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10 U.S. Cabinet Departments that were Renamed or No Longer Exist

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After George Washington took office, he assembled a Presidential Cabinet that had just four positions: Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of War Henry Knox, and Attorney General Edmund Randolph. Since then, the Cabinet has evolved greatly. Some Departments have simply been renamed, some have been proposed by Congress and never passed, and some have vanished altogether. Currently, the Cabinet includes the Vice President and the heads of 15 departments. This always-fluctuating body isn’t explicitly included in either the U.S. Code or the Code of Federal Regulations, and isn’t even really outlined in the Constitution; the document says that the President may receive “opinion” from the principal officer in each executive department. It’s up to Congress to decide the number of executive departments, but the President gets to pick who runs each one (with confirmation from the Senate, of course).

Here are 11 of the U.S. Cabinet Departments that have changed since the first Cabinet member, Hamilton, was confirmed on September 11, 1789.

1. Post Office Department

The Post Office Department originated in 1792, began its association with the president's Cabinet during Andrew Jackson’s administration, and was officially designated as a Cabinet Department in 1872. But the Postmaster General's powerful political position in the Cabinet was nixed by President Nixon with the Postal Reorganization Act in 1970. The Act transformed the nearly 200-year-old U.S. Department into a government-owned corporation, which limited its autonomy. Congress put up a fight, though; it did not want to lose control over the agency and the thousands of positions within it, which could be awarded to political do-gooders. With the switch from government-run to quasi-private, the USPS runs like a business, relying on postage revenue rather than taxpayer money, which they haven't used since 1982—except for mailing voter materials to Americans with disabilities or those overseas.

2. Department of War/Navy/Air Force

These three separate departments, now under the Department of Defense, started out under the roof of the Department of War in 1789. When it was created, the War Department oversaw the U.S. Army, but also handled naval affairs and land-based air forces. Eventually, the Navy and Air Force received their own cabinet-level departments, until the Department of Defense came along in 1949 and took over supervising all agencies concerned with national security.

3. Department of Foreign Affairs

What is now the State Department began in the summer of 1789 as the Department of Foreign Affairs, and was created because George Washington realized he needed a Cabinet to help him with his daily duties. This first Cabinet department oversaw management of the Mint, keeping of the Great Seal, and conducting the census.

4. Department of Commerce and Labor

This cabinet, created in 1903, was concerned with controlling the excess of big business. In 1913, the department was divvied up into two departments: the Department of Commerce, which still watched over big business expansion, and the Department of Labor, which took over duties including occupational safety, wage and hour standards, and re-employment services. Because the original department was under the purview of President Teddy Roosevelt and President Taft, all four secretaries were Republican. 

5. Federal Security Agency

Created in 1939, the Federal Security Agency was responsible for overseeing social security, federal education funding, and food and drug safety. It was abolished in 1953 when President Eisenhower supported a plan in the Reorganization Act of 1949 shifting most of the agency’s powers to the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.

6. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare

This department got renamed and gave away quite a bit of its responsibilities. In 1979, it moved its concerns to health and became the Department of Health and Human Services. Its education duties were passed to the newly created Department of Education.

7. Office of National Drug Control Policy

Demoted from a cabinet-level department in 2009, the Office of National Drug Control Policy was born out of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, giving it the power to enforce laws mandating that all employers contracting with the federal government must meet certain requirements for promoting a drug-free workplace.

8. National Military Establishment

This was the first name for the Department of Defense. It was organized in 1947 to unite all of the various agencies with the intent of protecting national security. It was retitled the Department of Defense in 1949.

9. Federal Emergency Management Agency

FEMA, put in place with the primary objective of responding to disasters that occur in the U.S. that overwhelm the resources of local and state authorities, used to be a cabinet-level department. In March 2003, FEMA was demoted and placed under the watch of the Department of Homeland Security.

10. Central Intelligence Agency

After reorganization following the September 11 attacks, the Director of the CIA is no longer a part of the President’s Cabinet. However, the President still appoints someone to the position. The office succeeded what was originally the Office of Strategic Services, formed during World War II and meant to operate espionage activities. After the 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, the Cabinet position of the director was removed. The act created the office of the Director of National Intelligence, which now oversees the CIA.

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Animals
Plagued with Rodents, Members of the UK Parliament Demand a Cat
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Members of the United Kingdom’s Parliament want a cat, but not just for office cuddles: As The Telegraph reports, the Palace of Westminster—the meeting place of Parliament’s two houses, the House of Commons and the House of Lords—is overrun with vermin, and officials have had enough. They think an in-house feline would keep the rodents at bay and defray skyrocketing pest control costs.

Taxpayers in the UK recently had to bear the brunt of a $167,000 pest control bill after palace maintenance projects and office renovations disturbed mice and moths from their slumber. The bill—which was nearly one-third higher than the previous year’s—covered the cost of a full-time pest control technician and 1700 bait stations. That said, some Members of Parliament (MPs) think their problem could be solved the old-fashioned way: by deploying a talented mouser.

MP Penny Mordaunt tried taking matters into her own hands by bringing four cats—including her own pet kitty, Titania—to work. (“A great believer in credible deterrence, I’m applying the principle to the lower ministerial corridor mouse problem,” she tweeted.) This solution didn’t last long, however, as health and safety officials banned the cats from Parliament.

While cats aren’t allowed in Parliament, other government offices reportedly have in-house felines. And now, MPs—who are sick of mice getting into their food, running across desks, and scurrying around in the tearoom—are petitioning for the same luxury.

"This is so UNFAIR,” MP Stella Creasy said recently, according to The Telegraph. “When does Parliament get its own cats? We’ve got loads of mice (and some rats!) after all!" Plus, Creasy points out, a cat in Parliament is “YouTube gold in waiting!"

Animal charity Battersea Dogs & Cats Home wants to help, and says it’s been trying to convince Parliament to adopt a cat since 2014. "Battersea has over 130 years [experience] in re-homing rescue cats, and was the first choice for Downing Street, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the Cabinet Office when they sought our mousers to help with their own rogue rodents,” charity head Lindsey Quinlan said in a statement quoted by The Telegraph. “We'd be more than happy to help the Houses of Parliament recruit their own chief mousers to eliminate their pest problem and restore order in the historic corridors of power."

As of now, only assistance and security dogs are allowed on palace premises—but considering that MPs spotted 217 mice alone in the first six months of 2017, top brass may have to reconsider their rules and give elected officials purr-mission to get their own feline office companions.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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Master Sgt. Rose Reynolds, U.S. Air Force, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
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Weird
How the U-2 Aircraft Made Area 51 Synonymous With UFOs
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Master Sgt. Rose Reynolds, U.S. Air Force, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Area 51 may be the world’s most famous secret military base. Established on an abandoned airfield in the Nevada desert, the facility has fueled the imaginations of conspiracy theorists scanning the skies for UFOs for decades. But the truth about Area 51’s origins, while secretive, isn’t as thrilling as alien autopsies and flying saucers.

According to Business Insider, the U.S. government intended to build a base where they could test a top-secret military aircraft without drawing attention from civilians or spies. That aircraft, the U-2 plane, needed to fly higher than any other manmade object in the skies. That way it could perform recon missions over the USSR without getting shot down.

Even over the desert, the U-2 didn’t go completely undetected during test flights. Pilots who noticed the craft high above them reported it as an “unidentified flying object.” Not wanting to reveal the true nature of the project, Air Force officials gave flimsy explanations for the sightings pointing to either natural phenomena or weather research. UFO believers were right to think the government was covering something up, they were just wrong about the alien part.

You can get the full story in the video below.

[h/t Business Insider]

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