The White House chief of staff is the head of the Executive Office of the President of the United States and a cabinet position, in the federal government of the United States.
|White House Chief of Staff|
|Executive Office of the President|
White House Office
|Reports to||President of the United States|
|Appointer||President of the United States|
|Formation||1946 (Assistant to the President)|
1961 (White House Chief of Staff)
|First holder||John R. Steelman|
The chief of staff is a political appointee of the president of the United States who does not require Senate confirmation, and who serves at the pleasure of the President. While not a legally required role, all presidents since Harry S Truman have appointed a chief of staff.
In the administration of Joe Biden, the current chief of staff is Ron Klain, who succeeded Mark Meadows on January 20, 2021. The chief of staff is the most senior political appointee in the White House. The position is widely recognized as one of great power and influence, owing to daily contact with the president of the United States and control of the Executive Office of the President of the United States.
Originally, the duties now performed by the chief of staff belonged to the president's private secretary and were fulfilled by crucial confidantes and policy advisers such as George B. Cortelyou, Joseph Tumulty, and Louis McHenry Howe to presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Roosevelt, respectively. The private secretary served as the president's de facto chief aide, in a role that combined personal and professional assignments of highly delicate and demanding natures, requiring great skill and utmost discretion. The job of gatekeeper and overseeing the president's schedule was separately delegated to the appointments secretary, as with aide Edwin "Pa" Watson.
From 1933 to 1939, as he greatly expanded the scope of the federal government's policies and powers in response to the Great Depression, President Roosevelt relied on his famous 'Brain Trust' of top advisers. Although working directly for the president, they were often appointed to vacant positions in federal agencies and departments, whence they drew their salaries since the White House lacked statutory or budgetary authority to create staff positions. It was not until 1939, during Roosevelt's second term in office, that the foundations of the modern White House staff were created using a formal structure. Roosevelt was able to persuade Congress to approve the creation of the Executive Office of the President, which would report directly to the president. During World War II, Roosevelt created the position of "Chief of Staff to the Commander-in-Chief" for his principal military adviser, Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy.
In 1946, in response to the rapid growth of the U.S. government's executive branch, the position of "Assistant to the President of the United States" was established. Charged with the affairs of the White House, it was the immediate predecessor to the modern chief of staff. It was in 1953, under Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower, that the president's preeminent assistant was designated the "White House Chief of Staff".
Assistant to the president became a rank generally shared by the chief of staff along with the other most senior presidential aides such as the White House counsel, the White House press secretary, and others. This new system did not catch on immediately however. Presidents Kennedy and Johnson still relied on their appointments secretaries instead, and it was not until the Nixon administration that the chief of staff took over maintenance of the President's schedule. This concentration of power in the Nixon and Ford White House (whose last chief of staff was Dick Cheney) led presidential candidate Jimmy Carter to campaign in 1976 with the promise that he would not appoint a chief of staff. And indeed, for the first two and a half years of his presidency, he appointed no one to the post.
The average tenure for a White House chief of staff is a little more than 18 months. The inaugural chief of staff, John R. Steelman, under Harry S. Truman, was the president's only chief of staff; Kenneth O'Donnell alone served in the position during John F. Kennedy's unfinished term of 34 months in office. Andrew Card and Denis McDonough each served at least one entire presidential term of office under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, respectively.
Many White House chiefs of staff are former politicians, and continue their political careers after their stint in the White House. Lyndon Johnson's chief of staff W. Marvin Watson became the Postmaster General later in the term. Richard Nixon's chief of staff Alexander Haig, a U.S. Army officer with his capstone military position being that of Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, later became Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan. Cheney later became a congressman for Wyoming, Secretary of Defense under George H. W. Bush and vice president in the George W. Bush administration. Donald Rumsfeld was another chief of staff for Ford and subsequently served as secretary of defense both in the Ford administration and decades later in the George W. Bush administration. Rahm Emanuel left a senior leadership position in the House of Representatives to become Barack Obama's first chief of staff and subsequently became Mayor of Chicago. Jack Lew, President Obama's fourth chief of staff, was later appointed Secretary of the Treasury.
Chris Whipple, author of The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency, loosely describes the role of a White House chief of staff through his interview with former president Barack Obama:
"During the last days of his presidency, Barack Obama observed: 'One of the things I've learned is that the big breakthroughs are typically the result of a lot of grunt work—just a whole lot of blocking and tackling.' Grunt work is what chiefs of staff do."— Chris Whipple
The responsibilities of the chief of staff are both managerial and advisory and may include the following:
These responsibilities have recently extended to firing of senior staff members. In the case of Omarosa Manigault Newman, who published a tape she alleged was made in the Situation Room of her firing by Chief of Staff John Kelly, the chief of staff said that his decision for her departure was non-negotiable and that "the staff and everyone on the staff works for me and not the president."
Richard Nixon's first chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman, garnered a reputation in Washington for the iron hand he wielded in the position—famously referring to himself as "the president's son-of-a-bitch", he was a rigid gatekeeper who would frequently meet with administration officials in place of the president, and then report himself to Nixon on the officials' talking points. Journalist Bob Woodward, in his books All the President's Men (1974) and The Secret Man (2005), wrote that many of his sources, including Mark Felt, later revealed as "Deep Throat", displayed a genuine fear of Haldeman.
|No.||Portrait||Chief of Staff||Took office||Left office||Time in office||Party||President|
|December 12, 1946||January 20, 1953||6 years, 39 days||Democratic||Harry S Truman|
|January 20, 1953||October 7, 1958||5 years, 260 days||Republican||Dwight D. Eisenhower|
|October 7, 1958||January 20, 1961||2 years, 105 days||Republican||Dwight D. Eisenhower|
|January 20, 1961||November 22, 1963||2 years, 306 days||Democratic||John F. Kennedy|
|February 1, 1965||April 26, 1968||3 years, 85 days||Democratic||Lyndon B. Johnson|
|–||James R. Jones|
|April 26, 1968||January 20, 1969||269 days||Democratic||Lyndon B. Johnson|
|4||H. R. Haldeman|
|January 20, 1969||April 30, 1973||4 years, 100 days||Republican||Richard Nixon|
April 30, 1973 – May 4, 1973 (4 days)
|May 4, 1973||September 21, 1974||1 year, 140 days||Republican||Richard Nixon|
|September 21, 1974||November 20, 1975||1 year, 60 days||Republican||Gerald Ford|
|November 20, 1975||January 20, 1977||1 year, 61 days||Republican||Gerald Ford|
January 20, 1977 – July 18, 1979 (2 years, 179 days)
|July 18, 1979||June 11, 1980||329 days||Democratic||Jimmy Carter|
|June 11, 1980||January 20, 1981||223 days||Democratic||Jimmy Carter|
|January 20, 1981||February 4, 1985||4 years, 15 days||Republican||Ronald Reagan|
|February 4, 1985||February 27, 1987||2 years, 23 days||Republican||Ronald Reagan|
|February 27, 1987||July 1, 1988||1 year, 125 days||Republican||Ronald Reagan|
|July 1, 1988||January 20, 1989||203 days||Republican||Ronald Reagan|
|January 20, 1989||December 16, 1991||2 years, 330 days||Republican||George H. W. Bush|
|December 16, 1991||August 23, 1992||251 days||Republican||George H. W. Bush|
|August 23, 1992||January 20, 1993||150 days||Republican||George H. W. Bush|
|January 20, 1993||July 17, 1994||1 year, 178 days||Democratic||Bill Clinton|
|July 17, 1994||January 20, 1997||2 years, 187 days||Democratic||Bill Clinton|
|January 20, 1997||October 20, 1998||1 year, 273 days||Democratic||Bill Clinton|
|October 20, 1998||January 20, 2001||2 years, 92 days||Democratic||Bill Clinton|
|January 20, 2001||April 14, 2006||5 years, 84 days||Republican||George W. Bush|
|April 14, 2006||January 20, 2009||2 years, 281 days||Republican||George W. Bush|
|January 20, 2009||October 1, 2010||1 year, 254 days||Democratic||Barack Obama|
|October 1, 2010||January 13, 2011||104 days||Democratic||Barack Obama|
|January 13, 2011||January 27, 2012||1 year, 14 days||Democratic||Barack Obama|
|January 27, 2012||January 20, 2013||359 days||Democratic||Barack Obama|
|January 20, 2013||January 20, 2017||4 years, 0 days||Democratic||Barack Obama|
|January 20, 2017||July 31, 2017||192 days||Republican||Donald Trump|
|28||John F. Kelly|
|July 31, 2017||January 2, 2019||1 year, 154 days||Independent||Donald Trump|
|January 2, 2019||March 31, 2020||1 year, 89 days||Republican||Donald Trump|
|March 31, 2020||January 20, 2021||295 days||Republican||Donald Trump|
|January 20, 2021||Incumbent||1 year, 317 days||Democratic||Joe Biden|