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United States federal executive departments

The United States federal executive departments are the principal units of the executive branch of the federal government of the United States. They are analogous to ministries common in parliamentary or semi-presidential systems but (the United States being a presidential system) they are led by a head of government who is also the head of state. The executive departments are the administrative arms of the President of the United States. There are currently 15 executive departments.

The heads of the executive departments receive the title of Secretary of their respective department, except for the Attorney-General who is head of the Justice Department (and the Postmaster General who until 1971 was head of the Post Office Department). The heads of the executive departments are appointed by the President and take office after confirmation by the United States Senate, and serve at the pleasure of the President. The heads of departments are members of the Cabinet of the United States, an executive organ that normally acts as an advisory body to the President. In the Opinion Clause (Article II, section 2, clause 1) of the U.S. Constitution, heads of executive departments are referred to as "principal Officer in each of the executive Departments".

The heads of executive departments are included in the line of succession to the President, in the event of a vacancy in the presidency, after the Vice President, the Speaker of the House and the President pro tempore of the Senate.


Current departmentsEdit

Seal Department Formed Employees Annual budget Line of

Succession Rank

Portrait Name
and title
  State July 27, 1789 69,000
13,000 Foreign Service
11,000 Civil Service
45,000 local
$90.3 billion
#4   Mike Pompeo
Secretary of State
  Treasury September 2, 1789 86,049
$14 billion
#5   Steven Mnuchin
Secretary of the Treasury
  Defense September 18, 1947 2.86 million $717 billion
#6   Mark EsperA
Secretary of Defense
  Justice July 1, 1870 113,543
$31 billion
#7   William Barr
Attorney General
  Interior March 3, 1849 70,003
$20.7 billion
#8   David Bernhardt
Secretary of the Interior
  Agriculture May 15, 1862 105,778
(June 2007)
$151 billion
#9   Sonny Perdue
Secretary of Agriculture
  Commerce February 14, 1903 43,880
$8.6 billion
#10   Wilbur Ross
Secretary of Commerce
  Labor March 4, 1913 17,450
$12.1 billion
#11   Alexander Acosta
Secretary of Labor
  Health and Human Services April 11, 1953 79,540
$1 020 billion


#12   Alex Azar
Secretary of Health and Human Services
  Housing and Urban Development September 9, 1965 8,416
$32.6 billion
#13   Ben Carson
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
  Transportation April 1, 1967 58,622 $72.4 billion #14   Elaine ChaoB
Secretary of Transportation
  Energy August 4, 1977 12,944
$27.9 billion
#15   Rick Perry
Secretary of Energy
  Education October 17, 1979 3912
$68 billion
#16   Betsy DeVos
Secretary of Education
  Veterans Affairs 21 July 1930 377,805
$180 billion
#17   Robert Wilkie
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
  Homeland Security November 25, 2002 229,000
$40.6 billion
#18   Kevin McAleenanA
Secretary of Homeland Security


A - Eligible if acting officers whose prior executive branch appointment required Senate confirmation are included in the line of succession, which is unclear. The current succession act states that the list of eligible cabinet officers includes only "officers appointed, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate," whereas the previous act stated that the list (of eligible cabinet secretaries) only applied to persons confirmed to "the offices therein named," thus excluded acting secretaries. Many officials who serve as acting secretaries have previously received Senate confirmations for deputy-level posts, and so might be eligible under the more ambiguous wording of the current law.[3]

B - Not eligible to become acting president—not a natural-born U.S. citizen. Chao's citizenship was acquired through naturalization.[6]

Former departmentsEdit

Seal Department Formed Abolished Superseded by Last head
Portrait Name
and title
  War August 7, 1789 September 18, 1947 Department of the Army
Department of the Air Force
  Kenneth C. Royall
Secretary of War
  Army September 18, 1947 August 10, 1949 Department of Defense
(as executive department)
becomes military department
  Gordon Gray
Secretary of the Army
  Air Force   W. Stuart Symington
Secretary of the Air Force
  Navy April 30, 1798   Francis P. Matthews
Secretary of the Navy
  Post Office February 20, 1792 July 1, 1971 Postal Service   Winton M. Blount
Postmaster General

See alsoEdit


External linksEdit