United States Secretary of State

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The United States Secretary of State is the head of the United States Department of State, concerned with foreign affairs. The Secretary is a member of the Cabinet and the highest-ranking cabinet secretary both in line of succession and order of precedence. The current Secretary of State is Hillary Rodham Clinton, the 67th person, and third woman to hold the post.



The position grew out of the short-lived Secretary of Foreign Affairs; most of the functions of the Secretary of State still revolve around foreign matters. The Secretary is commonly the chief diplomat of the United States, and advises the President on matters relating to foreign issues.

The specific duties of the Secretary of State include:[2]

  • Supervises the United States Foreign Service and the United States 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 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.
  • 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:[3]

  • 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.[2]

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