Secretary of State

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps
 
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Holding one of the ranking positions in the president's cabinet, the secretary of state is the president's principal foreign policy adviser. In this pivotal role, the secretary undertakes the overall direction, coordination, and supervision of relations between the United States and foreign nations. The position is fourth in line of presidential succession. Like other cabinet members who implement the president's policies, the secretary heads a federal department: the STATE DEPARTMENT. As its director, the secretary oversees a vast network of U.S. offices and agencies, conducts negotiations with foreign governments, and often travels in the role of chief U.S. representative abroad. In 1997 then-president BILL CLINTON named MADELEINE K. ALBRIGHT as the first female secretary of state. Four years later, President GEORGE W. BUSH named Colin L. Powell as the first black person to hold the office.

The position of secretary of state developed shortly after the founding of the nation in the late eighteenth century. In 1781 Congress created the Department of Foreign Affairs but abolished it and replaced it with the Department of State in 1789. Lawmakers designated the secretary of state as head of the State Department with two principal responsibilities: to assist the president in foreign policy matters and to be the chief representative of the United States abroad. Nomination of the secretary was left to the president, but the appointment was made contingent upon the approval of the U.S. Senate. The first secretary of state, THOMAS JEFFERSON, served under President GEORGE WASHINGTON from 1790 to 1793.

Since the end of WORLD WAR II, the U.S. foreign policy apparatus has greatly expanded, and its principal body is the State Department. The United States maintains diplomatic relations with some 180 countries worldwide as well as ties to many international organizations, and most of this diplomatic business flows through the State Department. The secretary is aided by a deputy secretary and five undersecretaries who serve as key advisers in political affairs; economic, business, and agricultural affairs; ARMS CONTROL and international security affairs; management; and global affairs. Additionally, the secretary has general responsibility for the U.S. INFORMATION AGENCY, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and the Agency for International Development.

The secretary is very important. Under the...

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