The executive branch is one of the three branches of the government the other two being the judiciary and the legislature. The major powers of the executive branch are vested in the president who also acts as the commander in chief of the armed forces. He is also responsible for the appointment of the cabinet and the overseeing of the various departments and agencies of the federal government. The branch consists of the president, the vice president and all the cabinet members appointed by the president. There are various departments under the executive branch inclusive of the department of defense, department of homeland security, the department of education, department of commerce, department of treasury, department of justice among others.
As stated, earlier, the powers of the executive branch are vested in the president through the constitution. The president himself has several roles as defined by the constitution and these roles can be seen as varied and diverse. They can be classified under two large areas of authority and this includes the foreign affairs and the domestic policy. The two realms of presidential activity are distinct and different in regard to the degree of their success (John, 2004, p.14).
In the context of the domestic affairs, the president employs power vested in him by the constitution to oversee the implementation and execution of the law. He also exercises the ability to influence the judicial and the legislative branches of the federal government. The president therefore through the powers vested on him by the constitution can exert long term and wide spread influences on the domestic matters and policies of the United States.
In line with the foreign affairs, the president acts as the commander in chief of the armed forces and thus the head of the navy, the air force and the marines besides the fact that he commission all the officers in these three arms of the army and appoints all the high ranking leaders in the military. In this context, while the congress retains the authority to declare war on any country, the presidents have been known to make war without the explicit authority of the congress (Henry, 1981, p.19).
The executive branch though the major arm of the government relates closely with all other branches of the federal government. To start with the legislature which is charged with the role of approving the laws of the state does not on it own have the capacity to enforce these laws. The process of enforcing a law requires that the legislature cooperates with the executive branch. The executive holds the power to veto types of the legislation passed by the legislature and it can do this on some or all types of the legislation. The executive by the virtue of being headed by the ruling party controls a majority in the legislature. On the other hand, the legislature exercise a supervisory role over the actions committed by the executive and may even seek to replace the executive though the exercise of tools such as a vote of no confidence. Still, a legislature that offers no cooperation to the executive may be dissolved by the president offering a lead to new elections. The executive may also exercise powers of the executive such as in the case of issuing legislation in the case of a state of emergency (Vile, 1994, p.41).
The executive branch of the federal government base their actions on the consent and advice of the legislature hence can be said to be a subject of the legislative branch. Failure by the executive branch of the federal government to comply with the administrative laws and other laws may result into a challenge in the court by the legislative branch and in this regard through the judiciary. In this regard, the legislature is charged with the responsibility of supervising the compliance and execution of its laws by the executive and the judiciary branches. The executive and the judiciary enforce the decisions of the legislature through the help of mechanisms and institutions provided by the legislature. Such institutions include the police force and the prisons. The legislative branch is also responsible for the provision of funds to the courthouses and for the payment of the judicial members whereas the executive is only responsible for the physical establishment of such courts and for staffing them as instructed by the legislature. Administration of the Judiciary on the other hand is charged to the attorney general and not the executive or the legislative branch. Moreover, it is the legislative branch that makes the laws with the executive executes them based on the instructions given by the legislature. In the department of the judiciary, it is the attorney general who is responsible for overseeing the management of the staff who are involved in the process of protecting the interests of the public. This would include policing state corporations and the protection of those who cannot defend themselves. Still, it is the legislature that is responsible for the delegation of the authority to perform these functions both to the judiciary and the executive branches of the federal government. The responsibility of the executive branch is the dairy management given that the legislature provides the entire necessary infrastructure and pays the necessary salaries to the staff involved (Vile, 1994, 22).
The US constitution provides for rules that are supposed to act as a guide in the separation of power between the three branches of the federal government. These rules are in the first three articles of the constitution and offer independence to each branch, specific function and prohibit the undue influence of any of the branch on another. However, there exists a check and balance relationship between the three branches in the sense that they cooperate with one another and also prevent one another from assuming so much power. The idea behind the use of separation of power guidelines and their embedment in the constitution by the framers of the constitution was generally to protect tyranny (Kaufaman, 2001, p.27).
The constitution therefore allows each branch to restraint the exercise of unnecessary powers by the other two branches. However, the operations of the executive, the judiciary and the and the legislative arms of the government interrelate and it is through this interrelation that they have negatively influenced each other and leading to conflicts between them. For example, the president through the appointment of judges can affect the judiciary and so can the congress. On the other hand, the courts may overrule acts presented by the legislature or rule on actions committed by the president. These forms of interaction by the three branches sometimes lead to disputes and conflicts between the functions of each one of them and to them in general. The doctrine of separation of powers as incorporated in the constitution dictates that no branch of the government can intervene with the function of the other and that each of these branches should be left independent of each other. However, this is not always the case in the present and in recent federal governments. There have been many conflicts between the three branches each of them accusing the other of failure and use of unnecessary powers. A good example is when the executive uses its power to influence the court decision (Henry, 1981, 26).
The independence of the judiciary though much protected is often affected by the executive. For example, there have been cases of judicial activism in the past with the argument that the power of interpreting the judiciary was being misused. In other cases, there has been congressional intervention in the operations of the judiciary such as in the case of Terri Schiavo and in the Elizabeth Morgan Act by the legislative branch. It is impossible to give equal power to the different branches and the departments involved as seen in the case of bicameralism which was intended to reduce legislature power by turning it against itself through the use of different principles of action and different election modes. The principles of power separation have been especially endangered in the times of national crisis such as in times of economic recession and oil crisis. There have been violation of these principles through the misbehavior and intentional sacrifice by the individual and the departments involved in the three arms of the government. It is therefore necessary that mechanism be put in place or even constitutional amendments be done to pave way for more realistic power sharing and functional definition of the three branches of government (Johnson, 2004, p.16).
Henry Gilfond (1981) The Executive Branch of the United States Government. New York, Blackwell Publishers, pp.19, 26
Johnson Loch (2004) The Contemporary: Presidents, Lawmakers, and Spies: Intelligence Accountability in the United States. Presidential Studies Quarterly, Vol.34, pp.14
Kaufaman Herbert (2001) Major Players: Bureaucracies in American Government. Public Administration Review, Vol.61, pp.27
Vile John (1994) Constitutional Change in the United States: A Comparative Study of the Role of Constitutional Amendments, Judicial Interpretations, and Legislative and Executive Actions. Mahwah, Praeger Publishers, pp.22, 41