The U.S. Cabinet was created by Article 2, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution in 1787. The Cabinet members, called secretaries, are appointed by the president of the United States to provide advice in matters related to their areas of expertise. In addition, Cabinet members lead national and international policy creation and execution for their departments.
The U.S. Cabinet is made up of 14 department secretaries, the attorney general and the vice president of the United States. Several other positions hold “Cabinet rank,” including the White House chief of staff, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Attorney General, the Press Secretary, and the president's senior advisers.
The U.S. Cabinet is part of the executive branch of the government. Cabinet members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the members of the Senate to become the secretaries of the executive departments: State, Labor, Defense, Interior, Education, Agriculture, Transportation, Energy, Treasury, Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs. The attorney general also is an appointed Cabinet position.
Cabinet members advise the president on everything from educational policies to terrorist threats to the conservation of national resources to foreign affairs. In addition to their advisory duties, Cabinet members lead their respective departments, creating policies that guide each unit and managing programs that each department controls. The Secretary of Education, for instance, is responsible for managing educational policy while the Secretary of Transportation is responsible for creating safe and accessible modes of transportation and highway operations. Each cabinet member manages policies for their assigned department and reports back to the president on relevant issues within that area.
Cabinet members not only provide advice to the president in situations regarding national security welfare, but they also are the successors to the presidency in case the president is incapacitated in some way. First to ascend to the presidency is the vice president, followed by the secretary of State, the secretary of the Treasury, and the secretary of Defense. Next in line, in order, are the secretaries of Justice, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Energy, Education, Veteran Affairs, and Homeland Security.
The exact Constitutional language mentioning the creation of the Cabinet speaks of the president when it says, “He may 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.” The first Cabinet (under President George Washington) was only four members strong, with departments represented by Thomas Jefferson, Henry Knox, Edmund Randolph and Alexander Hamilton.