The Department of Energy, the twelfth cabinet-level department, was established in 1977 during the Carter administration. The department's mission was to oversee the development and testing of the country's nuclear weapons and coordinate the various, loosely organized energy programs established by the federal government. (See also: What Do Trump's Cabinet Picks Mean for Energy Sector Stocks?)
Until the 1970s, the government took a relatively hands-off approach to energy production and policy, but the energy crisis of the mid-1970s changed all that. The Department of Energy was created to address the problem and develop a comprehensive national energy plan that included nuclear energy technology. (See also: What Could Trump Mean for nuclear energy?)
As Rick Perry, four-term governor of Texas, prepares to assume the position as Donald Trump's secretary of energy, it's a good time to take a look at exactly what the job entails. (See also: Trump's Cabinet: The Senate Confirmation Hearings Schedule.)
How is the secretary of energy chosen?
As with all cabinet-level positions, the secretary of energy is appointed by the president, confirmed by the senate and serves at the president's discretion. Each president takes his own approach – some make political appointments, while others choose candidates based on particular knowledge in the field of science and energy. Some are chosen for their executive experience in managing other government agencies. For example:
James Schlesinger, the first secretary of energy, was an economics PhD who originally served under Nixon and Ford as a budget director, director of central intelligence and secretary of defense before being appointed secretary of energy by Carter.
Federico Pena, Bill Clinton's second energy secretary, was the former mayor of Denver before being appointed to lead the Department of Transportation and ultimately the Department of Energy under Clinton.
Samuel Bodman, appointed by George W. Bush in 2005, was an MIT-educated doctor of science in chemical engineering who also served as deputy secretary of both Treasury and Commerce before assuming the top job at Energy.
Steven Chu, Barack Obama's first secretary of energy, earned a PhD in physics from UC Berkeley, where he went on to teach as a professor of physics and molecular biology before accepting the secretary position in 2009.
Rick Perry, nominated by Donald Trump, has a BS in animal science from Texas A&M and served as governor of Texas from 1999 to 2015. The Pantex Plant, which is the United States' primary facility responsible for the assembly, disassembly, reliability and safety of the country's nuclear arsenal, is located just outside Amarillo, Texas.
What does the energy secretary do?
The Department of Energy is a sprawling bureaucracy with over 93,000 employees and a budget in excess of $27 billion for FY 2016. Its list of responsibilities include the nation's nuclear weapons programs, the Navy's nuclear energy program, energy research and conservation, and domestic energy policy. The Human Genome Project is a DOE initiative. The Energy Department spends more on physical science research than any other federal agency through the National Laboratories.
The secretary of energy, along with his or her assistants and undersecretaries, oversees the entire Energy apparatus and portfolio. In addition, the department's mission statement includes "advancing the national, economic, and energy security of the United States," as well as supporting innovative technology to further those goals.
Perhaps most importantly, the secretary advises the president on matters of energy and nuclear security and advances the president's agenda and policy objectives.
How much does the secretary of energy make?
Like all federal employees, pay for cabinet secretaries is set by Title 5 of the United States Code. Cabinet officials are designated as Level 1 of the Executive Schedule, which carries an annual salary of $205,700 in 2016. (See also: Trump's Cabinet Picks Would Be the Richest in US History.)
Cabinet secretaries serve at the request of the president – they are not appointed to set terms like appointees to federal boards such as the National Labor Relations Board, where each member serves a five-year term.
Federico Pena was the shortest-serving secretary of energy in recent history, with a term lasting just 16 months. Steven Chu was the longest, serving from January 2009 through April 2013.
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