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Secretary of State of the United States of America
Flag of the United States Secretary of State.svg
Flag of the Secretary of State
Department of state.svg
Seal of the Department of State
John Kerry official Secretary of State portrait.jpg
John Kerry

since February 1, 2013
U.S. Department of State
Member of Cabinet
Reports to The President
Seat Washington, D.C.
Appointer The President
Term length No fixed term
Constituting instrument 22 U.S.C. § 2651
Formation July 27, 1789
First holder Thomas Jefferson
Succession Fourth
(presidential line of succession)
Deputy Deputy Secretary of State
Salary Executive Schedule, level 1
Website www.state.gov

The Secretary of State is a senior official of the federal government of the United States of America heading the U.S. Department of State, principally concerned with foreign affairs and is considered to be the U.S. government's equivalent of a Minister for Foreign Affairs.[1][2]

The Secretary of State, appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate, is a member of the President's Cabinet, the National Security Council, and is the highest-ranking appointed executive branch official both in the presidential line of succession and the order of precedence.

The Secretary of State along with the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Defense, and the Attorney General are generally regarded as the four most important cabinet members because of the importance of their respective departments.[3] Secretary of State is a Level I position in the Executive Schedule and thus earns the salary prescribed for that level.[4]

The current Secretary of State is John Kerry, the 68th person to hold the office since its creation in 1789.

Duties and responsibilities[edit]

The specific duties of the Secretary of State include:[5]

  • Organizes and supervises the entire United States Department of State and the United States Foreign Service.
  • Advises the President on matters relating to U.S. foreign policy, including the appointment of diplomatic representatives to other nations, and on the acceptance or dismissal of representatives from other nations.
  • Participates in high-level negotiations with other countries, either bilaterally or as part of an international conference or organization, or appoints representatives to do so. This includes the negotiation of international treaties and other agreements.
  • Responsible for overall direction, coordination, and supervision of interdepartmental activities of the U.S. Government overseas.
  • Providing information and services to U.S. citizens living or traveling abroad, including providing credentials in the form of passports and visas.
  • Supervises the United States immigration policy abroad.
  • Communicates issues relating the United States foreign policy to Congress and to U.S. citizens.

The original duties of the Secretary of State include some domestic duties, such as:[6]

  • Receipt, publication, distribution, and preservation of the laws of the United States
  • Preparation, sealing, and recording of the commissions of Presidential appointees
  • Preparation and authentication of copies of records and authentication of copies under the Department's seal
  • Custody of the Great Seal of the United States
  • Custody of the records of the former Secretary of the Continental Congress, except for those of the Treasury and War Departments

Most of the domestic functions of the Department of State have been transferred to other agencies. Those that remain include storage and use of the Great Seal of the United States, performance of protocol functions for the White House, and the drafting of certain proclamations. The Secretary also negotiates with the individual States over the extradition of fugitives to foreign countries.[5] Under Federal Law,[7][8] the resignation of a President or of a Vice-President is only valid if declared in writing, in an instrument delivered to the office of the Secretary of State. Accordingly, the resignations of President Nixon and of Vice-President Spiro Agnew, domestic issues, were formalized in instruments delivered to the Secretary of State.

As the highest-ranking member of the cabinet, the Secretary of State is the third-highest official of the executive branch of the Federal Government of the United States, after the President and Vice President and is fourth in line to succeed the Presidency, coming after the Vice President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the President pro tempore of the Senate. Six Secretaries of State have gone on to be elected President. Others, including Kerry, Hillary Clinton, William Seward, and Henry Clay have been unsuccessful presidential candidates.

What are the Qualifications of a Secretary of State? He ought to be a Man of universal Reading in Laws, Governments, History. Our whole terrestrial Universe ought to be summarily comprehended in his Mind.[9]

As the head of the United States Foreign Service, the Secretary of State is responsible for management of the diplomatic service of the United States. The foreign service employs about 12,000 people domestically and internationally, and supports 265 United States diplomatic missions around the world, including ambassadors to various nations.

The nature of the position means that Secretaries of State engage in frequent travel around the world. The record for most countries visited in a secretary's tenure is 112, by Hillary Rodham Clinton.[10] Second is Madeleine Albright with 96.[11] The record for most air miles traveled in a secretary's tenure is 1,059,207, by Condoleezza Rice.[12] Second is Clinton's 956,733 miles.[10]

When there is a vacancy in the office of Secretary of State, the duties are exercised either by another member of the cabinet, or, in more recent times, by a high-ranking official of the State Department until the President appoints, and the United States Senate confirms, a new Secretary.

List of Secretaries of State[edit]


  1. ^ "Heads of State, Heads of Government, Ministers for Foreign Affairs", Protocol and Liaison Service, United Nations. Retrieved November 2, 2012.
  2. ^ NATO Member Countries, NATO. Retrieved November 2, 2012.
  3. ^ Cabinets and Counselors: The President and the Executive Branch (1997). Congressional Quarterly. p. 87.
  4. ^ 5 U.S.C. § 5312.
  5. ^ a b "Duties of the Secretary of State of the United States". www.state.gov. United States Department of State. January 20, 2009. Retrieved March 28, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Frequently asked questions - Office of the Historian". Office of the Historian, United States Department of State. Retrieved July 8, 2010. 
  7. ^ 3 USC §20
  8. ^ 3 USC § 20 - Resignation or refusal of office | LII / Legal Information Institute
  9. ^ Ford, Worthington C., ed. (1927). Statesman and Friend: Correspondence of John Adams with Benjamin Waterhouse, 1784–1822. Boston, MA: Little, Brown, and Company. p. 57. 
  10. ^ a b Mark Landler (January 4, 2013). "Scare Adds to Fears That Clinton’s Work Has Taken Toll". The New York Times. 
  11. ^ Lee, Matthew (June 28, 2012). "Frequent flier Hillary Clinton hits 100-country mark". Detroit Free Press. Associated Press. 
  12. ^ Jackson, David (June 18, 2012). "Clinton, Rice vie for most traveled secretary of State". USA Today. 

External links[edit]

United States presidential line of succession
Preceded by
President pro tempore of the Senate
Patrick Leahy
4th in line Succeeded by
Secretary of the Treasury
Jack Lew

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Secretary_of_State — Please support Wikipedia.
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