Article II of the Constitution provides that the President can 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." The Twenty-fifth Amendment to the Constitution provides that the Vice President and a majority of the principal officers of the departments can transmit a notice that the President is unfit for office.
The first president of the United States, George Washington, quickly realized the importance of having a cabinet. Amongst his first acts he persuaded Congress to recognize the departments of Foreign Affairs (renamed State and given additional powers a few months after its creation), Treasury, and War. Unlike contemporary European advisors who were given the title "minister", the heads of these executive departments would be given the title of "secretary" followed by the name of their department. Although Washington's cabinet also contained the position of Attorney General, the Attorney General did not become the head of the Justice Department until 1870. George Washington's first cabinet consisted of Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State, Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Knox as Secretary of War, and Edmund Randolph as Attorney General.
The 15 Cabinet Secretaries are chosen by the President, and ratified by the United States Senate by simple majority vote. Cabinet Secretaries are often drafted from among past and current American governors, senatorss, congressmen, and other political office holders. Because of the strong system of separation of powers, however, no cabinet member can simultaneously hold an office in the legislative or judicial branches of government while serving in cabinet, nor can they hold office in state government. Private citizens such as businessmen or military officials are also common cabinet choices. Unlike the parliamentary system of government, cabinet members are rarely "shuffled" and it is rare for a Secretary to be moved from one department to another.
As well, unlike the Cabinets in parliamentary systems, where the Prime Minister is frequently first among equals, the officials in the United States Cabinet are strongly subordinate to the President. In addition, the United States Cabinet does not play a collective legislative role as do the Cabinets in parliamentary systems. Cabinet members are often required to testify before Congressional delegations to justify their actions, however.
Cabinet members can be fired by the President, or impeached by the Congress. Customarily, cabinet members serve for a President's term, then are either fired or re-appointed when he is elected to a second.