The Executive Branch
The President is head of the executive branch and is charged with enforcing the laws passed by Congress. In the modern federal government, the president acts through the agencies that make up the executive branch. These include the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of Labor, the Department of Commerce, and several others. The heads of these departments are members of the president’s cabinet. They are political appointees that the president may remove at will, but the Senate must confirm the president’s appointments to the cabinet. Many important health and public health agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Health Care Financing Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC) and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), which investigates Medicare/ Medicaid fraud, are part of DHHS. The heads of these units are also political appointees who are selected by the Secretary of DHHS.
These cabinet-level agencies are created by Congress, and their powers are limited to those given by Congress in the laws that empower the agency to act. There are also independent agencies, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Federal Trade Commission ( FTC), which are governed by appointed boards whose members have staggered terms. The president can replace board members only when their terms expire. These agencies typically are charged with politically sensitive enforcement.