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 serving under the President of the United States, among those are the Vice President and the heads of the federal executive departments: all of whom are by federal law (3 U.S.C. § 19) in the line of succession of to the presidency and have duties under the 25th Amendment to the Constitution. Aside from the Attorney General (and the Postmaster General back when it headed an executive department), the heads of the executive departments all receive the title of Secretary.

In addition, the President can by custom unilaterally designate senior White House staffers, heads of other federal agencies and the United States Ambassador to the United Nations as members of the Cabinet, although this is a symbolic status marker and does not, apart from attending cabinet meetings, confer any additional powers as mentioned above.

All members of the Cabinet (except for the Vice President, who is elected under the same procedures as the President) serve at the pleasure of the President, and the President can dismiss them at will for no cause.


There is no explicit definition of the term "Cabinet" in 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 notion of a Cabinet dates back to the first President, George Washington, who appointed a Cabinet of four men to advise him and to assist him in carrying out his duties (his cabinet also included Vice President John Adams):

In the Constitution and federal law[edit]

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 of the Constitution. 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.

The heads of the executive departments and all other federal agency heads are nominated by the President and then presented to the Senate for confirmation or rejection by a simple majority (although, before use of the "nuclear option" during the 113th US Congress, they could have been blocked by filibuster, requiring cloture to be invoked by 35 supermajority to further consideration). If approved, they receive their commission scroll, are sworn in and then begin their duties.

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 the 1967 Federal Anti-Nepotism statute, federal officials are prohibited from appointing their immediate family members to certain governmental positions, including those in the Cabinet.[2]

Under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998, an incoming administration may appoint acting heads of department from employees of the relevant department. These may be existing high-level career employees, from political appointees of the outgoing administration, or sometimes lower-level appointees of the incoming administration.[3]


Main article: Executive Schedule

The heads of the executive departments and most other senior federal officers at cabinet or sub-cabinet level receive their salary under a fixed five level pay plan known as the Executive Schedule, which is codified in Title 5 of the United States Code. 21 positions, including the heads of the executive departments and others, receiving Level I pay are listed in 5 U.S.C. § 5312, and those 46 positions on Level II pay (including the number two positions of the executive departments) are listed in 5 U.S.C. § 5313. As of 2015, Level I annual pay, was set at $203,700.[4]

The annual salary of the Vice President is $235,300.[4] The salary level was set by the Government Salary Reform Act of 1989, which also provides an automatic cost of living adjustment for federal employees. The Vice President does not automatically receive a pension based on that office, but instead receives the same pension as other members of Congress based on his ex officio position as President of the Senate.[5]

Current Cabinet and Cabinet-rank officials[edit]

The individuals listed below were nominated by President Donald Trump to form his Cabinet and were confirmed by the United States Senate on the date noted, or are serving as acting department heads by his request pending the confirmation of his nominees. For a full list of people nominated for Cabinet positions, see Cabinet of Donald Trump.

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.

Vice President and the Heads of the Executive Departments[edit]

The Cabinet includes the Vice President and the heads of 15 executive departments, listed here according to their order of succession to the Presidency. These 16 positions are the core "cabinet member" seats, as distinct from other Cabinet-level seats for other various top level White House staffers and heads of other government agencies, none of whom are in the presidential line of succession.[6] 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
Seal of the Vice President of the United States.svg
Vice President
(Constitution, Art. II, Sec. I)
Mike Pence official portrait.jpg
January 20, 2017
Seal of the United States Department of State.svg
Secretary of State
(22 U.S.C. § 2651a)
Rex Tillerson official Transition portrait.jpg
February 1, 2017
Seal of the United States Department of the Treasury.svg
Secretary of the Treasury
(31 U.S.C. § 301)
February 13, 2017
United States Department of Defense Seal.svg
Secretary of Defense
(10 U.S.C. § 113)
James Mattis Official SECDEF Photo.jpg
January 20, 2017
Seal of the United States Department of Justice.svg
Attorney General
(28 U.S.C. § 503)
Jeff Sessions official portrait.jpg
February 9, 2017
Seal of the United States Department of the Interior.svg
Secretary of the Interior
(43 U.S.C. § 1451)
No image.png
January 20, 2017
Seal of the United States Department of Agriculture.svg
Secretary of Agriculture
(7 U.S.C. § 2202)
Michael T. Scuse official portrait.JPG
January 13, 2017
Seal of the United States Department of Commerce.svg
Secretary of Commerce
(15 U.S.C. § 1501)
No image.png
January 20, 2017
Seal of the United States Department of Labor.svg
Secretary of Labor
(29 U.S.C. § 551)
Ed Hugler
January 20, 2017
Seal of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.svg
Secretary of Health and Human Services
(Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1953, 67 Stat. 631 and 42 U.S.C. § 3501)
Tom Price official Transition portrait.jpg
February 10, 2017
Seal of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.svg
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
(42 U.S.C. § 3532)
Craig Clemmensen.jpg
January 20, 2017
Seal of the United States Department of Transportation.svg
Secretary of Transportation
(49 U.S.C. § 102)
Elaine Chao large.jpg
January 31, 2017
Seal of the United States Department of Energy.svg
Secretary of Energy
(42 U.S.C. § 7131)
Grace Bochenek.jpg
January 20, 2017
Seal of the United States Department of Education.svg
Secretary of Education
(20 U.S.C. § 3411)
Betsy DeVos.jpg
February 7, 2017
Seal of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.svg
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
(38 U.S.C. § 303)
February 14, 2017
Seal of the United States Department of Homeland Security.svg
Secretary of Homeland Security
(6 U.S.C. § 112)
John Kelly official DHS portrait.jpg
January 20, 2017

Cabinet-level officials[edit]

The following officials hold positions that are considered to be Cabinet-level positions. Cabinet-level officials attend Cabinet meetings, but are not official Cabinet Members:

Cabinet-level Officials
Office Incumbent Term began
Seal of the Executive Office of the President of the United States 2014.svg
White House Chief of Staff
(Pub.L. 76–19, 53 Stat. 561, enacted April 3, 1939, Executive Order 8248, Executive Order 10452, Executive Order 12608)
Reince Priebus by Gage Skidmore.jpg
January 20, 2017
Trade Representative
(19 U.S.C. § 2171)
No image.png
January 20, 2017
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence.svg
Director of National Intelligence[7]
(50 U.S.C. § 3023)
No image.svg
January 20, 2017
Seal of the United States Department of State.svg
Ambassador to the United Nations
(22 U.S.C. § 287, Executive Order 9844, Executive Order 10108)
Nikki Haley official Transition portrait.jpg
January 27, 2017
Director of the Office of Management and Budget
(31 U.S.C. § 502, Executive Order 11541, Executive Order 11609, Executive Order 11717)
Mick Mulvaney, Official Portrait, 113th Congress.jpg
February 16, 2017
Seal of the Central Intelligence Agency.svg
Director of the Central Intelligence Agency[7]
(50 U.S.C. § 3036)
Mike Pompeo official Transition portrait.jpg
January 23, 2017
Environmental Protection Agency logo.svg
Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
(5 U.S.C. § 906, Executive Order 11735)
Scott Pruitt, EPA official portrait.jpg
February 17, 2017
Seal of the United States Small Business Administration.svg
Administrator of the Small Business Administration
(15 U.S.C. § 633)
Linda McMahon Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic.jpg February 14, 2017

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]

  • "Department of Commerce" or "Department of Industry and Commerce", proposed by Secretary of the Treasury William Windom in a speech given at a Chamber of Commerce dinner in May 1881.[18]
  • "Department of Natural Resources", proposed by President Herbert Hoover,[citation needed] the Eisenhower administration,[19] President Richard Nixon,[20] the 1976 GOP national platform,[21] and by Bill Daley (as a consolidation of the Departments of the Interior and Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency.)[22]
  • "Department of Peace", proposed by Senator Matthew Neely in the 1930s, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, and other members of the U.S. Congress.[23][24]
  • "Department of Social Welfare", proposed by President Franklin Roosevelt in January 1937.[25]
  • "Department of Public Works", proposed by President Franklin Roosevelt in January 1937.[25]
  • "Department of Conservation" (renamed Department of Interior) proposed by President Franklin Roosevelt in January 1937.[25]
  • "Department of Urban Affairs and Housing", proposed by President John F. Kennedy.[26]
  • "Department of Business and Labor", proposed by President Lyndon Johnson.[27]
  • "Department of Community Development", proposed by President Richard Nixon; to be chiefly concerned with rural infrastructure development.[20][28]
  • "Department of Human Resources" proposed by President Richard Nixon; essentially a revised Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.[20]
  • "Department of Economic Affairs" proposed by President Richard Nixon; essentially a consolidation of the Departments of Commerce, Labor and Agriculture.[29]
  • "Department of Environmental Protection", proposed by Senator Arlen Specter and others.[30]
  • "Department of Intelligence", proposed by former Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell.[31]
  • "Department of Global Development", proposed by the Center for Global Development.[32]
  • "Department of Arts", proposed by Quincy Jones.[33]
  • "Department of Business", proposed by President Barack Obama as a consolidation of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s core business and trade functions, the Small Business Administration, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.[34][35]


See also[edit]

For navigational boxes containing the names of members of each President's Cabinet, see:


  1. ^ Harper, Douglas. "cabinet (n.)". Online Etymology Dictionary. Archived from the original on December 18, 2011. Retrieved March 31, 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. ^ Wulwick, Richard P.; Macchiarola, Frank J. (1995). "Congressional Interference With The President's Power To Appoint" (PDF). Stetson Law Review. XXIV: 625–652. 
  3. ^ Pierce, Olga (2009-01-22). "Who Runs Departments Before Heads Are Confirmed?". ProPublica. Retrieved 2017-01-20. 
  4. ^ a b Obama, Barack (2014-12-19). "ADJUSTMENTS OF CERTAIN RATES OF PAY" (PDF). EXECUTIVE ORDER 13686. The White House. Retrieved 2015-09-18. 
  5. ^ Purcell, Patrick J. (2005-01-21). "Retirement Benefits for Members of Congress" (PDF). CRS Report for Congress. Congressional Research Service. Retrieved 2017-02-19. 
  6. ^ The White House. "The Cabinet". Retrieved June 20, 2015. 
  7. ^ a b "President Donald J. Trump Announces His Cabinet". February 8, 2017. Retrieved February 20, 2017. 
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ "President Clinton Raises FEMA Director to Cabinet Status" (Press release). Federal Emergency Management Agency. February 26, 1996. Archived from the original on January 16, 1997. Retrieved May 22, 2009. 
  10. ^ Fowler, Daniel (November 19, 2008). "Emergency Managers Make It Official: They Want FEMA Out of DHS". CQ Politics. Archived from the original on November 29, 2008. 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 March 3, 2010, by WebCite at
  11. ^ 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. 
  12. ^ 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. 
  13. ^ 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. 
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ 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. 
  16. ^ "President Donald J. Trump Announces His Cabinet". 2017-02-08. Retrieved 2017-02-09. 
  17. ^ "President Trump announces his full Cabinet roster". Retrieved 2017-02-09. 
  18. ^ "A Department of Commerce". The New York Times. 1881-05-13. 
  19. ^ Company, DIANE Publishing (April 1, 1998). "Improving Management and Organization in Federal Natural Resources and Environmental Functions: Hearing Before the Committee on Governmental Affairs, U. S. Senate". DIANE Publishing. Retrieved February 20, 2017 – via Google Books. 
  20. ^ a b c "116 - Special Message to the Congress on Executive Branch Reorganization". The University of California, Santa Barbara - The American Presidency Project. The administration is today transmitting to the Congress four bills which, if enacted, would replace seven of the present executive departments and several other agencies with four new departments: the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Community Development, the Department of Human Resources and the Department of Economic Affairs. 
  21. ^ "Republican Party Platform of 1976". The University of California, Santa Barbara - The American Presidency Project. August 18, 1976. 
  22. ^ Thrush, Glenn (November 8, 2013). "Locked in the Cabinet". Politico. Retrieved November 18, 2013. 
  23. ^ Schuman, Frederick L. (1969). Why a Department of Peace. Beverly Hills: Another Mother for Peace. p. 56. OCLC 339785. 
  24. ^ "History of Legislation to Create a Dept. of Peace". 
  25. ^ a b c "10 - Summary of the Report of the Committee on Administrative Management". The University of California, Santa Barbara - The American Presidency Project. Overhaul the more than 100 separate departments, boards, commissions, administrations, authorities, corporations, committees, agencies and activities which are now parts of the Executive Branch, and theoretically under the President, and consolidate them within twelve regular departments, which would include the existing ten departments and two new departments, a Department of Social Welfare, and a Department of Public Works. Change the name of the Department of Interior to Department of Conservation. 
  26. ^ "23 - Special Message to the Congress Transmitting Reorganization Plan 1 of 1962". The University of California, Santa Barbara - The American Presidency Project. 
  27. ^ "121 - Special Message to the Congress: The Quality of American Government". The University of California, Santa Barbara - The American Presidency Project. In my State of the Union Address, and later in my Budget and Economic Messages to the Congress, I proposed the creation of a new Department of Business and Labor. 
  28. ^ "33 - Special Message to the Congress on Rural Development". The University of California, Santa Barbara - The American Presidency Project. 
  29. ^ "116 - Special Message to the Congress on Executive Branch Reorganization". The University of California, Santa Barbara - The American Presidency Project. The new Department of Economic Affairs would include many of the offices that are now within the Departments of Commerce, Labor and Agriculture. A large part of the Department of Transportation would also be relocated here, including the United States Coast Guard, the Federal Railroad Administration, the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Transportation Systems Center, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Motor Carrier Safety Bureau and most of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Small Business Administration, the Science Information Exchange program from the Smithsonian Institution, the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and the Office of Technology Utilization from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration would also be included in the new Department. 
  30. ^ "Public Notes on 02-RMSP3". Retrieved February 20, 2017. 
  31. ^ J. Stapelton Roy (June 29, 2007). "A Conversation with Michael McConnell". Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved January 9, 2013. 
  32. ^ "Time for a Cabinet-Level U.S. Department of Global Development". The Center for Global Development. 
  33. ^ Clarke, Jr., John (January 16, 2009). "Quincy Jones Lobbies Obama for Secretary of Culture Post". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 19, 2010. 
  34. ^ "President Obama Announces proposal to reform, reorganize and consolidate Government". Barack Obama White House. 
  35. ^ "Obama Suggests 'Secretary of Business' in a 2nd Term - Washington Wire - WSJ". The Wall Street Journal. 

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]