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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Brian Montgomery
Deputy Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary

July 28, 2004

Brian Montgomery

Greetings from the White House. I am very glad to join you today and answer your questions.

Brian Montgomery ponders the many questions which were emailed in.
Bob, from St. Louis writes:
Where does the President meet with his Cabinet Room? I always see the same room on TV and wonder if it is in the White house or at a remote location.

Brian Montgomery
Thank you for your question, Bob.

The Cabinet Room is located on the first floor of the West Wing near the Oval Office and it is where the President conducts Cabinet meetings.

For more information on the Cabinet Room, go to and click on “History & Tours” which includes a video tour from White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card.

Ted, from New York writes:
Can a family member become part of the cabinet?

Brian Montgomery
Thank you for your question, Ted.

I am not aware of any law or statute that prevents a member of the President’s family from joining the Cabinet. For example, President John Kennedy appointed his brother Robert as Attorney General in 1961. However, soon after President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, Robert Kennedy left the Cabinet to run for a seat in the U.S. Senate from the State of New York.

Katy, from Falls Church, VA writes:
What is your most memorable experience while working at the White House?

Brian Montgomery
Thank you for your question, Katy.

Two experiences come to mind. The first was September 11, 2001. I was with the President all day and for the subsequent visits to the Pentagon and the site of the World Trade Center. Those experiences will be with me forever.

The second took place in March of this year when I got engaged in the Red Room of the White House. Several White House staff were in on the planning including the President. I am proud to report she said "yes."

Charles, from Port Huron writes:
How many members of the President's cabinet are there? Like is the Vice President a member? I see him in meetings on TV but don't see him in the list. Also are all members of the President's cabinet called "secretaries?" Thank you for your time.

Brian Montgomery
Charles: thank you for your question.

Yes, the Vice President is a member of the President’s Cabinet. In all, there are 21 members of the Cabinet. Most are referred to as "Secretary" and others as "Administrator" (EPA), "Director" (Office of National Drug Control Policy and Office of Management and Budget), and "Ambassador" (United States Trade Representative).

A little background on the President's Cabinet: The Cabinet consists of, at a minimum, the Vice President and the heads of the 15 executive departments, including the newest, the Department of Homeland Security. At the discretion of each President, other individuals have variously been accorded Cabinet-level rank. President Bush has designated the White House Chief of Staff, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, the United States Trade Representative, the Administrator of EPA, and the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, all to have Cabinet Rank.

Michael, from Powell, TN writes:
How is the Cabinet meetings began and ended?

Brian Montgomery
Thank you for an excellent question, Michael.

The President begins each Cabinet meeting with an update on domestic and international priorities and then recognizes Cabinet members for their reports. The President concludes the meeting just prior to the White House press pool entering the room. At this point, the President delivers some brief comments to the press pool and answers several of their questions.

Jessica, from Sparks, NV writes:
What roledoes the Cabinet perform for the President?

Brian Montgomery
Jessica, thank you for your question.

As heads of Executive Branch agencies, the Cabinet members advise the President and his senior staff on issues related to their respective agencies. Issue areas include Education, the Economy, Housing, the Environment, and National Security, to name just a few.

Scot, from South Carolina writes:
Is the Cabinet a full time job?

Brian Montgomery
Scot, thank you.

Yes, the job of Cabinet member is very much a full-time job. One need only look at their travel schedules to see that all of them put in very long hours including most weekends.

Bradley, from New York writes:
Didnt you used to be the Director of Presidential Advance? What was that


Brian Montgomery
Yes I did Bradley and thank you for your question.

I very much enjoyed my two-year tenure as Director of Presidential Advance. It certainly required a lot of travel. I was fortunate to travel to almost every state as well as dozens of foreign countries. Greg Jenkins, who had previously served as a Deputy Director of Advance in 2001, became the new Director following my appointment as Cabinet Secretary in January 2003.

Cliff, from Brimfield writes:
Hi Brian: How did the word CABINET come about? The Secretary's advise the President. So I wonder why they didn't call them THE PRESIDENTS ADVISORS. THANK YOU

Brian Montgomery
Cliff, thank you.

The Constitution does not directly mention the President’s “Cabinet,” but the Constitutional authority for a Cabinet is found in Article II, Section 2. The Constitution states that the President “may 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.”

Several historical accounts indicate that the term “Cabinet” was first used around 1793.

Spence, from Georgia writes:
What exactly do you do as the Cabinet Secretary?

Brian Montgomery
Thank you, Spence.

The Office of Cabinet Affairs is a “behind the scenes” office that works to help ensure that agency initiatives and programs are shared among the appropriate White House staff, Cabinet members and independent agency directors.

Chris, from Missouri writes:
Earlier this year, the congress introduced legislation to move the Department of Homeland Security higher in the order of Presidential succession. What is the status of this?

Brian Montgomery

Thank you "Chris in Missouri."

Senate Bill 148 passed the Senate, but not the House. The Bill would put the Secretary of Homeland Security directly after the Attorney General in the line of succession.

Jenny, from Germany writes:
How are cabinet members chosen?

Brian Montgomery
Thank you Jenny.

Cabinet members are appointed by the President. They are subject to the confirmation of the Senate; and as their terms are not fixed, they may be replaced at any time by the President.

Brian Montgomery
Thanks to all of you for some very thought provoking questions. Have a great day and I hope to do this again soon.

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