There are a couple of answers to your question. But first, understanding the question might be in order.
What is bureaucracy? Any job that doesn't produce "something" such as shoes, houses, light bulbs, or whatever, is technically "bureaucracy." Thus, banking, property management, stock traders, and (yes, of course) government are all forms of bureaucracy.
Secondly, what creates bureaucracy? Well, increased population, specialization, and economic growth are all things that grow bureaucracy. In a small clan or tribal society, the population is small, there is little specialization, and the economy is largely bartering. As society grows, you begin to have specialists (farmers, bakers, banks, doctors), until eventually you have a society capable of supporting factories making barbie dolls and silicon chips. Once you have this level of population, economy, and specialization, bureaucracy grows exponentially, since you need designers and accountants and human resources and stock markets in order to "afford" the creation of factories, much less an economy where factory made widgets can be bought.
Okay, that is one side of the question. Undoubtedly, your question is aimed at government bureaucracy in particular, so let's explore that. Can a modern government exist without a bureaucracy? Well, if the politicians are the factory workers, and laws are the things they "produce," then who exists to enforce the laws? That would be the bureaucracy. If the government "buys" almost 1,000,000 square miles of land (the Louisiana Purchase), how does the government manage that land? It has to hire land managers that dole out homesteads, check that homesteads are successful. Later on, it specializes use of the land that is still owned by the government, into units of BLM, Forest Service, National Parks, military bases, and so on, each having a different mission, but administering the land. If the politicians say that meat sold for food must be inspected, who inspects the food? Nowadays, much of it is "self-inspected" by the producers and factories (a.k.a. private industry bureaucrats), but it used to be inspected by government bureaucrats.
Hopefully I have established for you that a government must contain some bureaucracy...now, as to what has caused its growth, and the difficulties of reduction thereof. First, let me point out that the bureaucracy was technically shrinking from 1950 until 2000 (you'll have to check Office of Personnel Management record for yourself if you don't believe me), and if you take into account the population of the United States over that period, it should have been growing just to keep up with inflation (check census records for yourself), so technically, it was not merely shrinking, it was shrinking at what some might argue was an alarming rate.
But let us ignore those statistics for a while and just do a thought experiment. It is possible to have a very efficient bureaucracy: in a dictatorship, the dictator can appoint whomever he/she likes to run whatever programs they like. In these cases, people that are loyal to the head of state are the only people that will get jobs, and they will do everything possible to ensure they run a tight operation, and anyone who doesn't is likely to lose their head. Literally. On the other hand, we live in a democracy, where the government is ostensibly "of, for, and by the people." This means that anything any bureaucrat does must be recorded to provide transparency to the public (ever heard of the "Freedom of Information Act"?), integrity, and consistency (in other words: red tape and inefficiency). Also, anyone hired should be hired based on competency and merit, and party affiliation is not held in high regard. Doing this requires paperwork and processes unnecessary in a dictatorship (or in a private company) to prove objectivity, consistency, and (again) transparency (a.k.a. more red tape and inefficiency). Thus, a democracy should have bureaucrats that can work effectively from administration to another, regardless of the political winds. And effectiveness often is (but not always) incompatible with efficiency. The aim, then, is for compromise and balance between the two.
In closing: a democracy has an inherently large and complex bureaucracy...but note that I am not saying that our bureaucracy could not stand to be MORE efficient than it is. On the other hand, I am saying that if DO you have a very lean and efficient bureaucracy, you probably aren't in a democracy.
Answered By: golgafrincham - 5/21/2012