The United States government is comprised of three branches of government: the executive branch, the legislative branch, and the judicial branch. This article focuses on the executive branch. The executive branch consists of the president of the United States, the vice president of the United States, and the federal agencies whose leaders make up the Cabinet.
The Cabinet, as it is commonly referred to, represents a crucial part of the executive branch of the United States government. The Cabinet was established under Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution. After the Constitution had been ratified, Alexander Hamilton was approved by the Senate as the secretary of the treasury in September 1789, making him the first member of the Cabinet.
Since then, the same process has been followed for the selection of Cabinet members. The president nominates members who are then approved by a majority vote of the Senate before becoming a member of the president's Cabinet.
Cabinet members, once approved by the Senate, serve as advisers to the president of the United States. The president can inquire about any member's opinion on any subject relating to the responsibilities of their respective offices. The ability to ask for advice on any topic makes the Cabinet members some of the president's most trusted confidants.
The vice president of the United States, an office currently held by Joseph R. Biden, along with 15 executive department heads comprise the president's Cabinet.
The current 15 departments and its respective Cabinet member are as follows:
- Secretary John Kerry – Department of State
- Secretary Jack Lew – Department of the Treasury
- Secretary Ashton Carter – Department of Defense
- Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch – Department of Justice
- Secretary Sally Jewell – Department of the Interior
- Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack – Department of Agriculture
- Secretary Penny Pritzker – Department of Commerce
- Secretary Thomas Perez – Department of Labor
- Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell – Department of Health and Human Services
- Secretary Julian Castro – Department of Housing and Urban Development
- Secretary Anthony Foxx – Department of Transportation
- Secretary Ernest Moniz – Department of Energy
- Secretary John King – Department of Education
- Secretary Robert McDonald – Department of Veterans Affairs
- Secretary Jeh Johnson – Department of Homeland Security
In addition to advising the president and heading important federal agencies, Cabinet members comprise the presidential line of succession, a necessary element to the stability and survival of the United States government. The above list is in order of succession following the vice president of the United States, the speaker of the House of Representatives, and the president pro tempore of the Senate.
The additional executive departments having Cabinet-rank and their respective heads are:
- Denis McDonough – White House Chief of Staff
- Administrator Gina McCarthy – Environmental Protection Agency
- Director Shaun L.S. Donovan – Office of Management & Budget
- Ambassador Michael Froman – United States Trade Representative
- Ambassador Samantha Power – United States Mission to the United Nations
- Chairman Jason Furman – Council of Economic Advisers
- Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet – Small Business Administration
Presidents assemble their cabinets with members to best advise them throughout the presidency. Cabinet members' expertise is vital to the president, influencing the policies and actions a president chooses to support while in office.
Ultimately, the Cabinet is an important tool at the hands of the president of the United States.