Department of State – U.S. Secretary of State
The Secretary of State is a diplomatic representative appointed by the president who serves as our nation’s chief foreign affairs officer. As the head of the U.S Department of State (DOS), the secretary handles complex matters of international relations and diplomacy.
The secretary holds the third highest position in the Executive Branch and is fourth in the line of presidential succession. His or her appointment requires Senate confirmation.
The Secretary of State holds an important cabinet level position. His or her responsibilities include:
- Serving as the president’s chief U.S. foreign policy adviser, carrying out the president’s foreign policy objectives.
- Traveling extensively, meeting with world leaders and negotiating foreign affairs agreements.
- Providing advice regarding the appointment of U.S. diplomatic representatives.
- Conducting international treaty negotiations, terminating such agreements when deemed necessary.
- Promoting international relationships and helping support important economic dealings between the U.S. and foreign countries.
- Acting as the chief U.S representative abroad, and as such, directing other U.S. representatives who lead international organizations and agencies.
- Supervising the U.S. Foreign Service.
- Participating in international conferences, either directly or through a representative.
- Working to protect the interests of our citizens and our nation abroad.
- When present, representing the U.S. in front of the U.N. Security Council. In the secretary’s absence, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations holds this role.
- Overseeing aspects of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Chain of Command
The job of Secretary of State cannot be completed in a vacuum, rather the secretary relies on the input and advice of Department deputies and undersecretaries. Most of these individuals are career politicians. Presidential endorsement is required before they can be officially seated.
- Deputy Secretary: As principal secretary to the secretary of state, this individual assists with the formation of U.S. foreign policy and helps supervise the DOS.
- Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources: The DOS’s Chief Operating Officer acts as the secretary’s principal advisor in matters involving Department resource allocation and management.
- Undersecretary for Political Affairs: Manages regional and international policy matters.
- Undersecretary for Management: Advises the secretary on management issues.
- Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs: Addresses terrorist threats and ideology by communicating with international, educational and cultural groups.
- Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security: Focuses on the management of global security policy and nonproliferation.
- Undersecretary for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights: Oversees various bureaus and government offices.
- Undersecretary for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment: Leads the DOS’s work in the areas of energy, trade, agriculture and aviation. Additionally, he or she advises the secretary on matters of international economic policy.
U.S. Secretaries of State must be well-versed in matters of diplomatic relations and typically have previous government or military experience, though public sector experience is not a job requirement. Most have also worked in matters of international relations and subscribe to a negotiation style that supports our national security.
In addition to relevant government experience, many previous U.S. Secretaries of State hold advanced academic degrees. The skills gained while pursuing degrees such as Juris Doctorate, Masters in Business Administration, Masters or Ph.D. in Foreign Relations or a Masters in Public Administration can help prepare candidates for high level Department of State positions.