What Is the Role of the White House Chief of Staff?
The White House Chief of Staff is an Assistant to the President of the United States. The Chief of Staff oversees the Executive Office of the President (EOP) of the United States. This office was created in 1939 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and is responsible for a variety of critical functions in support of the president’s work and agenda.
Primary responsibilities of the White House Chief of Staff
The duties of the White House Chief of Staff vary greatly in each administration, according to the needs and desires of each president. The position typically plays both a managerial and advisory role that encompasses several important functions:
Select and supervise key White House staff
Control access to the Oval Office and the president
Manage communications and information flow
Negotiate with Congress, executive branch agencies, and external political groups to implement the president’s agenda.
In fulfilling these duties, the Chief of Staff oversees and coordinates the efforts of the following offices within the EOP and White House Office:
Council of Economic Advisers
Council on Environmental Quality
National Security Staff
Office of Administration
Office of Management and Budget
Office of National Drug Control Policy
Office of Science and Technology Policy
Office of the United States Trade Representative
Office of the Vice President
Domestic Policy Council
National Security Advisor
National Economic Council
Office of Cabinet Affairs
Office of the Chief of Staff
Office of Communications
Office of Digital Strategy
Office of the First Lady
Office of Legislative Affairs
Office of Management and Administration
Oval Office Operations
Office of Presidential Personnel
Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs
Office of Scheduling and Advance
Office of the Staff Secretary
Office of the White House Counsel
The average term-of-service for a White House Chief of Staff is less than three years. Many White House Chiefs of Staff are former politicians and many continue their political careers in other senior roles.
History of the White House Chief of Staff
Beginning with George Washington, each president employed a private secretary, but it was not until President Buchanan’s administration in 1857 that Congress created an official office called the "Private Secretary at the White House" and funded the position. During President McKinley’s administration, the official Secretary to the President was designated.
The Secretary to the President was a respected government office held by highly talented men and considered worthy of cabinet rank and an oath of office. The role combined personal and professional assignments that were highly delicate and required great skill and discretion. In contrast, the Appointment’s Secretary served to control access to the president and manage the president’s schedule.
In 1939, during President Roosevelt’s second administration, the foundation of the modern White House office was created. Congress, at President Roosevelt’s request, approved the creation of the Executive Office of the President, which reported directly to the President of the United States.
In 1946, the position of Assistant to the President of the United States was established and charged to oversee the affairs of the White House. In 1953, President Eisenhower re-designated the position as the White House Chief of Staff. This new system was not fully adopted immediately, however, as President Kennedy and President Johnson retained Appointments Secretaries.
The Chief of Staff became a permanent fixture of White House administrations beginning with the Nixon administration in 1968. Every president since has designated a White House Chief of Staff.