White House Office of the Staff Secretary

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The Staff Secretary ("Staff Sec") is a position in the White House Office responsible for managing paper flow to the President and circulating documents among senior staff for comment. The Staff Secretary is also responsible for determining when the flag is lowered to half mast.

Joani Walsh is the current Staff Secretary in the Administration of President Barack Obama, she was appointed to the position in early 2014. She previously served as an Assistant Staff Secretary earlier in the administration.

The Office of the Staff Secretary, along with its sub-offices—the Office of the Executive Clerk, the Office of Records Management, and the Office of Presidential Correspondence—is the largest of the White House Offices.[1]


The Office of the Staff Secretary has been referred to as "the nerve center of the White House."

Due to the high volume of important memos, meetings and decisions generated for the President's attention, the Staff Secretary is tasked with deciding which papers should go to the President's desk—and when the paper should be sent to him. These documents range from presidential decision memos and bills passed by Congress to drafts of speeches and samples of correspondence.[2] The Staff Secretary relies on close coordination with Oval Office Operations and the Scheduling Office to decide when and how the President would like to receive documents.

The Staff Secretary's principal role is to review the incoming papers and determine which issues must reach the President. Secondary to this, Staff Sec determines who else in the administration should comment on the issue to give the President a full picture of the situation. Staff Sec then compiles the documents with the relevant commentary for the President's consumption.[2]

Traditionally, the Staff Secretary is a position of great trust due to the influence it can wield over which memos are allowed to reach the President, and who is given the opportunity to comment on those issues.

The Staff Secretary or a designated Assistant Staff Secretary always accompanies the President on any work-related travel.


The position was established under President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953, one of the recommendations of the Hoover Commission (Commission on the Organization of the Executive Branch). Under Eisenhower, the first staff secretaries focused particularly on screening national security communications; in this role, Colonel Andrew J. Goodpaster was thought to overshadow the President's special assistant for national security.[3]

With the appointment of businessman Jon Huntsman, Sr., as Staff Secretary in the Richard Nixon White House, the role was vastly expanded to absorb the functions of the Office of Management and Administration. These new roles included personnel management, finance and operations, services (such as access to the White House Mess and limousine fleet), facilities and furniture, and oversight of the Executive Clerk and Visitors Office.[4]

Almost all of these responsibilities—as well as Presidential Correspondence—were spun off during the Carter Administration into the newly created Office of Administration.

During the Reagan Administration the Offices of the Staff Secretary and the Executive Clerk were reunited with Presidential Correspondence in a configuration that has remained fairly consistent through the subsequent presidencies.[2]

Holders of the Office (incomplete list)

Obama Administration

  • (2014–Present) Joani Walsh as Deputy Assistant to the President and Staff Secretary
  • (2012–2013) Douglas Kramer as Deputy Assistant to the President and Staff Secretary
  • (2011–2012) Rajesh De as Deputy Assistant to the President and Staff Secretary
  • (2009–2011) Lisa Brown as Assistant to the President and Staff Secretary

Bush (43) Administration

  • (2006–2009) Raul F. Yanes as Assistant to the President and Staff Secretary
  • (2003–2006) Brett M. Kavanaugh as Assistant to the President and Staff Secretary
  • (2001–2003) Harriet Miers as Assistant to the President and Staff Secretary

Clinton Administration

Bush (41) Administration

Reagan Administration

Carter Administration

Ford Administration

Nixon Administration

Kennedy Administration

Eisenhower Administration

  • Andrew Goodpaster as Defense Liaison Officer and Staff Secretary (October 1954 – January 20, 1961)
  • Pete Carroll as Defense Liaison Officer and Staff Secretary (January 21, 1953 – September 17, 1954)


  1. "White House Staff Disclosure 2014". WhiteHouse.gov. Retrieved October 7, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Office of the Staff Secretary" (PDF). WhiteHouseTransitionProject.org. Retrieved November 13, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Description of creation of staff secretary position
  4. "Staff Secretary". NixonLibrary.gov. Retrieved November 26, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links