Chapter 9 The Executive Branch What's Ahead in Chapter 9

The Executive Office of the President

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The Executive Office of the President

The Executive Office of the President (EOP) is largely made up of people the President chooses to help make foreign and domestic policy. Unlike the other parts of the executive branch, the main job of the Executive Office is not to carry out laws directly, but to advise the President on important matters.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), part of the Department of Justice, is one of the many executive departments in our government.


Gerald Ford served as Vice President under Richard Nixon. When Nixon resigned in 1974, Ford then became President.

The White House Staff At the center of an administration is the White House staff. It includes the President's most trusted advisers and assistants. They give the President advice and information about national security, the economy, and other subjects. The White House staff also helps guide the bureaucracy toward meeting the President's goals.

Some Presidents prefer to have several staff people report directly to them on issues relating to the executive departments. Other Presidents have depended on one powerful chief of staff to whom other staff members report.

The staff includes a chief of staff, key advisers, press secretaries, legal experts, speechwriters, office workers, and researchers. All members of the White House staff are appointed or hired by the President, without the need for Senate approval.

The Vice President The Constitution gives the Vice President no duties aside from presiding over the Senate. It is the President who decides what the Vice President will do. Some Presidents ask the Vice President to play an active role. This role might include heading special commissions, making trips to other countries, and working with Congress. Historically, however, the Vice President has been almost invisible. Fearing this fate, some leaders have refused to run for Vice President. Daniel Webster, for instance, said in 1848 that "I do not propose to be buried until I am dead."

If the President dies, though, the Vice President may become President. This transition has taken place eight times in our nation's history. The Vice President may also be asked to serve as "acting President" if the President falls seriously ill.

Analyze Charts

Vice Presidents Who Succeeded the President

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica Almanac 2003

The Vice President succeeds the President if the President dies or leaves office by resignation or impeachment.

1. Analyze How many Vice Presidents have become President due to the assassination of the elected President?

2. Apply Which Vice President succeeded Warren G. Harding?


Special Advisory Groups The Executive Office of the President also includes several special groups that help the President make decisions on domestic and foreign policy. Two important groups are the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the National Security Council (NSC).

The OMB decides how much the President's policy goals will cost. The President may change the goals in light of the price tags provided by the OMB. Then, the OMB prepares the budget that is sent to Congress.

The National Security Council plays a major role in helping the President make foreign policy. The NSC includes top military officers and advisers from other government agencies and departments concerned with foreign affairs and national defense.

Reading Check What three groups make up the Executive Office of the President?

Civics and Economics

The Office of Management and Budget

The Office of Management and Budget was created in 1970. It has several responsibilities. Its primary duty is to prepare the President's annual budget for Congress.

The OMB also helps the President manage the executive branch by promoting good management practices throughout the executive branch and reviewing the regulatory acts of federal agencies.

Analyzing Economics

1. What is the primary responsibility of the Office of Management and Budget?

2. Go online and find the OMB's Web page. Find out more about the OMB's history and responsibilities. Write a brief report on what you find there.

The Executive Departments

Over the years, the number of executive departments has grown. Today, they number 15 and form the largest part of the executive branch. They do much of the work connected with carrying out the nation's laws and running government programs.

Each executive department helps fulfill one or more of the President's duties. The Department of State, for example, handles relations with other countries and helps put the President's foreign policy decisions into action. The Department of Defense helps the President fulfill the duty of commander in chief by running the armed forces.

Presidential Advisers

President George W. Bush meets with the National Security Council, one of the advisory groups in the Executive Office of the President. Demonstrate Reasoned Judgment Why is it important for the President to have groups of advisers such as the NSC?


Analyze Charts

Executive Departments

Department of State (1789)

Carries out foreign policy.

Supervises ambassadors and other U.S. diplomats.

Represents the U.S. at the United Nations.

Department of the Treasury (1789)

Collects federal taxes through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Prints money and postage stamps; makes coins.

Department of Defense (1789, reorganized in 1947)

Maintains the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force.

Conducts research on military weapons.

Builds and maintains military bases.

Department of Interior (1849)

Manages national parks and other federal lands.

Protects fish, wildlife, and other natural resources.

Department of Agriculture (1862)

Provides assistance to farmers.

Inspects food-processing plants.

Runs the food stamp and school lunch programs.

Works to control animal and plant diseases.

Department of Justice (1870)

Investigates and prosecutes violations of federal laws.

Operates federal prisons. Runs the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Represents the federal government in lawsuits.

Department of Commerce (1903)

Provides assistance to American businesses.

Conducts the national census.

Issues patents and trademarks for inventions.

Maintains official weights and measures.

Department of Labor (1903)

Enforces laws on minimum wage, job discrimination, and working conditions.

Helps run job training and unemployment programs.

Provides statistics on changes in prices and levels of employment.

Department of Health & Human Resources (1953)

Directs Medicare Program.

Runs the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Runs the Public Health Service.

Runs the Family Support Administration.

Department of Education (1953)

Provides assistance to elementary, high school, and college education programs.

Conducts research and provides statistics on education.

Promotes equal access to educational opportunities.

Department of Housing & Urban Development (1965)

Helps provide housing for low-income citizens.

Assists state and local governments in financing community development and housing projects.

Department of Transportation (1966)

Helps state and local governments maintain highways.

Enforces transportation safety standards.

Department of Energy (1977)

Conducts research on sources of energy.

Promotes the conservation of fuel and electricity, and directs programs to deal with possible shortages.

Department of Veteran's Affairs (1989)

Gives medical, educational, and financial help to people who have served in the armed forces.

Department of Homeland Security (2003)

Runs the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Runs Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Protects the President and Vice President through the Secret Service.

Operates the United States Coast Guard and the U.S. Customs Service.
Much of the work of running the government is done by the executive departments.

1. Analyze Which executive department is in charge of managing our public parks?

2. Apply Do you think any of the responsibilities of these departments overlap? Which ones do you think might overlap? Why?


The Department of Homeland Security President George W. Bush created the Department of Homeland Security in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The duty of the Department of Homeland Security is to safeguard our country from terrorism. In this role, the Department coordinates the antiterrorist activities of many federal agencies, including the Coast Guard, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The Cabinet The President appoints the head of each executive department. As a check on presidential power, the Senate must approve each appointment. The head of the Department of Justice is called the Attorney General. The other department heads are called secretaries, such as the Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Treasury. The department secretaries and the Attorney General form the core of the Cabinet, an important group of policy advisors to the President.

Reading Check What is the role of the executive departments in the President's Cabinet?

Target Reading Skill

Paraphrase Paraphrase the section under the subheading The Cabinet. Your paraphrase should include information about who makes up the President's Cabinet and how they are appointed.

The Independent Agencies

The executive departments do not carry out all the duties of today's executive branch. Many tasks, from making rules about the environment to providing farm loans, are carried out by approximately 60 independent agencies. There are three types of agencies: executive agencies, regulatory commissions, and government corporations.

Executive Agencies Executive agencies are under the direct control of the President, who can choose or remove their directors. Among the most important agencies are the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Regulatory Commissions Congress has formed 12 regulatory commissions. Each one makes and carries out rules for a certain business or economic activity. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), for instance, makes rules for radio and television stations. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) sets safety standards for products you might find around the house. The regulatory commissions also settle disputes between businesses they regulate.

The regulatory commissions are meant to be fairly free from political influences. The President chooses members of the hoards that run the commissions. Each member has a long term so that no single President can choose all of a board's members.

NASA is one of the agencies under the President's control. Founded in 1958, it oversees the American space program.


Civil Servants.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is a government corporation that helps support the banking system. Its directors are appointed by the President. All other staff members are part of the civil service system. Demonstrate Reasoned Judgment Why is it important that all agency staff members not be appointed by the President?

Government Corporations Government corporations are like private businesses in that they try to make a profit. However, most of them provide public services that may be too risky or expensive for a private business to undertake. The United States Postal Service is one example of a government corporation.

Reading Check What are the three types of independent agencies?

The Civil Service System

As you might imagine, the executive branch includes a wide variety of employees, from budget experts at the OMB to rocket engineers at NASA. The President chooses fewer than I percent of the workers in the executive branch. How do all the others get their jobs?

For many years, government jobs were likely to go to friends and supporters of the President. Loyalty to the President was more important than knowing how to do the job.

In 1883, however, Congress set up the civil service system. Under this system most government workers, called civil servants, are hired on the basis of merit. There are tests for most kinds of jobs, and workers are hired from among those with the highest scores. The civil service system provides for a group of trained workers who stay on the job from administration to administration.

Reading Check On what basis are most federal government workers hired today?

Section 2 Assessment

Key Terms

Use each of the key terms in a sentence that explains its meaning: bureaucracy, administration, Cabinet

Target Reading Skill

1. Paraphrase Paraphrase the information about civil service on this page.

Comprehension and Critical Thinking


a. Explain What is the Vice President's most important role? b. Draw Conclusions Why doesn't the President need Senate approval to appoint members of the White House staff?


a. Recall What is the role of the Department of State?

b. Identify Cause and Effect How did the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, lead to the formation of the Department of Homeland Security?


a. Recall What type of independent agency is the Environmental Protection Agency? b. Draw Inferences Why were the regulatory commissions set up to be largely free from political influence?


a. Recall About how many workers in the executive branch are covered by the civil service system?

b. Analyze Information How does the civil service system improve the quality of government?

Writing Activity

Choose one executive department. Visit its Web site, and explore one important issue that this department handles. Write a newspaper article describing the department's work on this issue.



Presidents and Power

Reading Preview


In this section you will

• Understand the limits of the President's freedom to take action.

• Discuss how government leaders seek a balance between strong presidential leadership and the needs of democracy.

• Learn how past Presidents have used the power of the office.

Key Terms


executive privilege

Main Idea

The power of the President has expanded since George Washington's time. The President's power is still balanced by the other two branches of the government.

Target Reading Skill

Reread Rereading a certain passage that is not clear when you first read it can help you better understand what you read.

Taking Notes

Make a diagram like the one below. As you read the section, complete the diagram with information about the advantages and disadvantages of limiting a President's power.

As our first President, George Washington was the leader of a small nation of about four million people. Today, the President's actions affect our nation of about 281 million people. They also affect nations and peoples around the world.

In setting up the office of President, the Framers could not have known how much the power and duties of the office would grow. Today, many people fear that too much power is in the hands of one leader. How much power should a President have? How free should a President be from checks and balances by the legislative and judicial branches of government?

Freedom to Take Action

In fact, the President has a good deal of freedom to take action to meet goals. For example, the President and presidential advisers do not need permission from Congress to hold talks with representatives of other countries. Many talks result in executive agreements, agreements with other countries, which do not need Senate approval. Other talks lead to treaties, or formal agreements between nations. Even though the Senate has the power to reject any treaty, once the President has committed the United States to a treaty, it is hard for the Senate to say no.

President George W. Bush meeting with the President of Indonesia. The President sets much of the country's international policy.


A protection for the President's independence is executive privilege, the right to keep some information secret from Congress and the courts. Sometimes, for instance, the nation's safety depends on keeping certain information secret.

Reading Check What are two examples of a President's freedom to take action?

Seeking a Balance

Why should the President be able to act independently of the other branches of government? One reason is that the President can act quickly when necessary, such as in a crisis.

Suppose, however, that a President often made important decisions without asking Congress or thinking about the constitutionality of the decision. Clearly, the need for strong leadership must be balanced against the need to protect against the abuse of power.

Reading Check Why should the President be able to act without the approval of Congress when necessary?

Students Make a Difference

Cadet First Lieutenant Laquanda Leaven is a member of the JROTC and a junior at Marlboro County High School in Bennettsville, South Carolina. She has gained recognition in her community for her academic achievements and volunteer activities.

Because of her achievements, Laquanda was selected to be a chemical engineer intern for a program run by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Among the many scientific interests pursued there, Laquanda studied different life forms found on Mars.

Service Learning

How can you use your education to benefit your community?

Students can help make a difference by making good use of their education.


Presidential Power

The following examples show how three Presidents have used their powers at certain times. As you read, think about the effects of each President's action. Was the President right to take that action?

Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase President Thomas Jefferson had a great opportunity in 1803. Napoleon, the ruler of France, had offered to sell the huge Louisiana Territory for $15 million. By buying Louisiana, Jefferson could double the size of the United States.

Although Jefferson thought that the purchase would be good for the young nation, he was troubled because the Constitution did not say that the President or Congress could buy territory. Jefferson thought that a constitutional amendment might solve the problem, but time was short. Napoleon was showing signs of changing his mind.

Knowing that he had to act quickly, Jefferson turned to his advisers, especially James Madison, who was then Secretary of State. Madison believed that the President's power to make treaties gave Jefferson the right to buy Louisiana. After carefully thinking about Madison's advice, Jefferson accepted Napoleon's offer. The Senate ratified the treaty, and Congress agreed to pay France for the territory.

Truman and the Steel Mills In 1952, during the Korean War, President Harry Truman faced a problem. The steelworkers said they would not work unless certain demands were met. The steel-mill owners would not agree to their demands.

President Truman knew that steel was needed to make weapons for the soldiers in Korea. He gave an executive order placing the Secretary of Commerce in control of the mills for the time being. The steel companies said that the President had no right to take control of private property. Truman said that he was acting as commander in chief to protect American troops.

The case came before the Supreme Court. The Court ruled that the President had no power to take private property, even in a national emergency. His duty, the Court said, was to carry out laws passed by Congress, not to use executive orders to make his own laws.

French and American representatives signed the official purchase of the Louisiana Territory on April 30, 1803, in Paris.

Primary Sources

Robert Reich, who was President Clinton's Secretary of Labor, noted the unique challenges facing the President:

"Unlike Britain and other democratic monarchies, we ask our country's leader to do two jobs simultaneously, to act both as head of government and as the symbol of the nation. It's a hard act. Governing involves tough compromises and gritty reality. Symbolism requires nobility and grandeur."

Analyzing History

In what ways is the President like a king in a democratic monarchy?


Target Reading Skill

Rereading Reread these paragraphs. Be sure you understand how Nixon used executive privilege and why the Supreme Court ordered him to turn over the tapes.


The Watergate scandal demonstrated that presidential power is not unlimited and that the President is not above the law. Draw Inferences Why do you think President Nixon chose to resign rather than be impeached?

Nixon and Watergate On August 9, 1974, President Richard Nixon left office as a result of the Watergate scandal. Nixon and members of his staff were accused of covering up White House involvement in a 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee Headquarters in the Watergate office building in Washington, D.C. The goal of the break-in was to help get Nixon reelected by finding out about the Democrats' campaign plans.

After the burglars were caught in the act, newspaper reporters discovered that members of the White House staff had helped plan the burglary and later tried to cover up the crime. Later, FBI agents discovered that the Watergate break-in was part of a larger campaign of political spying on behalf of the effort to get President Nixon elected for a second term.

A special Senate committee and, later, the House Judiciary Committee began an investigation of the President. Investigators found that the President had taped all of his White House conversations. When they asked to examine the tapes, however, Nixon refused to release them, claiming executive privilege. In July 1974, the Supreme Court ordered Nixon to turn over the tapes, saying that executive privilege was not an unlimited power, particularly if used to hide possible criminal actions. Based on the tapes and other facts, the House Judiciary Committee recommended that Nixon be impeached, or put on trial. Nixon resigned before the full House could vote. In his resignation speech, Nixon explained why he felt he had to resign:

"From the discussions I have had with congressional and other leaders, I have concluded that because of the Watergate matter I might not have the support of the Congress that I would consider necessary to back the very difficult decisions and carry out the duties of this office in the way the interests of the nation would require."


President Jimmy Carter (second from left) meets with his top advisors.

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