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 President’s Cabinet. He or she is the highest ranked cabinet secretary both in line of succession and order of precedence. The present us secretary of state Condoleezza Rice (born November 14, 1954) is the 66th United States Secretary of State, and the second in the administration of President George W. Bush to hold the office.
Most of the non-original domestic functions of the Department of State have been transferred to other agencies. Those that remain in the Department are: storage and use of the Great Seal of the United States, performance of protocol functions for the White House, drafting of certain proclamations, formally accepting notice of the president’s resignation, and replies to inquiries. In addition, the Secretary performs such duties as the President is required, in accordance with the United States Constitution, relating to correspondence, commission, or instructions to U.S. or consuls abroad, and to conduct negotiations with foreign representatives. The Secretary has also served as principal adviser to the President in the determination of U.S. foreign policy and in recent decades has become responsible for overall direction, coordination, and supervision of interdepartmental activities of the U.S. Government overseas, excepting certain military activities.
As the highest-ranking Cabinet member, the Secretary of State is fourth in line to succeed the Presidency, after the Vice President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and President pro tempore of the Senate.
Federal law provides that resignation from the Presidency is effected only by written communication from the President to the Secretary of State. This has only occurred once, when President Richard Nixon resigned in August 1974 via a letter to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.