Your guide to the Cabinet of the United States

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October 23, 2019

Your guide to the Cabinet of the United States

Each U.S. president has closely relied on a group of trusted advisers, known as the Cabinet, to provide advice and inform policy decisions. While George Washington’s Cabinet only consisted of four people—secretary of the treasury, secretary of state, secretary of war, and the attorney general—President Donald Trump’s Cabinet currently has 23 positions. 

The Department of the Navy, which is now called the Department of Defense, was the first Cabinet-level department to be added to the ranks in 1798. The four original Cabinet positions remain the most important positions, and are often referred to collectively as the “inner Cabinet.”

The modern-day Cabinet core is made up of the vice president and the heads of 15 executive branch departments. The department heads must be confirmed by the United States Senate, but the president also has the authority to name other high-ranking officials, such as the White House chief of staff and the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. President Trump decided to demote the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers from his Cabinet when he took office.

Trump’s cabinet seems to constantly be in the news whether due to his re-shuffling or because of various members’ resignations. Recently, Kevin McAleenan resigned from his post as the Homeland Security chief—citing a desire for more family time—opening the door for a fifth person to assume the role since Trump took office. A few days later, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry stepped down from his role, which he had served since 2017. Trump is likely to nominate Deputy Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette, in his place.

Stacker’s guide to the current United States Cabinet includes all Cabinet positions in the Trump administration. Read on to learn more about the people the president trusts to provide technical proficiency and expert advice.

You may also like: Who you should know in your local government

#1. Vice president

Current official: Michael R. Pence

The vice president is selected as a running mate during a candidate’s presidential campaign and is first in line to assume the presidency if the president were to die, resign, or be temporarily incapacitated while in office. The vice president also serves as the president of the United States Senate, with the power to cast a tie-breaking vote in the rare instance the Senate cannot reach a consensus.


#2. Secretary of agriculture

Current official: Sonny Perdue

The secretary of agriculture supervises the farming industry, oversees food quality, and offers food assistance. The department also promotes agriculture production and resource conservation. There are 29 agencies and nearly 100,000 employees within the Department of Agriculture.


#3. U.S. attorney general

Current official: William Barr

The U.S. attorney general oversees the Department of Justice, which enforces and defends the law. The department consists of 40 organizations, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the U.S. Marshals. The current attorney general, William Barr, took office on Feb. 14, 2019. Barr was selected by President Trump following the resignation of Jeff Sessions, Trump’s first pick for attorney general. This is Barr’s second stint as attorney general having first led the Justice Department under President George H.W. Bush.


#4. Secretary of commerce

Current official: Wilbur L. Ross, Jr.

The Department of Commerce promotes economic development by gathering economic data, issuing patents and trademarks, promoting exports, and creating telecommunications policies. The secretary of commerce oversees about 38,000 department employees, and works with a $6.5 billion budget.


#5. Secretary of defense

Current official: Navy Secretary Richard Spencer (acting)

The secretary of defense oversees the Department of Defense, responsible for the nation’s military forces. The department is headquartered in the Pentagon, one of the largest office buildings in the world. The secretary of defense oversees a $716 billion budget, and is considered America’s largest employer, with nearly 3 million employees, including more than 2 million service members.

UPDATE: Mark Esper (pictured)—the acting secretary who took over for previous acting secretary Patrick Shanahan on June 18, 2019—is currently going through the confirmation process for the permanent secretary position. A final vote is expected during the week of July 14.)

#6. Secretary of education

Current official: Elizabeth "Betsy" DeVos 

The Department of Education administers federal financial aid, collects data on schools, and works in tandem with state and local governments. The secretary of education is responsible for 4,200 employees, and a $68.6 billion budget.


#7. Secretary of energy

Current official: James Richard "Rick" Perry

The secretary of energy oversees the U.S. energy supply, and maintains a safe nuclear deterrent. The department is also responsible for ongoing environmental clean-up from Cold War-era nuclear missions. Current Secretary of Energy Rick Perry is only the 14th individual to serve in this role, as the department was started in 1977.

UPDATE: Perry announced on Oct. 17, 2019, he plans to resign amidst the intensifying Ukraine controversy and his alleged role. Soon after, Trump announced he would nominate Dan Brouillette, the deputy energy secretary who has served in the role since August 2017.

#8. Secretary of health and human services

Current official: Alex Azar

The secretary of health and human services administers Medicare and Medicaid, and oversees the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control. This individual is responsible for 65,000 employees. President Trump’s first secretary of the department—Tom Price—resigned in September 2017 following criticism over taxpayer-funded chartered flights.


#9. Secretary of homeland security

Current official: Kevin McAleenan (acting)

The secretary of homeland security is tasked with protecting U.S. citizens from terrorist threats as well as promoting emergency preparedness. The department was established after the 9/11 attacks, combining 22 executive agencies, including the Coast Guard, Secret Service, Transportation Security Administration, and U.S. Customs Service. Former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen abruptly resigned April 7 amid rumors of pressure from the White House and the ongoing debate over the U.S.-Mexico border.

UPDATE: On Oct. 11, 2019, McAleenan resigned to spend more time with his family, meaning there will be an eventual fifth person to hold the position. Immigration hard-liners prefer Ken Cuccinelli, the current director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Mark Morgan, the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Chad Wolf, a top Department of Homeland Security official is another eligible choice.

#10. Secretary of housing and urban development

Current official: Benjamin S. Carson, Sr.

The secretary of housing and urban development implements fair housing laws, develops affordable housing programs, and provides access to mortgage insurance. The department helps support low-income families through numerous programs. Secretary Carson oversees 9,000 employees, and a $40 billion budget.


#11. Secretary of the interior

Current official: David Bernhardt (acting)

The secretary of the interior manages 500 million acres of land across the U.S., and serves as the director of the country’s conservation agency, overseeing recreational opportunities, and working to protect fish and wildlife. Former Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt is currently serving as the acting Secretary of the Interior.


#12. Secretary of labor

Current official: Alexander Acosta 

The secretary of labor protects the American workforce, and guards the welfare of job-seekers, wage-earners, and retirees. The Department of Labor also works to improve working conditions, strengthen collective borrowing, and ensure job benefits. The secretary of the department oversees 15,000 employees, and operates on a $50 billion budget.

UPDATE: Once Acosta steps down on July 19, 2019, current Deputy Secretary of Labor Patrick Pizzella will serve as acting secretary of labor. 


#13. Secretary of state

Current official: Mike Pompeo

The secretary of state oversees the Department of State, which leads the country’s foreign policy and diplomacy efforts. This individual carries out the administration’s policies through the Foreign Service, Civil Service, and U.S. Agency for International Development. The secretary of state also serves as the president’s top foreign policy adviser. Rex Tillerson served as President Trump’s secretary of state until his resignation in December 2017. Mike Pompeo was sworn into the role in April.


#14. Secretary of transportation

Current official: Elaine L. Chao

The Department of Transportation maintains the country’s transit system. The secretary of transportation oversees the the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Transit Administration, and the Maritime Administration. As secretary, Elaine Chao oversees 55,000 employees and operates on a budget of $70 billion.


#15. Secretary of the treasury

Current official: Steven T. Mnuchin

The treasury secretary works to sustain a strong economy, and protects the integrity of the U.S. financial system. The secretary of the department frequently advises the president on economic issues, and operates numerous components of the country’s financial infrastructure. This includes producing currency, collecting revenue and taxes, and borrowing money to fund the government. As secretary, Steven Mnuchin also supervises national banks, and investigates cases of tax evasion, counterfeit, and forgery.


#16. Secretary of veterans affairs

Current official: Robert Wilkie

The secretary of veterans affairs administers and maintains benefit programs for veterans and their families, including pension, education, home loans, life insurance, medical care, and rehabilitation. The department received Cabinet-level offices in 1989. In March, President Trump fired David Shulkin, his secretary of veterans affairs. Robert Wilkie, the current secretary, was sworn into the role in July.


#17. Administrator of the Small Business Administration

Current official: Linda E. McMahon

The administrator of the Small Business Administration fosters small business growth and development by providing business financing, entrepreneurial development, and government contracting opportunities. The administrator is charged with managing the agency and upholding its programs. This position was elevated to a Cabinet-level role under President Barack Obama.


#18. Director of national intelligence

Current official: Daniel Coats

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence defends U.S. interests by combining foreign, military, and domestic intelligence. The director of national intelligence oversees the U.S. intelligence community, and serves as the principal national security adviser to the president, National Security Council, and Homeland Security Council.


#19. Director of the Central Intelligence Agency

Current official: Gina Haspel

The director of the Central Intelligence Agency oversees the collection and evaluation of intelligence, provides direction for the collection of intelligence, and ensures the effective use of resources. Current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo served as the director of the CIA at the beginning of President Trump’s term, but was nominated to take over after Rex Tillerson’s departure.


#20. Director of the Office of Management and Budget

Current official: Russell T. Vought (acting)

The director of the Office of Management and Budget helps the president implement policy and is responsible for budget, management, and regulatory objectives. Mick Mulvaney held the position until he became President Trump’s acting chief of staff in January of 2019. Former Deputy Director Russ Vought is the current acting director.   


#21. Representative of the United States to the United Nations

Current official: (Currently vacant)

The U.S. representative to the United Nations—also referred to as the U.N. ambassador—heads the U.S. delegation at the U.N. and represents the nation in the Security Council. Ambassador Nikki Haley resigned at the end of 2018, and President Trump nominated Heather Nauert to succeed her. Formerly a Fox News anchor, Nauert withdrew herself from consideration on Feb. 16, saying "the past two months have been grueling for my family." Trump has since nominated U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Knight Craft to the post. Craft and her husband are longtime republican donors from Kentucky and gave millions of dollars to Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. 

#22. U.S. trade representative

Current official: Robert Lighthizer

The U.S. trade representative meets and negotiates with foreign governments to form trade agreements and resolve disputes. The representative also confers with public interest groups, lawmakers, and governments. The Office of the United States Trade Representative employs about 200 people, and has offices in Washington, D.C., as well as Brussels and Geneva.


#23. White House chief of staff

Current official: Mick Mulvaney (acting)

The White House chief of staff serves as an assistant to the president, managing White House staff, controlling access to the Oval Office, negotiating with Congress, controlling the flow of information, and implementing the president’s agenda. President Trump replaced his original chief of staff, Reince Priebus, with then-Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly in July 2017. Kelly left the White House at the end of the year, and Mick Mulvaney is currently serving as acting chief of staff.


#24. Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency

Current official: Andrew Wheeler (acting)

The Environmental Protection Agency forms regulations around environmental regulations. The EPA administrator leads the agency and oversees staff offices that process environmental appeals, conduct public affairs, and handle administrative law. President Trump’s original EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, resigned in July, with Andrew Wheeler serving as acting administrator. Trump has yet to nominate a permanent replacement for Pruitt.


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