U.S. Government Executive Branch

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President | Vice-President | Cabinet | Cabinet Rank Members

The Executive Branch of the United States Government consists of the President, Vice-President, Cabinet and several other organizations grouped into the Executive Office of the President. The President serves as the governmental Head-of-State and as the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. military. The Vice-Preisdent serves as the President’s principal advisor and is the president of the Senate. The Vice-President assumes the presidency upon the death of the President. The Cabinet consists of the top officials in 15 executive departments (such as the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Defense) that deal with specific national and international affairs.


The president of the United States is the chief executive of the federal government and commander-and-chief of the United States Military. Below is a list of presidential responsibilities

* The president manages the U.S. government and the country’s national affairs.
* The president can issue executive orders – rules or actions that do not require congressional approval.
* The president can mobilize and call to action the National Guard.
* The president nominates all heads of executive departments.
* The president prepares the national budget.
* The president can veto acts of Congress (though the presidential veto can be overridden via vote).
* The president prepares the State of the Union Address, a nationally televised speech outlining the status of the United States.
* The president appoints members of the Supreme Court.
* The president can pardon individuals convicted of breaking federal law.
* The president is responsible for the establishment and maintenance of relations with foreign nations.
* The president appoints ambassadors to other nations.
* The president is responsible for the protection of Americans abroad.

Requirements to be president: The president must be a natural-born citizen of the United States. The president must also be at least 35 years old and a resident of the United States for 14 years.

Election: Presidential elections are held every four years. Presidents can serve a maximum of two terms, or eight years in office. The president and vice-president are the only officials elected on a national scale.

Salary: The president of the United States is the highest paid government employee. The president earns $400,000 per year.


The Vice-president of the United States becomes president upon the death, resignation, or removal of the president, should he or she accept the position. He or she is also the president of the Senate. In general, however, the U.S. Constitution does not grant executive powers to the vice-president. The vice-president normally performs duties assigned by the president and acts as his agent and advisor. The Vice-president also serves as the Chairman of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Requirements to be vice-president: The vice-president must be a natural-born citizen of the United States. The vice-president must also be at least 35 years old and a resident of the United States for 14 years.

Salary: The vice-president of the United States earns $221,000 per year.


The Presidential Cabinet consists of the heads of the thirteen major federal departments (see above) as well as Cabinet Rank Members which include the vice-president, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the White House Chief-of-Staff, the head of the Office of Management and Budget, the United States Trade Representatitve, and the Head of the Office of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

dod The Secretary of Defense is the top official in the U.S. Department of Defense. Primary roles include: Advising the president on military matters, formulating American defense policy, and for following through with approved military policies. Together, the Secretary of Defense and the President form the two-person National Command Authority, which can launch nuclear weapons with consensus between them. The Secretary of Defense is also the supervisor of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the group comprised of the heads of all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.
dept. of education
The Secretary of Education is the head of the U.S. Department of Education, formed in 1979. The Secretary advises the president on educational plans, policies, and initiatives and directs department officials to carry out those plans. The Secretary also serves as the head of the department’s public relations and is responsible for promoting public understanding of the roles and policies of the department. In addition, the Secretary serves as the federal administrator for four federally funded educational institutions serving African-Americans, blind students, and deaf students. A recent program carried out by the department was the controversial 2002 No Child Left Behind Act, which aimed to reduce the “achievement gap” among America’s children and to increase accountability among its schools.
The United States Attorney General is the top officer in the U.S. Department of Justice and the chief law enforcement officer and attorney in the U.S. Government. The Attorney General offers
advice concerning domestic and international legal matters to the President, Congress, and heads of other cabinet-level departments. Units under the U.S. Department of Justice include the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and the United States Marshals Service.
The Secretary of Energy is the top official of the U.S. Department of Energy. Responsibilities include managing the nations nuclear weapons and energy programs, developing plans for energy conservation, managing domestic energy production, developing practices for radioactive waste disposal, and initiating energy-related research studies through the department’s numerous research facilities and laboratories. Units under the Department of Energy include the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the Office of Secure Transportation (OST), and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The Department also oversees the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
The Secretary of the Interior is the top official of the U.S. Department of the Interior. The department itself is responsible for a variety of functions including the preservation and conservation of America’s land and natural resources and the protection of wildlife. In all, the department manages over 507 million acres of land, 476 dams, and 348 reservoirs. Units under the Department of the Interior include the National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USWS), the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
The Secretary of Commerce is the head of the United States Department of Commerce. The role of the Secretary includes promotion of National and foreign commerce (business), the promotion of national economic growth, job creation, improved living conditions, technological competitiveness, and sustainable development. Offices of the Department of Commerce include the Economic Development Administration (EDA), the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), Bureau of the Census (population count), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Corps (NOAA Corps).
The Secretary of Labor is the top official of the U.S. Department of Labor. Major responsibilities include ensuring occupational safety, unemployment statistics and benefits, and for establishing wage and hourly pay standards. Units under the Department of Labor include the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Employment and Training Administration (ETA), and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). The Department of Labor is responsible for numerous acts in the last 75 years designed to promote job training and labor standards.
The Secretary of Transportation is the head of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Responsibilities of the Secretary include initiating formation of national transportation policies, negotiating international transportation agreements, assuring the workings of the nation’s airlines and preparing transportation legislation and research. Departments falling under the Department of Transportation include the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). One of the most famous programs initiated by the Department of Transportation was the 1965 Highway Beautification Act, which reduced the number of visible junkyards, and encouraged the planting of forests and groves of flowers along highways. It also allowed for the erection of unlimited billboards which many believe has underminded the Act’s original purpose. In addition, the act provided taxpayer funds to pay factories and corporations to reduce emissions.
The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development is the top official of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Responsibilities include promoting community development, regulating domestic housing markets, and building public housing units for economically disadvantaged families. Units under the Department of Housing and Urban Development include the Federal Housing Administration and the Government National Mortgage Association.
The Secretary of Homeland Security is the top official of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Responsibilities include protecting the United States from domestic and International terrorist threats, and responding to natural disasters. In addition, the Department for Homeland Security has taken over the former duties of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service and has divided those duties between two units, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The Department of Homeland Security was formed shortly after the 9/11 Terrorist attacks. It is now the third largest cabinet-level department, and employs over 200,000 people. Units under the Department of Homeland Security include the U.S. Customs Service, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Secret Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The Secretary of the Treasury is the top official in the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the principal economic advisor to the president. Alexander Hamilton was named the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury in 1789. According to the U.S. Department of Treasury’s website, “The Secretary is responsible for formulating and recommending domestic and international financial, economic, and tax policy, participating in the formulation of broad fiscal policies that have general significance for the economy, and managing the public debt. The Secretary oversees the activities of the Department in carrying out its major law enforcement responsibilities; in serving as the financial agent for the United States Government; and in manufacturing coins and currency. ” Interestingly, the United States Treasurer is different from the Secretary of the Treasury. Today, the United States Treasurer serves as an advisor on the production of currency and coins to top-ranking officials in department. The signatures of both the United States Treasurer and the Secretary of Treasury appear on U.S. paper currency.
The Secretary of Agriculture is the head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Responsibilities of the Secretary include developing farming policies, promoting agricultural trade and production, taking measures to ensure food safety, protecting natural resources, encouraging sustainability of rural communities, and finding solutions for domestic and international hunger. Units operating under the Department of Agriculture include the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the Forest Service (FS), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS).
The Secretary of Veterans Affairs is the top official of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Responsibilities include providing U.S. war veterans and their families with comprehensive benefits including pensions, medical benefits, educational loans, life insurance, rehabilitation, and burial services. Units under the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs include the Veterans Health Administration, Veterans Benefits Administration, and the National Cemetery Administration.
The Secretary of Health and Human Services is the the top official in the Department of Health and Human Services. Primary duties include advising the president of health conditions in America, managing welfare, benefits programs (such as the Social Security program), and income security matters, to carry out approved programs and to educate the public about the department’s goals. A recent program established by the department in 2002 was entitled Healthy People 2010, an initiative designed to improve the overall health of Americans. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and National Institutors of Health (NIH) are among agencies that fall under the department.
The United States Secretary of State is the top official in the U.S. Department of State (known as the State Department). John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, and Colin Powell are among former Secretaries of States. The State Department is chiefly concerned with foreign affairs and relations. The Secretary of State is responsible for conducting negotiations with foreign representatives and managing the United States embassies around the world. In addition, the Secretary of State is the president’s chief advisor on foreign politics and policies, and is responsible for coordinating the affairs of the U.S. Government and its departments overseas. The Secretary of State is fourth in line to succeed the president after the Vice-President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and President pro tempore of the Senate.


The Rank Members are members of the presidential cabinet who are not heads of executive departments. Rank Members include the Vice-President, the White House Chief-of-Staff, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, the Director of the National Drug Control Policy, and the United States Trade Representative.

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