An executive order is an order or directive issued by the head of the executive branch at some level of government. The term executive order is most commonly applied to orders issued by the President.
US presidents have issued executive orders since 1789. Although there is no Constitutional provision or statute that explicitly permits executive orders, there is a vague grant of "executive power" given in Article II, Section 1, Clause 1 of the Constitution, and furthered by the declaration "take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed" made in Article II, Section 3, Clause 4. Most Executive Orders use these Constitutional reasonings as the authorization allowing for their issuance to be justified as part of the President's sworn duties, the intent being to help direct officers of the US Executive carry out their delegated duties as well as the normal operations of the federal government: the consequence of failing to comply possibly being the removal from office.
Critics have accused presidents of abusing executive orders, of using them to make laws without Congressional approval, and of moving existing laws away from their original mandates. Large policy changes with wide-ranging effects have been effected through executive order, including the integration of the armed forces under Harry Truman and the desegregation of public schools under Dwight D. Eisenhower.
One extreme example of an executive order is Executive Order 9066, where Franklin D. Roosevelt delegated military authority to remove any or all people (used to target specifically Japanese Americans and German Americans) in a military zone. The authority delegated to General John L. DeWitt subsequently paved the way for all Japanese-Americans on the West Coast to be sent to internment camps for the duration of World War II.
The following is a Disposition Table with Executive Orders from ALL Presidents. Barack Obama is the very first listing.