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:
The original duties of the Secretary of State include some domestic duties, such as:
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.
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.
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.
Federal law ([[Title of the United States Code| U.S.C.]] § ) provides that a presidential or vice-presidential resignation must be accomplished by written communication from the President to the office of the Secretary of State. This has occurred once, when President Richard Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974 via a letter to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
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.