The Executive Branch is one of the three main branches of the U.S. Government and is responsible for carrying out and enforcing laws. The executive branch includes the President, Vice President, the cabinet, executive office, independent agencies and other boards, commissions and committees. Article two of the United States Constitution established the executive branch of the Federal government.
Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution states: “The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.” The president not only is the leader of the executive branch of the federal government but is also the head of state and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The President is responsible for the execution and enforcement of the laws created by congress and has the power to veto a bill passed by Congress, which Congress may then override with a veto by a two-thirds vote from both houses which is an example of the system of checks and balances established by the Constitution.
The executive branch is also responsible for creating diplomacy with other nations. The President has the power to appoint ambassadors and other diplomats and has the power to negotiate and sign treaties, which must be ratified by two-thirds of the Senate. The President also appoints federal judges, including justices into the Supreme Court. In addition to these powers, the president can also issue executive orders, which direct how existing laws are interpreted as well as enforced. In an executive order, the president must state whether the order is based on the U.S. Constitution or a law. Executive orders are recorded in the Federal Register and are indeed considered binding but are still subject to review which federal courts can shut them down based on legal precedence. The President also has unlimited power to extend pardons and clemencies.
Surprisingly, there are not many qualifications for the Presidency outlined in the U.S. Constitution. The constitution only lists three qualifications:
The president must be 35 years of age
A natural born citizen
Must have resided in the United States of America for at least 14 years.
Any person who meets these qualifications would still be disqualified from holding office as president if any of the following conditions were to apply:
The President of the United States, unlike popular opinion, is not elected directly by the people. American Citizens cast ballots for a set of members of the U.S. Electoral college and then these electors cast their votes directly for the President. They apportion the votes base son the population of each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia receiving 3 votes.
The President and the First family live in the White House located in Washington, D.C. which is also the location for the president’s senior staff, meeting rooms, conferences as well as the Oval office.
The Vice President of the United States is the second highest officer in the executive branch. The vice president’s primary responsibility is to support the President and be able to assume the Presidency if in any case the President is unable to perform his/her duties for a number of reasons including but not limited to, the President’s death, resignation, incapacitation or if the Vice President and the majority of the Cabinet state that the President is unable to perform the duties and responsibilities of the presidency.
The Vice president serves as the President of the United States Senate where he or she can cast the deciding vote in case of a tie in the senate. The vice president also presides over joint sessions of Congress.
The qualifications outlined by the U.S. Constitution to serve as the Vice President are as followed:
Be a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States
Have attained the age of thirty-five years
Have resided within the United States for a period of at least fourteen years.
The Vice President is elected alongside the President by the Electoral College. Each elector casts a vote for President and another vote for Vice President.
The Vice President has an official office in the West Wing of the White house as well as in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. The Vice President also maintains an official residence at the United States Naval Observatory in Washington D.C. which has been the official mansion of the Vice President since 1974. Prior to 1974, the Vice President would have lived in their own private residence.
Executive Office of the President
The Executive Office of the President (EOP) was created in 1939 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to assist the President with support they need to make tough decisions. The EOP is responsible for numerous tasks which range from effectively communicating the President’s message to the American people to promoting trade and interests abroad.
The EOP is overseen by the White House Chief of Staff and has traditionally been home to many of the President’s closest advisers. Most members of the EOP are appointed by the President with full discretion. The members as well as the individual offices are constantly shifting as the needs and priorities of the President changes. The most visible parts of the EOP are the White House Communications Office as well as the Press Secretary’s Office. The Press Secretary is responsible for providing daily briefings for the media about the president’s activities and agenda. Part of the EOP but at times not as visible as the National Security Council, which advises the President on foreign policy, national security, and intelligence. They play a critical role in our relations with other nations.
Many senior advisors in the EOP work near the President in the West Wing of the White House, but the majority of the staff is housed in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
The members of the cabinet serve as the closest advisors to the President. It is made up of the heads of the 15 executive departments, high- ranking government officials and the vice president. Cabinet members are nominated by the president but must be approved by a simple majority of the Senate. All the members of the Cabinet take the title Secretary, except the head of the Justice Department who is titled the Attorney General. The Cabinet plays an important role in the Presidential line of Succession which after the Vice President is, Speaker of the House, Senate President pro tempore and then continues with the Cabinet offices in order when the departments were created.
Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Employees: Approx. 100,000
Budget: $95 billion
Secretary: Sonny Perdue
Known as the USDA, this department both develops and executes policies on farming, agriculture, and food for the United States. This department aims to meet the needs of the nations farmers by promoting agricultural trade and production, ensuring food being distributed is safe, protecting natural resources, fostering communities in rural areas, as well as working to end hunger both domestically and abroad.
Consisting of 17 total agencies, the USDA employs over 100,000 Americans and functions on an annual budget of around $95 billion. A majority of this budget is used to implement public services that are legally required such as those designed to provide assistance with nutrition, production of agricultural exports, and environmental conservation.
Department of Commerce (DOC)
Budget: $6.5 billion
Secretary: Wilbur Ross
This agency is tasked with working to improve the living standards for all Americans. This is accomplished by promoting both economic development and technological innovation. Through services such as gathering economic and demographic data, issuing patents and trademarks, improving the understanding of the environment and marine life, and many more; the Department of Commerce supports U.S businesses and industries.
Department of Defense (DOD)
Mission: Provide military forces needed to deter war and to protect the security of our country
Employees: Over 1.3 million active duty, 700,000 civilians, 1.1 million serving in Reserve forces/National Guard
Budget: $712 billion
Secretary: Mark Esper
Headquartered at the Pentagon in Arlington, the DOD is made up of the Department of the Army, Navy (housed within is the Marine Corps), Air Force, also other agencies and offices and commands, that includes the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, the National Security Agency (NSA), and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).
The DOD is the largest agency of the U.S government. The combined military and civilian forces, the DOD protects the interests of the United States through warfare, humanitarian aid, peacekeeping, and disaster relief services.
Department of Education
Mission: Promote student achievement and preparation for competition in a global economy by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access to education opportunity
Employees: Approx. 4,200
Budget: $68.6 billion
Secretary: Betsy Devos
The Department of Education has many tasks such as administering financial aid for education (FAFSA), collecting data on schools to improve education quality, working to complement the efforts of state and local governments, parents, and also the students.
Department of Energy (DOE)
Mission: To advance the national, economic, and energy security of the United States.
Employees: Over 100,000 federal and contracted
Budget: Approx. $23 billion
Secretary: Dan Brouillette
The DOE promotes their mission by encouraging the development of reliable energy that is clean and affordable. The DOE also administers federal funding for scientific research that furthers this goal by using discovery and innovation and ensuring the American economic competitiveness and improving the overall quality of life for Americans. Also, the DOE is tasked with ensuring the security of the nuclear energy within the U.S, as well as protecting the environment by providing a responsible resolution to the legacy of the production of nuclear weaponry.
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
Budget: $700 billion
Secretary: Alex Azar
HHS is the principal agency that protects the health of all American citizens and provides essential human services, especially for those citizens who can no longer care for themselves. Agencies within HHS conduct research into the health and social sciences via the oversight of National Institutes of Health (NIH), work to prevent disease outbreaks by overseeing the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), assuring food and drug safety through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as providing health insurance to those who need it (Medicaid, Medicare).
The programs are administered by 11 divisions operating within the HHS, that includes eight agencies in the U.S Public Health Service, as well as three human services agencies.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
Mission: To prevent and disrupt terrorist attacks; protect the American people, our critical infrastructure, and key resources; and respond to and recover from incidents that do occur and to patrol borders, protect travelers and our transportation infrastructure, enforce immigration laws, and respond to disasters and emergencies.
Budget: $51.7 billion
Secretary: Chad Wolf
Established after the September 11, 2001 attacks, the DHS was established by the Homeland Security act of 2002 and has become the third largest in the Cabinet department. With the establishment, 22 executive branch agencies were consolidated into one; including the U.S Customs Services, U.S Coast Guard, U.S Secret Service, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
DHS also promotes emergency preparedness and prevention among citizens of the U.S. The policy that it runs on is coordinated by the Homeland Security Council at the White House as well as other defense and intelligence agencies, all led by the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security.
Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
Employees: Approx. 9,000
Budget: $40 billion
Secretary: Ben Carson
HUD is responsible for creating and implementing national policies and programs that address the housing needs of the United States, that both improve and further develop the communities within the nation, and also enforces fair housing laws. HUD plays an integral part in supporting homeownership for lower to moderate income families through their programs for mortgage insurance and rent subsidy.
Within HUD are offices such as the Federal Housing Administration that provides mortgage and loan insurance; the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity that ensures that all American have equal access to the housing of their choice, and the Community Development Block Grant Program, that assists communities with economic development, job opportunities, and housing rehabilitation. HUD also administers assistance to Americans that find themselves homeless as well as public housing.
Department of the Interior (DOI)
Mission: To protect America’s natural resources, offer recreation opportunities, conduct scientific research, conserve and protect fish and wildlife, and honor our trust responsibility to American Indians, Alaksan Natives, and our responsibilities to island communities.
Employees: 70,000 employees and 200,000 volunteers
Budget: $16 billion
Secretary: David Bernhardt
The DOI is the principal conservation agency in the United States that manages 500 million acres of land, which equates to one fifth of the land in the United States. DOI also manages hundreds of dams and reservoirs.
The DOI houses agencies such as the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Minerals Management Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey. The DOI also manages the national parks and is in charge of protecting endangered species that live within them.
Along with their budget, the DOI raises billions in revenue from energy, mineral, grazing and timber leases, as well as recreational permits and land sales.
Department of Justice (DOJ)
Mission: To enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law; to ensure public safety against threats foreign and domestic; to provide federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime; to seek just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior; and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.
Budget: $25 billion
Attorney General: William Barr
The DOJ is a collective of 40 organizations, that includes the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the U.S. Marshals, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
The Attorney General is the head of the DOJ, and is also the chief law enforcement officer. The Attorney General also functions as the lawyer of the United States and thus represents the U.S in all legal matters, is an advisor to the president and other heads of the executive departments, also occasionally appears in person before the Supreme Court.
The DOJ is the world’s largest law office, and the central agency for all enforcement of federal laws.
Department of Labor (DOL)
Mission: To foster and promote the welfare of the job seekers, wage earners, and retirees of the United States by improving their working conditions, advancing their opportunities for profitable employment, protecting their retirement and health care benefits, helping employers find workers, strengthening free collective bargaining, and tracking changes in employment, prices, and other national economic measurements.
Budget: $50 billion
Secretary: Eugene Scalia
The DOL oversees programs for ensuring the strength of the American workforce. The programs address job training, safe working conditions, minimum hourly wage and overtime pay, employment discrimination, and unemployment insurance.
The DOL consists of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the federal government’s principal statistics agency for labor economics, and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, which work together to continue to promote the health and safety of the American workforce.
Department of State (DOS)
Budget: $35 billion
Secretary: Mike Pompeo
The DOS is the lead player in developing and implementing the foreign policy of the President. Responsibilities of the DOS include but are not limited to representation of the U.S abroad, foreign assistance, foreign military training programs, countering international crime, and a variety of services to U.S citizens and foreign nationals that are seeking entrance to the U.S.
Through the DOS, the U.S maintains diplomatic relationships with about 180 countries, and in each of those there is a U.S embassy that is posted by civilian U.S Foreign Service employees as well as various international organizations.
The Secretary of State serves as the top foreign policy adviser to the President.
Department of Transportation (DOT)
Mission: To ensure a fast, safe, efficient, accessible and convenient transportation system that meets our vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people.
Employees: Approx. 55,000
Budget: $70 billion
Secretary: Elaine Chao
Organizations within the DOT include the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), The Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), and the Maritime Administration.
Department of the Treasury
Employees: < 100,000
Budget: Approx. $13 billion
Secretary: Steven Mnuchin
The Department of the Treasury is responsible for promoting the economic prosperity of the United States as well as ensuring the soundness and security of the U.S and international financial systems.
The Department operates and maintains systems that are crucial to the financial infrastructure of the U.S, such as the production of coin and paper currency, the disbursement of payments to the American people, collecting taxes, and borrowing of necessary funds in order to run the federal government. The Treasury works alongside other federal agencies, foreign governments, and international financial institutions to encourage global economic growth, raise the overall standard of living, and to predict and prevent economic and financial crises to the best of their abilities.
The Department of the Treasury also has a role in enhancing the national security of the United States by improving the safeguards of our financial systems, implementing economic sanctions against foreign threats, as well as identifying and targeting the financial support networks of national security threats.
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
Budget: $90 billion
Secretary: Robert Wilkie
Created in 1989, the VA is responsible for administering benefit programs for veterans, their families, and survivors. The benefits provided include pension, education, disability compensation, home loans, life insurance, vocational rehabilitation, survivor support, medical care, and burial benefits.
There are over 25 million veterans alive, and almost three out of every four have served in a war or during an official time of hostility. Approximately 70 million people (one fourth of the nation’s population) are potentially eligible for benefits through the VA due to them being a veteran or their relationship to one.