Explain the functions of departments or agencies of the executive branch in the governments of the United States and the state of Massachusetts.

White House Engraving, 1855
White House Engraving, 1855
Topics on the Page
The Executive Branch
The President
Women in the Executive Branch
Presidential Vetoes
The President's Cabinet
Federal Agencies

Executive Departments of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Massachusetts Executive Officeholders

rotating gif.gifSee AP Government: Major Formal and Informal Arrangements of Power

The Executive Branch


"The power of the Executive Branch is vested in the President of the United States, who also acts as head of state and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.
  • The President is responsible for implementing and enforcing the laws written by Congress and, to that end, appoints the heads of the federal agencies, including the Cabinet.
    • The Vice President is also part of the Executive Branch, ready to assume the Presidency should the need arise.
  • The Cabinet and independent federal agencies are responsible for the day-to-day enforcement and administration of federal laws.
    • These departments and agencies have missions and responsibilities as widely divergent as those of the Department of Defense and the Environmental Protection Agency, the Social Security Administration and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
  • Including members of the armed forces, the Executive Branch employs more than 4 million Americans."

WhiteHouseSouthFacade.JPG

WhiteHouseSouthFacade.JPGThe President

-The President is the head of state and the head of government of The United States of America. He or she is also the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.external image 800px-Donald_Trump_official_portrait.jpgexternal image 800px-Mike_Pence_official_portrait_%28cropped%29.jpg

Left: 45th President of the US, Donald Trump

Right: Vice President, Mike Pence












Latino History.pngClick here for lesson plan ideas around Poet Richard Blanco's poem read at President Obama second inauguration in January 2013 as well as a brief history of inauguration poetry.

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Women in the Executive Branch

V. Woodhull, 1880
V. Woodhull, 1880

Click here for background on Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for President in 1872.

primary_sources.PNGA New Constitution for the United States of the World, Victoria Woodhull Speech, 1870


external image Perkins_USNR.jpg

Click for a link of Frances Perkins, the first ever female cabinet member as Secretary of Labor during Franklin Roosevelt's Presidency.
chisholm-1972.jpg

Click here for a look into the political life of Shirley Chisholm, who in 1968 became the first black woman to win a seat in the House of Representatives, and in 1972 became the first black person(and first black woman) to run as a major party candidate when she did so for the Democratic party.
  • Her influence was particularly apparent in the 2008 presidential election, as both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both would have represented firsts if elected for the office of President that Chisholm herself tried to break.
  • The importance of her bid for the nomination in 1972 is also felt in both Bernie Sander's and Hillary Clinton's campaigns for the Democratic nomination in 2016.
    • An interview with Shirley Chisholm as she reflects on her bid.

Go here for a List of Female U.S. Cabinet Secretaries from Wikipedia

Presidential Vetos


Image to the right shows President Ulysses S. Grant on a platform is congratulated boisterously by an audience below of Carl Schurz, Whitelaw Reid and a spectrum of other men for vetoing the "inflation bill". Harper's Weekly, May 23, 1874

external image Grant_Inflation_Bill_Veto.jpg
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  • Overriding Presidential Vetoes from The Civics Connection, University of Central Florida
  • A video defining the role of the commander in chief using quotes from the Constitution and former presidents.

Presidential Vetoes from Washington to Obama from the American Presidency Project.

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 9.41.22 AM.pngI Forbid: Presidential Vetoes and American Indian Affairs, 1789-2000 from the University of Nebraska.

First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, 1864
First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, 1864

The President's Cabinet



Currently, the President's cabinet includes 15 departments:


Click here for a brief look at how the Department of Homeland Security was created in 2002


The Cabinet is an advisory body made up of the heads of the 15 executive departments.
  • Appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, the members of the Cabinet are often the President's closest confidants.
  • In addition to running major federal agencies, they play an important role in the Presidential line of succession — after the Vice President, Speaker of the House, and Senate President pro tempore, the line of succession continues with the Cabinet offices in the order in which the departments were created.
  • All the members of the Cabinet take the title Secretary, excepting the head of the Justice Department, who is the Attorney General.


Read About the First African American Cabinet Member

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The Agencies within the Executive Office of the President include:
  • Council of Economic Advisors
  • Council on Environmental Quality
  • Domestic Policy Council
  • National Economic Council
  • National Security Council
  • Office of Administration
  • Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships
  • Office of Management and Budget
  • Office of National AIDS Policy
  • Office of National Drug Control Policy
  • Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement
  • Office of Science and Technology Policy
  • Office of the First Lady
  • Office of the Vice President
    • Office of the Second Lady
  • President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board
  • President's Intelligence Oversight Board
  • President's Intelligence Advisory Board
  • United States Trade Representative
  • White House Office
  • White House Military Office


Legislative Powers of the President

The President has the power either to sign legislation into law or to veto bills enacted by Congress, although Congress may override a veto with a two-thirds vote of both houses.
  • The Executive Branch conducts diplomacy with other nations, and the President has the power to negotiate and sign treaties, which also must be ratified by two-thirds of the Senate.
  • The President can issue executive orders, which direct executive officers or clarify and further existing laws. The President also has unlimited power to extend pardons for federal crimes, except in cases of impeachment.
  • With these powers come several responsibilities, among them a constitutional requirement to "from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient."
  • Although the President may fulfill this requirement in any way he or she chooses, Presidents have traditionally given a State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress each January (except in inaugural years) outlining their agenda for the coming year.

Multimedia.pngClick here for a YouTube clip that briefly describes the powers of the Executive Branch and the founders intentions

Federal Agencies


Office of the Budget

United States gross federal annual deficit or surplus from 1901 to 2006
United States gross federal annual deficit or surplus from 1901 to 2006


See the National Priorities Project for information about how the spending of the federal budget affects ordinary taxpayers.



masscities.pngExecutive Departments of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts


The Departments within the Executive Branch of Massachusetts include:
  • Executive office for Administration and Finance
  • Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
  • Executive Office of Education
  • Executive Office of Health and Human Services
  • Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development
  • Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development
  • Executive Office of Safety and Security
  • Executive Office of Transportation and Public Works

MA Executive Officeholders

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Governor- Charlie Baker

  • Is the chief executive officer of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
  • Prepares and presents state budget to legislature
  • Can veto or reduce a budget item and can veto bills
  • Appoints judges
  • Grants pardons
  • Appoints department heads and members of boards and commissions
  • Serves as commander-in-chief of Massachusetts National Guard
  • Presides over the Governor’s Council with no vote
  • Visit the Governor’s Site

File:Karyn Polito official portrait.jpg
File:Karyn Polito official portrait.jpg

Lieutenant Governor- Karyn Polito

  • Presides in the event of absence, death or disability of governor
  • Becomes acting governor if the governor’s office becomes vacant
  • Assists in administration of executive agencies
  • Votes as a member of the Governor’s Council; acts as non-voting president when the governor is absent
  • Visit the Lieutenant Governor’s site

William Francis Galvin
William Francis Galvin

Secretary of the Commonwealth/ Secretary of State- William F. Galvin


Attorney General- Maura Healy

  • Is the state’s chief law enforcement officer
  • Advises and represents the Commonwealth, giving legal opinions and serving as its lawyer in court
  • Enforces laws in consumer protection, environmental protection, civil rights, healthcare, insurance and financial services, and antitrust areas
  • Investigates public corruption, financial fraud, organized crime, narcotics violations and other crimes
  • Enforces business and labor laws


Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 2.17.29 PM.pngMaura Healy is First Openly Gay Attorney-General in Massachusetts

Treasurer and Receiver General- Deborah B. Goldberg

  • Collects, takes care of, and distributes state funds
  • Issues state bonds and decides the investment policy of the state
  • Runs the state lottery
  • Visit the Treasurer’s site
File:Suzanne M. Bump Updated Photo.jpg
File:Suzanne M. Bump Updated Photo.jpg

Auditor- Suzanne Bump

  • Conducts audits of state funds to make sure they have been given out legally and accounted for properly
  • Investigates reports of fraud and waste
  • Determines whether laws impose unfunded mandates on cities and towns
  • Visit the Auditor’s site




All of the above officers are elected to four-year terms

Governor’s Cabinet

  • These executive administrators oversee the operations of the departments of Massachusetts and advise the governor
  • The cabinet secretaries head the departments of: Administration and Finance, Education, Energy and Environmental Affairs, Health and Human Services, Housing and Economic Development, Labor and Workforce Development, Public Safety and Security, and Transportation
  • They are appointed by the governor and accountable to him or her
  • Visit the Governor’s Cabinet site

Governor’s Council

  • In colonial times this council, also called the Executive Council, was established to act as a check on the governor, who was appointed by the English Crown
  • The council has eight members elected from districts in addition to the lieutenant governor
  • Members are elected for two-year terms
  • The Council meets weekly to record advice and consent on warrants for the state treasury, pardons and commutations, and recording advice and consent to gubernatorial appointments as judges and to boards and administrative positions.
  • Visit the Governor’s Council site