Cabinet of the United States

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The Cabinet of the United States is composed of the most senior appointed officers of the executive branch of the federal government of the United States, who are generally the heads of the federal executive departments. The existence of the Cabinet dates back to the first President of the United States, George Washington, who appointed a Cabinet of four people: Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson; Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton; Secretary of War Henry Knox; and Attorney General Edmund Randolph to advise him and to assist him in carrying out his duties.

All Cabinet members are nominated by the President and then presented to the Senate for confirmation or rejection by a simple majority. If approved, they are sworn in and then begin their duties. Aside from the Attorney General, and the Postmaster General when it was a Cabinet office, they all receive the title of Secretary. Members of the Cabinet serve at the pleasure of the President; the President may dismiss or reappoint them (to other posts) at will.

In federal law and the Constitution[edit]

James K. Polk and his Cabinet in 1846. The first Cabinet to be photographed.
Abraham Lincoln met with his Cabinet for the first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation draft, (July 26, 1862).
The Nixon Cabinet, 1969
President Gerald R. Ford meeting with his Cabinet (June 25, 1976)
President Jimmy Carter's Cabinet meeting (February 13, 1978)
President Reagan and his Cabinet (September 11, 1986)
President George H. W. Bush and his Cabinet in the Cabinet Room (September 5, 1989).
The Clinton Cabinet, in 1993.
The Bush Cabinet (February 2008).
The first Obama Cabinet (September 2009).

There is no explicit definition of the term "Cabinet" in either the United States Constitution, the United States Code, or the Code of Federal Regulations. The name comes from a 17th-century usage for a private room where advisors would meet, which developed into the modern sense of a council of advisors.[1]

The term "principal Officer in each of the executive Departments" is mentioned in Article II, Section 2, Clause 1, and the term "Heads of Departments" is mentioned in Article II, Section 2, Clause 2. The term "principal officers of the executive departments" is also mentioned in the Twenty-fifth Amendment, Section 4. The executive departments are listed in 5 U.S.C. § 101. Although there are occasional references to "Cabinet-level officers," which when viewed in their context do refer to these "principal officers" and "heads of departments," the terms "principal officers" and "heads of departments" are not necessarily synonymous with "Cabinet" members.

In 3 U.S.C. § 302 with regard to delegation of authority by the President, it is provided that "nothing herein shall be deemed to require express authorization in any case in which such an official would be presumed in law to have acted by authority or direction of the President." This pertains directly to the heads of the executive departments as each of their offices is created and specified by statutory law (hence the presumption) and thus gives them the authority to act for the President within their areas of responsibility without any specific delegation.

Under 5 U.S.C. § 3110, federal officials are prohibited from appointing their immediate family members to certain governmental positions, including those in the Cabinet. Passed in 1967, this law was a congressional response in delayed dismay about John F. Kennedy's appointment of his brother Robert F. Kennedy to the office of the Attorney General.


Main article: Executive Schedule

Cabinet officials receive an amount of pay determined by Title 5 of the United States Code. According to 5 U.S.C. § 5312, Cabinet level positions qualify for Level I pay, which was set at an annual salary of $199,700 in 2011. Some Cabinet-level officials, including the Vice President and the White House Chief of Staff, have their salaries determined differently.


For the first 175 years of its existence, the Cabinet as a body would meet frequently, sometimes several times a week. These were so important that they continued to be held in the absence of President Woodrow Wilson while he was away in France during the Versailles conference, leading to the inclusion of the Vice President for the first time. During the administrations of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, the frequency of meeting declined, and by the end of the latter's administration, months would pass between sessions.

An expanded White House staff has taken over many of the functions of the Cabinet as a body.

Current Cabinet and Cabinet-rank officials[edit]

The individuals listed below were nominated by President Barack Obama to form his Cabinet and were confirmed by the United States Senate on the date noted. An elected Vice President does not require Senate confirmation, nor does the White House Chief of Staff, which is an appointed staff position of the Executive Office of the President.


The current Cabinet includes the Vice President and the heads of 15 executive departments, listed here according to their order of succession to the Presidency.[2] Note that the Speaker of the House and the President pro tempore of the Senate follow the Vice President and precede the Secretary of State in the order of succession, but both are in the legislative branch and are not part of the Cabinet.

(statutory basis)
Incumbent Term began
US Vice President Seal.svg
Vice President
(Constitution, Art. II, Sec. I)
Official portrait of Vice President Joe Biden.jpg
January 20, 2009
Seal of the United States Department of State.svg
Secretary of State
(22 U.S.C. § 2651a)
John Kerry official Secretary of State portrait.jpg
February 1, 2013
Secretary of the Treasury
(31 U.S.C. § 301)
Jacob Lew official portrait.jpg
February 28, 2013
United States Department of Defense Seal.svg
Secretary of Defense
(10 U.S.C. § 113)
Ash Carter DOD Secretary Portrait.jpg
February 17, 2015
Seal of the United States Department of Justice.svg
Attorney General
(28 U.S.C. § 503)
Loretta Lynch official photo.jpg
April 27, 2015
Secretary of the Interior
(43 U.S.C. § 1451)
Secretary Jewell and the Northwest Youth Corps (8818705428).jpg
April 12, 2013
Secretary of Agriculture
(7 U.S.C. § 2202)
Tom Vilsack, official USDA photo portrait.jpg
January 20, 2009
Secretary of Commerce
(15 U.S.C. § 1501)
Penny Pritzker official portrait.jpg
June 26, 2013
Secretary of Labor
(29 U.S.C. § 551)
July 23, 2013
Secretary of Health and Human Services
(Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1953, 67 Stat. 631 and 42 U.S.C. § 3501)
Sylvia Mathews Burwell official portrait.jpg
June 9, 2014
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
(42 U.S.C. § 3532)
Julián Castro's Official HUD Portrait.jpg
July 28, 2014
Secretary of Transportation
(49 U.S.C. § 102)
Anthony Foxx official portrait.jpg
July 2, 2013
Secretary of Energy
(42 U.S.C. § 7131)
Moniz official portrait sitting.jpg
May 21, 2013
Secretary of Education
(20 U.S.C. § 3411)
January 20, 2009
Seal of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.svg
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
(38 U.S.C. § 303)
Robert A. McDonald Official Portrait.jpg
July 30, 2014
Seal of the United States Department of Homeland Security.svg
Secretary of Homeland Security
(6 U.S.C. § 112)
Jeh Johnson official DHS portrait.jpg
December 23, 2013

Cabinet-rank officials[edit]

The following officials have positions of "Cabinet-rank" but which are not part of the Cabinet:

Cabinet-rank Officials
Office Incumbent Term began
White House Chief of Staff
Denis McDonough 2011.jpg
January 25, 2013
Director of the Office of Management and Budget
Shaun Donovan.jpg
July 28, 2014
Environmental Protection Agency logo.svg
Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
Gina McCarthy official portrait.jpg
July 18, 2013
Trade Representative
Michael Froman official portrait.jpg
June 21, 2013
Seal of the United States Department of State.svg
Ambassador to the United Nations
Samantha Power.jpg
August 2, 2013
Council of Economic Advisers.png
Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers
Jason Furman official portrait.jpg
August 2, 2013
Administrator of the Small Business Administration
Maria Contreras Sweet portrait.jpg April 7, 2014

Former executive and Cabinet-level departments[edit]

Renamed heads of the executive departments[edit]

Other positions no longer of Cabinet rank[edit]

Proposed Cabinet departments[edit]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Harper, Douglas. "cabinet (n.)". Online Etymology Dictionary. Archived from the original on 2011-12-18. Retrieved 31 March 2015. Meaning "case for safe-keeping" (of papers, liquor, etc.) is from 1540s, gradually shading to mean a piece of furniture that does this. Sense of "private room where advisors meet" (c.1600) led to modern political meaning (1640s); perhaps originally short for Cabinet council (1630s); compare board (n.1) in its evolution from place where some group meets to the word for the group that meets there. 
  2. ^ The White House. "The Cabinet". Retrieved June 20, 2015. 
  3. ^ The office of Secretary of Foreign Affairs existed under the Articles of Confederation from October 20, 1781 to March 3, 1789, the day before the Constitution came into force.
  4. ^ "President Clinton Raises FEMA Director to Cabinet Status" (Press release). Federal Emergency Management Agency. February 26, 1996. Retrieved May 22, 2009. 
  5. ^ Fowler, Daniel (November 19, 2008). "Emergency Managers Make It Official: They Want FEMA Out of DHS". CQ Politics. Retrieved March 3, 2010. During the Clinton administration, FEMA Administrator James Lee Witt met with the Cabinet. His successor in the Bush administration, Joe M. Allbaugh, did not.  (Archived by WebCite at
  6. ^ Tenet, George (2007). At the Center of the Storm. London: HarperCollins. p. 136. ISBN 0-06-114778-8. Under President Clinton, I was a Cabinet member—a legacy of John Deutch's requirement when he took the job as DCI—but my contacts with the president, while always interesting, were sporadic. I could see him as often as I wanted but was not on a regular schedule. Under President Bush, the DCI lost its Cabinet-level status. 
  7. ^ Schoenfeld, Gabriel (July–August 2007). "The CIA Follies (Cont'd.)". Commentary. Retrieved May 22, 2009. Though he was to lose the Cabinet rank he had enjoyed under Clinton, he came to enjoy "extraordinary access" to the new President, who made it plain that he wanted to be briefed every day. 
  8. ^ Sciolino, Elaine (September 29, 1996). "C.I.A. Chief Charts His Own Course". New York Times. Retrieved May 22, 2009. It is no secret that Mr. Deutch initially turned down the intelligence position, and was rewarded for taking it by getting Cabinet rank. 
  9. ^ Clinton, Bill (July 1, 1993). "Remarks by the President and Lee Brown, Director of Office of National Drug Control Policy". White House. Retrieved May 22, 2009. We are here today to install a uniquely qualified person to lead our nation's effort in the fight against illegal drugs and what they do to our children, to our streets, and to our communities. And to do it for the first time from a position sitting in the President's Cabinet. 
  10. ^ Cook, Dave (March 11, 2009). "New drug czar gets lower rank, promise of higher visibility". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved March 16, 2009. For one thing, in the Obama administration the Drug Czar will not have Cabinet status, as the job did during George W. Bush's administration. 
  11. ^ "History of Legislation to Create a Dept. of Peace". 
  12. ^ Republican Party Platform of 1976, August 18, 1976;The American Presidency Project;
  13. ^ Thrush, Glenn (November 8, 2013). "Locked in the Cabinet". Politico. Retrieved November 18, 2013. 
  14. ^ Clarke, Jr., John (January 16, 2009). "Quincy Jones Lobbies Obama for Secretary of Culture Post". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 19, 2010. 
  15. ^ "Obama Suggests 'Secretary of Business' in a 2nd Term - Washington Wire - WSJ". The Wall Street Journal. 
  16. ^ J. Stapelton Roy (June 29, 2007). "A Conversation with Michael McConnell". Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved January 9, 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Bennett, Anthony. The American President's Cabinet. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Macmillan, 1996. ISBN 0-333-60691-4. A study of the U.S. Cabinet from Kennedy to Clinton.
  • Grossman, Mark. Encyclopedia of the United States Cabinet (Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO; three volumes, 2000; reprint, New York: Greyhouse Publishing; two volumes, 2010). A history of the United States and Confederate States Cabinets, their secretaries, and their departments.
  • Rudalevige, Andrew. "The President and the Cabinet", in Michael Nelson, ed., The Presidency and the Political System, 8th ed. (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2006).

External links[edit]