United States Secretary of State

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Head of the United States Department of State

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United States Secretary of State

Seal of the secretary of state

Flag of the secretary of state

Antony Blinken
since January 26, 2021

United States Department of State
Style Mr. Secretary (informal)
The Honorable[1] (formal)
His Excellency[2] (diplomatic)
Member of Cabinet of the United States
United States National Security Council
Reports to President of the United States
Seat Washington, D.C.
Appointer President of the United States
with Senate advice and consent
Constituting instrument 22 U.S.C. § 2651
Precursor United States Secretary of Foreign Affairs
Formation July 27, 1789; 234 years ago (1789-07-27)
First holder Thomas Jefferson
Succession Fourth[3]
Deputy United States Deputy Secretary of State
Salary Executive Schedule, Level I[4]

The United States secretary of state (SecState[5]) is a member of the executive branch of the federal government of the United States and the head of the U.S. Department of State. The office holder is the second-highest-ranking member of the president’s Cabinet, after the Vice President, and ranks fourth in the United States presidential line of succession; first amongst cabinet secretaries.

Created in 1789 with Thomas Jefferson as its first office holder, the secretary of state represents the United States to foreign countries, and is therefore considered analogous to a minister of foreign affairs in other countries.[6][7] 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 crucial Cabinet members because of the importance of their respective departments.[8]

Secretary of State is a Level I position in the Executive Schedule and thus earns the salary prescribed for that level (US$221,400, as of January 2021).[9][4] The current secretary of state is Antony Blinken, who was confirmed on January 26, 2021, by the Senate by a vote of 78–22.[10]


The secretary of state originates from the government under the Articles of Confederation. The Congress of the Confederation established the Department of Foreign Affairs in 1781 and created the office of secretary of foreign affairs.[11] After the Constitution of the United States was ratified, the 1st United States Congress reestablished the department, renaming it the Department of State, and created the office of secretary of state to lead the department.[12]

Duties and responsibilities[edit]

The stated duties of the secretary of state are to supervise the United States foreign service and immigration policy and administer the Department of State. The secretary must also advise the president on U.S. foreign matters such as the appointment of diplomats and ambassadors, advising the president of the dismissal and recall of these people. The secretary of state can conduct negotiations, interpret, and terminate treaties relating to foreign policy. The secretary also can participate in international conferences, organizations, and agencies as a representative of the United States. The secretary communicates issues relating to the U.S. foreign policy to Congress and citizens. The secretary also provides services to U.S. citizens living or traveling abroad such as providing credentials in the form of passports. Doing this, the secretary also ensures the protection of citizens, their property, and interests in foreign countries.[13]

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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[14]

Secretaries of state also have domestic responsibilities. Most of the historical domestic functions of the Department of State were gradually transferred to other agencies by the late 19th century as part of various administrative reforms and restructurings.[15] Those that remain include storage and use of the Great Seal, 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.[16] Under federal law, the resignation of a president or of a vice president is valid only if declared in writing, in an instrument delivered to the office of the secretary of state.[17] Accordingly, the resignations of President Richard Nixon and of Vice President Spiro Agnew were formalized in instruments delivered to then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

Although they have historically decreased over time, Congress may occasionally add to the responsibilities of the secretary of state. One such instance occurred in 2014, when Congress passed the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act which mandated actions the Secretary of State must take in order to facilitate the return of abducted children from nations who are party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.[18]

As the highest-ranking member of the cabinet, the secretary of state is the third-highest official of the executive branch of the U.S. federal government, after the president and vice president, and is fourth in line to succeed the presidency, after the vice president, the speaker of the House of Representatives, and the president pro tempore of the Senate.

Six past secretaries of state – Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Van Buren and Buchanan – have gone on to be elected president. Others, including Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, Lewis Cass, John C. Calhoun, John M. Clayton, William L. Marcy, William Seward, Edward Everett, Jeremiah S. Black, James Blaine, Elihu B. Washburne, Thomas F. Bayard, John Sherman, Walter Q. Gresham, William Jennings Bryan, Philander C. Knox, Charles Evans Hughes, Elihu Root, Cordell Hull, Edmund Muskie, Alexander Haig, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton have also campaigned as presidential candidates, either before or after their term of office as Secretary of State, but were ultimately unsuccessful. The position of Secretary of State has therefore been viewed to be a consolation prize for failed presidential candidates.[19]

See also[edit]


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  1. ^ .mw-parser-output cite.citation{font-style:inherit;word-wrap:break-word}.mw-parser-output .citation q{quotes:”””””””‘””‘”}.mw-parser-output .citation:target{background-color:rgba(0,127,255,0.133)}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-free.id-lock-free a{background:url(“//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/65/Lock-green.svg”)right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .id-lock-free a{background-size:contain}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-limited.id-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .id-lock-registration.id-lock-registration a{background:url(“//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d6/Lock-gray-alt-2.svg”)right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .id-lock-limited a,body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .id-lock-registration a{background-size:contain}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-subscription.id-lock-subscription a{background:url(“//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/aa/Lock-red-alt-2.svg”)right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .id-lock-subscription a{background-size:contain}.mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background:url(“//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4c/Wikisource-logo.svg”)right 0.1em center/12px no-repeat}body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background-size:contain}.mw-parser-output .cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:none;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;color:#d33}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{color:#d33}.mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{display:none;color:#2C882D;margin-left:0.3em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right{padding-right:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .citation .mw-selflink{font-weight:inherit}html.skin-theme-clientpref-night .mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{color:#18911F}html.skin-theme-clientpref-night .mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error,html.skin-theme-clientpref-night .mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{color:#f8a397}@media(prefers-color-scheme:dark){html.skin-theme-clientpref-os .mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error,html.skin-theme-clientpref-os .mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{color:#f8a397}html.skin-theme-clientpref-os .mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{color:#18911F}}“Protocol Reference”. United States Department of State. Archived from the original on January 30, 2021. Retrieved January 31, 2021.
  2. ^ “United Nations Heads of State, Protocol and Liaison Service” (PDF). United Nations. January 29, 2021. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 14, 2020. Retrieved January 31, 2021.
  3. ^ “3 U.S. Code § 19 – Vacancy in offices of both President and Vice President; officers eligible to act”. Cornell Law School. Archived from the original on December 26, 2018. Retrieved February 4, 2017.
  4. ^ a b 5 U.S.C. § 5312.
  5. ^ “Abbreviations and Terms” (PDF). 2001-2009.state.gov. Archived (PDF) from the original on January 18, 2022. Retrieved July 18, 2023.
  6. ^ “Heads of State, Heads of Government, Ministers for Foreign Affairs”, Protocol and Liaison Service, United Nations. Retrieved November 2, 2012.
  7. ^ NATO Member Countries Archived October 1, 2017, at the Wayback Machine, NATO. Retrieved November 2, 2012.
  8. ^ “Cabinets and Counselors: The President and the Executive Branch” (1997). Congressional Quarterly. p. 87.
  9. ^ “Salary Table No. 2021-EX Rates of Basic Pay for the Executive Schedule (EX)” (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on January 29, 2022. Retrieved March 19, 2021.
  10. ^ “U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 117th Congress – 1st Session”. U.S. Senate. Archived from the original on January 30, 2021. Retrieved January 31, 2021.
  11. ^ Short 1923, pp. 55–56.
  12. ^ “1 United States Statutes at Large, Chapter 4, Section 1”. Archived from the original on April 8, 2022. Retrieved March 29, 2022.
  13. ^ “Duties of the Secretary of State”. U.S. Department of State. Archived from the original on August 8, 2019. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ “Administrative Timeline of the Department of State – Department History – Office of the Historian”. history.state.gov. Archived from the original on November 11, 2021. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  16. ^ “Duties of the Secretary of State of the United States”. www.state.gov. United States Department of State. January 20, 2009. Archived from the original on August 8, 2019. Retrieved March 28, 2010.
  17. ^ “3 U.S. Code § 20 – Resignation or refusal of office”. LII / Legal Information Institute. Archived from the original on December 2, 2017. Retrieved January 31, 2021.
  18. ^ “H.R.3212 – 113th Congress (2013–2014): Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act of 2014”. Congress.gov. August 8, 2014. Archived from the original on May 1, 2022. Retrieved May 1, 2022.
  19. ^ Stone, Andrea (August 12, 2014). “Why Do Secretaries of State Make Such Terrible Presidential Candidates?”. Smithsonian Magazine. Archived from the original on September 18, 2021. Retrieved September 15, 2021.


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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

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