A frequent question by many is what is the chain of command for the US government, and they have a hard time finding the answer. The reason for that is the USA does not have a chain of command and that is why searches often come up with useless information.
Because the US government is not of a military structure, they have what is called an Order of Succession. If the President dies or is unable to perform his duty while in office, the number 2 person being the Vice President takes over. In fact very simply that is the entire reason the Vice President is there. Essentially the Vice President holds very little power short of casting a tie breaking vote in The Senate. In reality the number 3 position actually wields much more political power.
The number 3 person is the Speaker of the House and has significant influence on getting a bill through congress or killing it. So if you look at the day to day normal power structure in the US, the Speaker of the House is the second most powerful person in the USA according to the Constitution simply because the Vice President is a standby position in government.
At this point for most Americans who comes next is a bit fuzzy, so to clear that up the number 4 spot is the President pro tempore of the Senate. This is the longest lasting position as elections are every 6 years for the Senate. All other positions in government are either appointed by the President who has a 4 year term, and the Speaker of the House has a 2 year term.
The number 5 spot goes to the Secretary of State. This is possibly the most visual position next to the President because the Secretary of State interacts directly with other countries and essentially is the key interface between countries. This position has been seen as the most influential in international politics on a day to day basis. Although the President sets policy and has the final say, the President divides time between domestic and international issues reducing his international exposure slightly.
After that the list runs on all the way down to number 19 the Secretary of Homeland Security. Beyond that there is no provision in the Constitution and it is assumed the top military commander would take over until a new government could be formed. In reality if it ever gets down to Secretary of Homeland Security being acting President, there is some catastrophic problems going on and it simply may be every man for themselves at that point. The full list is below.
- 1 President
- 2 Vice President
- 3 Speaker of the House
- 4 President pro tempore of the Senate
- 5 Secretary of State
- 6 Secretary of the Treasury
- 7 Secretary of Defense.
- 8 Attorney General
- 9 Secretary of the Interior
- 10 Secretary of Agriculture
- 11 Secretary of Commerce
- 12 Secretary of Labor
- 13 Secretary of Health and Human Services
- 14 Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
- 15 Secretary of Transportation
- 16 Secretary of Energy
- 17 Secretary of Education
- 18 Secretary of Veterans Affairs
- 19 Secretary of Homeland Security