Law and Politics

Start Free Trial

Name all the cabinets. What does each cabinet oversee? What is the main function of the cabinet secretaries?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The composition of presidential cabinets varies minutely from president to president. What follows, however, is an accurate representation based upon the incumbent president’s cabinet with those minor variations added as noted.

Presidential cabinets are comprised of the heads of each Executive Branch department or agency, all of whom (with rare...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

The composition of presidential cabinets varies minutely from president to president. What follows, however, is an accurate representation based upon the incumbent president’s cabinet with those minor variations added as noted.

Presidential cabinets are comprised of the heads of each Executive Branch department or agency, all of whom (with rare exceptions) have been subjected to the constitutionally-established process of advice and consent, which involves a president nominating an individual to lead a department and the Senate then vetting that individual, debating that individual’s qualifications, and voting on the nomination. Variations occur depending upon each president’s personal preferences, which may reflect presidential priorities or personal affinities. As an example, prior to the post-9/11 terrorist attacks, the highest-ranking official from the intelligence community was the director of Central Intelligence. Since passage of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, that individual has been the Director of National Intelligence, a new position that now serves in presidential cabinets. Directors of Central Intelligence might not have been invited to sit in on cabinet sessions depending upon the individual president’s attitude toward the individual serving at that time as CIA director.

President Trump’s cabinet is comprised of the secretaries of agriculture, commerce, defense, education, energy, health and human services, homeland security, housing and urban development, interior, labor, state, transportation, treasury, and veterans affairs. In addition, the attorney general of the United States, who heads the Department of Justice, the current director of National Intelligence and the current director of the Central Intelligence Agency, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, the administrator of the Small Business Administration, the US trade representative, the White House chief of staff, and the vice president all serve in the cabinet. All executive branch departments, in short, are represented in the cabinet by Senate-confirmed department secretaries and, when relevant, those serving in that capacity as “acting secretary” while awaiting Senate confirmation.

Each cabinet official’s responsibilities are commensurate with the department or agency he or she leads. The secretary of agriculture has responsibility for the Department of Agriculture, which administers federal policies and aid programs oriented towards the agricultural sector of the nation’s economy. The secretary of commerce runs the Department of Commerce, which is responsible for overseeing programs intended to expand economic opportunities within the United States while providing oversight of many international trade activities, such as its role in licensing exports of certain types of goods to foreign countries. The secretary of education administers the funding provided by Congress for the nation’s public-school systems while advancing policies intended to improve the nation’s educational processes. The secretary of defense oversees, as the title suggests, the armed forces and the vast civilian structure that carries out the day-to-day responsibilities of the Department of Defense.

One of the newer cabinet-level positions is that of secretary of energy. Created by President Jimmy Carter in response to the energy crisis of the late 1970s, the secretary of energy oversees the nation’s huge energy infrastructure, much of which actually resides in privately held hands, with an emphasis on moving the United States towards a level of energy independence (in other words, decreasing American reliance on foreign imports of oil and natural gas). In addition, the secretary of dnergy oversees the National Nuclear Security Administration, which is responsible for the nation’s nuclear weapons—a responsibility that obviously involves considerable interaction the secretary of defense.

The secretary of health and human services has responsibility for formulating and executing national-level health care policies while administering social welfare programs. The secretary of housing and urban development administers programs intended to ensure affordable housing for the greatest number of citizens as well as programs intended to prevent discriminatory housing practices. The secretary of homeland security, the newest cabinet-level position, was created in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to better coordinate national efforts at preventing another such attack. The secretary of labor administers programs intended to protect workers by ensuring that they are not subject to discriminatory practices and that working conditions meet specified standards. The secretary of state oversees the nation’s foreign relations through a vast network of oversees embassies and consulates and through leadership of the State Department’s foreign service workers, civilian employees who work in those embassies, and consulates to advance and protect US interests in foreign countries.

The secretary of transportation administers the nation’s expansive federally owned network of highways and freeways as well as other forms of transportation, such as rail and airways. The Department of Transportation is responsible for the safety and efficiency of these vital networks, disruptions to which can seriously impair the nation’s economic security. The secretary of the treasury administers, often in close consultation with the federal reserve chairperson and the nation’s largest financial service providers, the country’s financial well-being. The secretary of the treasury advises the White House on fiscal and tax policies while also protecting the nation against attempts by hostile governments and terrorist organizations to exploit weaknesses in the financial services industry to disrupt the economy and fund terrorist activities. The secretary of veterans affairs is, as the title suggests, responsible for the care of the nation’s military veterans by administering a broad network of hospitals and clinics that serve veterans.

In addition to these federally-established departments, the cabinet also includes administrators of smaller but important agencies, such as that responsible for negotiating trade agreements with foreign governments (US trade representative), administering laws to maintain a suitable environment in which small businesses can operate (Small Business Administration), and the allocation of tax dollars to each department and agency (the Office of Management and Budget).

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team