The executive branch of the U.S. government was created to carry out and enforce laws created by the legislative branch. Among its duties is the protection of the homeland, collection of taxes and implementation of foreign policy.
The executive branch is one of the three branches of government provided for in the U.S. Constitution that ensures a system of checks and balances, preventing any one branch from becoming too powerful. For instance, the president checks Congress with the power of veto, and Congress checks the president with the power of impeachment or denial of appointees. The Articles of Confederation had not provided for an executive branch. Delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1787 agreed that there had to be an executive branch separate from the legislative branch to avoid corruption and paralysis.
The executive branch consists of the president, vice president and 15 executive departments run by members of the Cabinet. The president is the head of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces and has the authority to appoint ambassadors, Cabinet heads, Supreme Court justices and other federal judges, and the heads of other federal offices and commissions. The vice president replaces the president if he steps down or is incapacitated, presides over the Senate and has the authority to cast a tie-breaking vote if the Senate is deadlocked. The Cabinet is a body of presidential advisers whose agencies execute policy in various areas. Among the agencies are the Departments of Defense, Commerce, Education, Energy, Labor, State and Justice.