United States federal executive departments

The United States federal executive departments are among the oldest primary units of the executive branch of the federal government of the United Statesâ€"the Departments of State, War, and the Treasury all having been established within a few weeks of each other in 1789.

Federal executive departments are analogous to ministries common in parliamentary or semi-presidential systems but, with the United States being a presidential system, their heads otherwise equivalent to ministers, do not form a government (in a parliamentary sense) nor are they led by a head of government separate from the head of state. The heads of the federal executive departments, known as secretaries of their respective department, form the traditional Cabinet of the United States, an executive organ that serves at the disposal of the president and normally act as an advisory body to the presidency.

Since 1792, by statutory specification, the cabinet constituted a line of succession to the presidency, after the Speaker of the House and the president pro tempore of the Senate, in the event of a vacancy in both the presidency and the vice presidency. The Constitution refers to these officials when it authorizes the President, in Article II, section 2, to "require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices." In brief, they and their organizations are the administrative arms of the President.

Executive Departments of the present

All departments are listed by their present-day name and only departments with past or present cabinet-level status are listed. Order of succession has always included the Vice President (1) as the first in line; at times â€" including presently â€" the Speaker of the House (2) and the President pro tempore of the Senate (3) have also been included.


Executive Departments of the past

See also

  • Independent agencies of the United States government
  • Departments of the United Kingdom Government, a British equivalent to a US federal executive department



  • Relyea, Harold C. "Homeland Security: Department Organization and Management" (PDF), Report for Congress, 2002. RL31493 (August 7, 2002).

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