How a society organizes itself

How a society fundamentally defines the everyday working relationship between leader and led – between two levels of hierarchy – is imbedded in how that society makes decisions. In its political system.

If that working relationship does not function well, if it fails, not only are the political policies of those elected to office in jeopardy, the direction of the country, state, city or municipality is at risk. Defining and managing the line between strategy and tactics is in the political context a matter of moving forward or backward as a society.

The American political tradition involves a close working relationship between president and cabinet, between governor and mayor and their respective cabinets, between all holders of public office and their direct reports.

The American president is the head of the executive branch of government. The president‘s cabinet – the next level of management within the executive – reports directly to him or her and does not possess any domestic political power which could challenge the president‘s authority. Members of the Cabinet serve at the pleasure of the President, who may dismiss them or reappoint them to other posts at will.

Article Two of the U.S. Constitution provides that the President can 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 Constitution did not then establish the names (or list or limit the number) of Cabinet departments. Those details were left to the Congress to determine.

There is no explicit definition of the term „cabinet“ in either the United States Code or the Code of Federal Regulations. However, there are occasional references to „cabinet-level officers“ or „secretaries“, which when viewed in context appear to refer to the head of the „executive departments“ as listed in 5 U.S.C. §101.

The President’s Cabinet is an institution whose existence rests upon custom rather than law. Presidents have differed in their opinions as to the utility of the Cabinet, but all have found some political and administrative strengths in its continuance.

The Cabinet is retained because it provides to the President: political and managerial advice; a forum for interdepartmental conflict resolution; a location where he can address most of the executive branch and thereby enhance administrative coherence; and a source of political support for his programs and policies.

The Cabinet is not now, and is not likely to become, a body with collective responsibility. Presidents cannot appropriately share their legal authority or  responsibilities with the Cabinet. The Cabinet, its members, and its sub-groups provide the President with an adaptive resource with which to manage the executive branch of government. (from CRS Report for Congress. The President’s Cabinet: Evolution, Alternatives, and Proposals for Change, September 12, 2000).