The Executive Power of the United States was mentioned as early as 1789 by Thomas Jefferson. It is the power of executive authority in the United States that has been defined as “the supreme executive authority in the several states”.
Before the time of the Revolutionary War, the executive power was exercised by the legislative branch and, before the Constitution, was reserved to the people or the state governments. In some cases, the legislative branch could delegate the power to the Executive, but the authority remained in the hands of the people or state governments.
Over time, the concept of the executive power of the United States has come to be regarded as an inherent and prerogative power. Therefore, what was once a constitutional or statutory responsibility of the Legislative branch or the people has become an office or appointment right that is conferred on the President and Cabinet officials. As time goes on, the power of the Executive has expanded, becoming the supreme law of the land.
Throughout the history of the Executive Power of the United States, the power of this office or department has developed and expanded. At the start of the nation, the executive office was charged with the duty of initiating legislation.
As time progressed, the Executive Office became more complex. Its various departments and executive offices were allowed to exercise their own prerogative powers. The original author of the United States Constitution, James Madison, indicated that, “nothing in the constitution can be more clearly conceived than the executive power, which is to be vested in the president.”
Executive branch departments have since developed into eight separate bureaus within the Executive Branch of the government. Each bureau has its own office of the Secretary of Defense and the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Each bureau also has several other subordinate bureaus, such as the National Security Council and theCIA.
When the United States entered World War I, the Department of War headed up by the Secretary of War had general authority to declare war. In 1942, the Secretary of War became Commander in Chief of the armed forces. However, the Secretary of War had limited powers.
In 1939, the Secretary of War was made the Minister of War. However, this position did not include the authority to control the armed forces, but only to instruct them.
In 1940, the secretary of the department head of the Department of War was empowered to direct the combat units of the armed forces, whether to fight a war, fight as a peace keeping force, or participate in any other military activity. The secretary was further authorized to command the Department of Naval Affairs and the Department of Commerce. He was also given authority to command the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps.
The director of the Office of War Information was appointed by the Secretary of War. The Office of Education was created to disseminate information, debate public policy, and plan and execute military or other wartime plans.
The director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy was created in 1955 to examine the prospects for national and international scientific research. The director of the Office of Management and Budget was established in 1960 to oversee the government’s fiscal policy.