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United States Secretary of State

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United States Secretary of State
Seal of the United States Secretary of State.svg
Seal of the Secretary of State
Flag of the United States Secretary of State.svg
Flag of the Secretary of State
Mike Pompeo official photo (cropped).jpg
Mike Pompeo

since April 26, 2018
United States Department of State
Style Mr. Secretary
Member of Cabinet
National Security Council
Reports to President of the United States
Seat Washington, D.C.
Appointer The President
with Senate advice and consent
Constituting instrument 22 U.S.C. § 2651
Precursor Secretary of Foreign Affairs
Formation July 27, 1789; 230 years ago (1789-07-27)
First holder Thomas Jefferson
Succession Fourth[1]
Deputy Deputy Secretary of State
Salary Executive Schedule, level I[2]

The secretary of state is a senior official of the federal government of the United States of America, and as head of the United States Department of State, is principally concerned with foreign policy and is considered to be the U.S. government's minister of foreign affairs.[3][4]

The secretary of state is nominated by the president of the United States and, following a confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, is confirmed by the United States Senate. The secretary of state, along with the secretary of the treasury, secretary of defense, and attorney general, are generally regarded as the four most important Cabinet members because of the importance of their respective departments.[5] Secretary of state is a Level I position in the Executive Schedule and thus earns the salary prescribed for that level (currently US$210,700).[2]

The current secretary of state is Mike Pompeo, who previously served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Pompeo replaced Rex Tillerson whom President Trump dismissed on March 13, 2018.[6][7] Tillerson's last day at the State Department was March 31, 2018. Pompeo was confirmed by the Senate on April 26, 2018 and was sworn in later that day.[8]

Duties and responsibilities[edit]

The stated duties of the secretary of state are as follows:[9]

  • "Supervises the United States Foreign Service" and "administers the Department of State"
  • Advises the president on matters relating to U.S. foreign policy including the appointment of diplomatic representatives to other nations and on the acceptance, recall, or dismissal of representatives from other nations
  • "Negotiates, interprets, or terminates treaties and agreements" and "conducts negotiations relating to U.S. foreign affairs"
  • "Personally participates in or directs U.S. representatives to international conferences, organizations, and agencies"
  • Provides information and services to U.S. citizens living or traveling abroad such as providing credentials in the form of passports
  • Ensure the protection of the U.S. government to U.S. citizens, property, and interests in foreign countries
  • "Supervises the administration of the U.S. immigration policy abroad"
  • Communicates issues relating the U.S. foreign policy to Congress and to U.S. citizens
  • "Promotes beneficial economic intercourse between the U.S. and other countries"

The original duties of the secretary of state include some domestic duties such as:[citation needed]

  • 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 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.[10] Under Federal Law,[11] 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 in disgrace of President Richard Nixon and of Vice President Spiro Agnew were formalized in instruments delivered to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

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 Henry Clay, William Seward, James Blaine, William Jennings Bryan, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton have been unsuccessful presidential candidates, either before or after their term of office as Secretary of State.

The nature of the position means that secretaries of state engage in travel around the world. The record for most countries visited in a secretary's tenure is 112 by Hillary Clinton.[12] Second is Madeleine Albright with 96.[13] The record for most air miles traveled in a secretary's tenure is 1,417,576 miles by John Kerry.[14] Second is Condoleezza Rice's 1,059,247 miles,[15] and third is Clinton's 956,733 miles.[16]

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.

John Adams[17]


  1. ^ "3 U.S. Code § 19 - Vacancy in offices of both President and Vice President; officers eligible to act". Cornell Law School.
  2. ^ a b 5 U.S.C. § 5312.
  3. ^ "Heads of State, Heads of Government, Ministers for Foreign Affairs", Protocol and Liaison Service, United Nations. Retrieved November 2, 2012.
  4. ^ NATO Member Countries, NATO. Retrieved November 2, 2012.
  5. ^ "Cabinets and Counselors: The President and the Executive Branch" (1997). Congressional Quarterly. p. 87.
  6. ^ "Meet Mike Pompeo, Trump's Reported New Hardliner Secretary of State". Haaretz. March 13, 2018. Retrieved March 13, 2018.
  7. ^ "Rex Tillerson out as secretary of state; CIA Director Mike Pompeo will replace him". PBS NewsHour. Retrieved March 13, 2018.
  8. ^ "Trump fires Rex Tillerson as secretary of state". BBC News. March 13, 2018. Retrieved March 13, 2018.
  9. ^ "Duties of the Secretary of State". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
  10. ^ "Duties of the Secretary of State of the United States". United States Department of State. January 20, 2009. Retrieved March 28, 2010.
  11. ^ "3 U.S. Code § 20 - Resignation or refusal of office".
  12. ^ Mark Landler (January 4, 2013). "Scare Adds to Fears That Clinton's Work Has Taken Toll". The New York Times.
  13. ^ Lee, Matthew (June 28, 2012). "Frequent flier Hillary Clinton hits 100-country mark". Detroit Free Press. Associated Press. Archived from the original on June 28, 2012.
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ 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.

External links[edit]

U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Ambassadors from the United States
(while at their posts)
Order of Precedence of the United States
as Secretary of State
Succeeded by
Ambassadors to the United States
(in order of tenure)
Preceded by
Otherwise Barack Obama
as Former President
Succeeded by
Otherwise António Guterres
as Secretary-General of the United Nations
U.S. presidential line of succession
Preceded by
President pro tempore of the Senate
Charles Grassley
4th in line Succeeded by
Secretary of the Treasury
Steve Mnuchin