with so many reports to log that he forgets to eat or sleep, and wasted away over a matter of months?"
- – Members of the Arbites and Administratum bitching around the water-cooler.
The Adeptus Administratum is the name of the pencil pushers of the Imperium of Man. Founded by Malcador the Sigillite back in the day the Emprah was strutting about, the Administratum is the bureaucratic division of the Adeptus Terra. They assess the Imperial Tithes every world must pay to the Imperium, take census data, and maintain records. Unfortunately, a bureaucracy ten thousand years old and spanning most of the galaxy has created red tape that stretches for light years and inertia that can (and has) cost and caused wars. Imagine the Vogon equivalent of the Department of Motor Vehicles with all the grimdark of Warhammer 40,000 and half of the productivity, then multiplied by the number of planets in the Imperium. The Adepts of a department will keep going about their duties long after their department has become completely useless because they will likely be executed for abandoning their position if they were to stop. That's the Administratum. It's run by the aptly named Master of the Administratum, who is the most powerful of the High Lords of Terra (because he can threaten to get anyone so bogged down in red tape they will never see the end of it in the span of their lives).
Life for the average Administratum paper pusher is safer than that of a guardsman or a factory serf toiling away for 14 hours a day in a industrial complex where 'safety codes' are a thing of legend and possibly considered borderline heresy by the nobility, but is not easy or pleasant by any means. Posts are generally hereditary and the standards of living are monastic barring the necessities to make more adepts. Administratum courtships involve both parties making careful inspection of each other's request forms, and is probably the only form of courtship so "not good but also not bad" that Slaanesh just rolled his eyes and gave responsibility to Tzeentch. The general policy is that servants of the Imperium should have no loyalty to anything besides the Imperium and frivolities are discouraged as distraction, though there are those who get around it especially among the higher ups. Mostly what Administratum Adepts do is process what papers come their way for twelve hours between eating, washing and sleeping. This is before the fact that there is a complex web of departments, sub departments and so forth, which has in at least one case led to a war when the Administratum ran out of space in a solar system to put all their paperwork and couldn't decide what to do about it that rages on to this very day.
This environment can produce a number of amazing administrative savants such that if you dropped one of them with her trusty portable cogitator and pens in a mob of a million starved refugees with nothing but the clothes on their back, in a year she'd have organized them to the point that they've built a new city better than the ones they fled (these guys come up in The Black Library's books, eventually the "the bureaucrats are all morons" jokes get old). The problem is that said environment also produces plenty of sapped office drones who are incapable of doing anything but their likely pointless task, petty tyrants whose only joy in life is lording what power their office might have over others, corrupt jerks who can do their jobs well but will only do so when a few Imperials are slipped under the table, and general morons who might be able to spell their name with only one letter out of place on the third try but nevertheless have positions of power because of nepotism and remain in their jobs because the paperwork to remove them gets lost and forgotten (possibly deliberately by one of the previously mentioned corrupt jerks).
It should be noted, however, that the Administratum is an Imperial institution handling Imperial scale affairs often on the scale of hundreds of worlds at best, hundreds of thousands at worst, and efficiency tends to slow when the system is just that massive even when it isn't staffed mostly by incompetents. Planets mostly govern themselves and their local governments have their own bureaucracies to execute the wills of the governor and his associates. As said governors are largely free to set up their systems and are not bound by Administratum rules, this can make things more difficult or more efficient depending on the planet in question. But regardless it also leads to some gear grinding in interactions between the two bodies.
The rest of the Imperium routinely despises the Administratum; even the Adeptus Arbites and the Inquisition admit they are highly inefficient (in fact there's a whole Ordo with the sole role to cut as much red tape as possible). They are routinely inflexible to the point of self-contradiction, such as demanding that planets increase their tithe quotas whilst also raising increasing numbers of guard regiments. The Astartes and Guard are more straightforward in their thoughts, thinking that more than a few wars could be won if they gave each Admin adept a lasgun and sent them to the front lines. However, as much as they are disliked, all other departments need the Administratum, as they won't know where to go to start ordering basic supplies even if they were desperate enough to try. In the far grim future, the ordering form is a dark and mystical document that requires much ritual and mediation before it can be filled in- and Emperor help you if you make a mistake on said form.
These are the various departments that we know exist however the fluff is kinda patchy and much of what we know comes from old, throwaway fluff written without much thought and as much grimdark as is humanly possible so it's kinda debatable how accurate any of it is these days, and remember, they only handle galactic matters, and very rarely interfere with planetary affairs unless it involves them in a way big enough to be bothered over it. They will gladly overlook genocidal interplanetary wars as long as those wars do not disrupt the tithe to the Imperium.
- Departmento Munitorum: You thought Amazon was bad? Try the branch of the Administratum charged with running the Imperial Guard. Their duties encompass aspects ranging from estimating and managing manpower, weaponry, and supplies of the Imperial Guard, but the Guard is so massive that it's rare for the Munitorum NOT to make constant fuck-ups at the least convenient times (You needed some more lasgun power packs? Too bad, you're getting dress clothes for Ogryn instead), and trying to requisition anything beyond your standard kit is an exercise in futility. The Munitorum; through its various agencies, also decides which planets have met their tithe requirements or not, but on a few occasions rounding errors or misspellings have resulted in worlds being declared traitors by accident or wiped out regiments being sentenced to death posthumously. The Departmento Munitorum is a microcosm of the Administratum itself; with a huge number of branches with overlapping responsibilities that report through various different lines of command, often to other Lords of Terra outside their own organisation which ensures the wheels of bureaucracy run slowly...
- Officio Tactica: Subordinate to the Lord Commander Militant of the Imperial Guard. The department that assesses the needs of every active warzone and deploys regiments and materiel accordingly. When Imperial Guard generals need more manpower, they have to go begging to these guys to get it.
- Office of the Imperial Pursary: Subordinate to the Chancellor of the Estate Imperium. The tax collectors and paymasters of the Munitorum who ensure that the planetary tithes are correct and get divvied out according to the needs of the Officio Tactica.
- Office of Records: Subordinate to the Master of the Administratum, the branch who keep the logs of munitorum expenditures... this goes back ten thousand years in some cases.
- Schola Progenium: The Departmento Munitorum's link to the Ecclesiarchy, where the orphans of Imperial Guard / Fleet members are repurposed back into useful members of society.
- Officio Prefectus: Commissars who ensure that Imperial Guard forces continue running efficiently, because the Munitorum obviously can't trust the Imperial Guard to not screw things up.
- Administratum Assay Corps: the branch who do the auditing to make sure nothing funny goes on when the Munitorum interfaces with other branches of the Imperium. Because the Munitorum obviously can't trust other agencies to not screw things up.
- Field Enforcement Corps: the branch who enforce all Munitorum regulations to prevent corruption, because the Munitorum obviously can't trust itself to not screw things up.
- Pioneer Corps: the division of the Munitorum who scout new locations and plan for the construction of new military engineering projects.
- Engineer Corps: the division who are responsible for constructing military engineering projects.
- Labour Corps: the division who deal with civilian and Mechanicus contractors to ensure that military facilities and bases are constructed.
- Siege Auxillia Corps: the division responsible for warehousing, storage, transport, and construction projects necessary for planetary sieges.
- Estate Imperium: Charged with maintaining the tax records of the Imperium and the monumental task of accounting for the planetary tithes of millions of worlds and distributing it back out according to the demands of the Imperium. The Chancellor of the Estate Imperium can occasionally get a spot on the High Lords of Terra. Well, were he not doped-up on anti-depressants to deal his raging OCD, anyway (that's fine though as the only thing he does is provide his boss the Master of the Administratum with an extra vote, also mentioning that this is conflict of interest is heresy).
- Historical Revision Unit: The propaganda branch of the Imperium, charged with making sure Imperial history makes the Emperor and the Imperium look perfect and eliminating all knowledge of traitors. Because the Imperium wasn't grimdark enough, they cut/paste the Ministry of Truth into one of their foundational institutions. However, they must have done it with Linux, because they didn't manage to get enough of in to really affect the universe. Although... there has been a shit ton of 'revisions' to a wide variety of things to make various institutions look so unrealistically good that it defies sanity, and yet it has become 'fact'... Well played GW... On the other hand. This lack of knowledge of the very existence of traitors could be very useful in...other ways (Rebellious types still show up but it's much less likely to spread when most of society thinks that it's good that society is as fucked as it is.). As of the 42nd Millennium, a certain Primarch has practically given this institution the middle finger and started his own band of remembrancers to fix the mess that they made. They can't complain that much about it cause the other guy could bench press Warhound Titans if he wants to and is literally the son of their god.
- Imperial Fleet: The Administratum oversees nearly all vessels in the Imperium short of the independently operating Rogue Traders, Space Marines, Inquisition and the Black Ships. The "Imperial Fleet" operates a number of bases in each segmentum that keep lines of supply, repair and requisition open.
- Imperial Navy: while the Navy does have a link to the Departmento Munitorum, Schola Progenium and the Officio Prefectus; it is not as closely tied to those organisations as the Imperial Guard. While manpower is roughly self-replenishing on vessels that have successive generations of families that never see landfall. In times of desperate crisis, Captains have the right to press-gang planetary populations into service, though life in the Navy is generally preferable to life in the Guard, so this might not always be necessary. Meaning that the Navy depends less on tithes of manpower and mostly concerning itself with procuring consumable items such as fuel, food and munitions. But vessels have the luxury of being able to transport themselves to wherever their supplies are being stored so logistics are less of an issue. The Imperial Navy is commanded by the Lord High Admiral of the Imperial Navy and is occasionally a member of the High Lords of Terra.
- Merchant Fleet: accounts for roughly 90% of all interstellar shipping. Which is fortunate too, since all those Imperial Tithes need to be collected by somebody, and don't expect the Navy to do it. Merchant vessels are assigned charters which come in varying degrees of profitability and heredity: "Free" charters allow the captain to trade anywhere within the Segmentum so long as they do not infringe on existing trade routes. While "Hereditary" charters allow the Captain to pass on the contract to a successor, meaning the ship and crew get long term guaranteed work. Some charters may be a combination of both or neither, depending on how prestigious the charter is. The Speaker for the Chartist Captains represents the combined collective of the Merchant Fleet, and is occasionally a member of the High Lords of Terra.
- Civil Fleets: may also trade from place to place, but unlike the Merchant Fleet they are privately owned by wealthy individuals or powerful cartels. These ships still need to be licensed since even the smallest interstellar vessel is still an enormous capital investment and the Administratum doesn't appreciate city-sized vessels with volatile warp engines moving around freely; and licenses have to be renewed at regular intervals otherwise the route will be reassigned to someone else. This allows the Administratum to essentially "hire" vessels for short term jobs without pulling ships from more essential routes, or have to worry about performing maintenance and upkeep on.
- Officio Agricultae: The department charged with overseeing agriculture in the Imperium, serving to determine the tithes of the various agri-worlds that litter the Imperium, and making sure that that there is enough food to feed the people of the Imperium. Food will still not be distributed equally due to lousy management, so Navy and the Imperial Guard gets priority over food while civilians get whatever scraps are left. Food riots ensue. That tends to happen when you use a bureaucrat with a fucking quill to manage the food supply chain of whole star systems. While the Officio Agricultae should theoretically be able to feed everyone, all it takes is one person being sick for a day or a little bit of politics and a few worlds starve and other worlds have plagues since all the food was left rotting. Also the Officio Agricultae reviews sectors only so often. If a world is,for example, hit by an sudden case of Exterminatus then you will have to wait for 50 years for the next review. To top it all off, although the Officio Agricultae is an Imperial institution, a surprising amount of agri worlds are ruled by, or at least depend on the Machine Cult (that is the reason why these guys exist). The politics that come with that are beyond annoying so cut these guys some slack, after a certain point you just have to ask yourself, do I really need all of these 15 million people in Underhive 27-B/3 ?
- Officio Assassinorum: The office of Assassins is technically subservient to the Administratum, but good luck getting them to see it that way. The department charged with carrying out assassinations is notoriously independent, to the point that it politely mails the remains of spies from other agencies back to them warnings to keep out of their business. See page for more details.
- Officio Medicae: The department charged with medical affairs of the Imperium. Unless you're a noble, a Guardsman, or a Inquisitor, you won't be getting access to any meaningful medical assistance... Well, kinda. In the Guard one mostly gets a certain amount of medical attention based on rank but not competence, usually more akin of the civil war era medicine. (Though not always, rank-and-file Guardsmen getting crude bionic replacements do happen, but a quick mercy-killing before equipment gets reassigned exists as well). Inquisitors and nobles (and anyone with dosh, really) get drugs and cybernetic enhancements that can reverse aging and greatly extend their lifespans. Regular civilians, it really depends on what planet they live on. 'Civilized' (i.e. close to 2nd millenium Terra) worlds often have relatively decent medical services for their population, but they're more the exception than rule. Death Worlds have no organized medical service period. On a Forge World, you have a good chance to get a nice, shiny cybernetic installed to deal with the problem along with the attached 100.000 mandatory work hours required to pay it off (and refusing isn't an option). Agri-worlders often have to do with the local veterinarian, simply because the only existing hospital is next to the spaceport on the other side of the planet. Hive-worlders, on the other hand, have to visit a dread-inducing back-alley doc, who is always located in the underhive, smells of Obscura, and whose services cost an arm and a leg. Sometimes literally. Certain Ecclesiarchal charities and missions do still provide medical treatment for the common citizens of the Imperium, but if they suspect anyone in your area of heresy a humble medical mission can rapidly turn into a crusade to burn your district or even your entire planet into ash. That said, they are on the front lines for rooting out mutation, so they actually can do pretty important work in conjunction with the Sisters Hospitaller.
The labyrinthine structure of the Administratum does have its own hierarchy, although it is as convoluted as anything when it comes to matters of authority: individuals can have multiple ranks denoting their position and status within the Administratum:
- Adept (or Adeptus): the title given to every person under the employment of the Emperor, denoting the fact they work for the IMPERIUM. Can range from the guy who cleans the toilet in the Imperial Palace, all the way up to Planetary Governors and certain Space Marine Chapter Masters. It is important to distinguish between "servants" of the Emperor and mere "subjects" of the Emperor as there are number of legal rights and benefits associated with the title so it does not get issued to just anyone unless they actually work for the Adeptus Terra in some capacity, and people can get fucking territorial about it! Beyond the forms of address, just because you are an "Adept" does not automatically put you higher on the ladder than the next guy, as there are a multitude of other posts and positions within the Administratum, each allowing for their own avenues of advancement:
- Menial: essentially the lowest of the low. These people are the unskilled workers hired in by the Administratum to do the lifting and carrying jobs. They are permitted to use the title of Adept but it does not pass beyond them.
- Subordinate: A member of the Administratum who holds a valuable skilled position such as craftsman or engineer. Their positions and titles are often hereditary, making them slaves of the Imperium who will pass on their jobs and titles to their offspring when they die. Graduates from the Schola Progenium who get jobs in the Administratum typically enter into specialist positions owing to their detailed education and Imperial conditioning, making them ideal candidates for higher ranking roles.
- Scribes: are potentially what people think of most when anyone mentions the Administratum. They are generally drawn from the hereditary slave caste and are low level functionaries and clerks.
- Chirurgeons: trained specialists of the Officio Medicae, presumably aren't hereditary positions owing to the sheer amount of anatomical information required to take on a qualified position, though the Dark Heresy RPG has them graduating from Scribes, so make of that what you will.
- Curators: People tasked with maintaining the written records of the Imperium, even when those records are written in languages that are no longer spoken anywhere. This position is also hereditary because Curator families teach these languages to their offspring, thereby protecting their positions (and titles) jealously rather than translating those records into languages understood by the Imperium at large.
- Ciphers: a unique sub-caste of the hereditary slave group. The Ciphers teach their children methods of self-hypnosis that allows them to memorise long reems of information even when they do not understand what it is they are memorising. They can later divulge this information on command making them trusted messengers within the offices of the Imperium.
- Ordinates: Mid level functionaries and minor officials. If a Subordinate is lucky they might get promoted to Ordinate, bringing their family an increase in living conditions.
- Prefect (or Prefectus): Officers and officials of the Administratum and comes with a variety of sub-grades and forms of address.
- Arguably this includes Commissars since they are literally officers of the Administratum from the Officio Prefectus, meaning they outrank most Adepts, but as with any Prefect the issue becomes moot where those Adepts hold other ranks, so good luck getting an Adeptus Chapter Master to care about your authority.
- Master: These people are the heads of the various offices of the Administratum, below the Master of the Administratum himself. Notably the Chancellor of the Estates Imperium is ranked "Master", hence lower in the pecking order to the Master of the Administratum, even when he is a High Lord of Terra and "technically" his equal.
- Master of the Administratum: The single person at the top of the pyramid, and "arguably" one of the most powerful people in the entire Imperium.