What is the US Secretary of Commerce?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
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  • Last Modified Date: 18 September 2019
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The United States Secretary of Commerce is the head of the Department of Commerce, a government agency concerned with issues pertaining to foreign and domestic commerce. This agency has existed since 1913, when it was split from the Department of Commerce and Labor. There are a number of very diverse divisions within the Department of Commerce, and the US Secretary of Commerce is assisted by an assortment of Undersecretaries and other staffers who ensure that each bureau in the Department of Commerce runs smoothly and effectively.

The Department of Commerce is a Cabinet-level agency, making the US Secretary of Commerce a member of the Presidential Cabinet. As with other heads of Cabinet-level agencies, the US Secretary of Commerce is also in line for the Presidency of the United States, assuming that he or she is a natural citizen of the United States. On the line of Presidential succession, the US Secretary of Commerce ranks 10, making it unlikely that a Commerce Secretary would ever wind up in the Oval Office as an acting President.

This agency has the goal of encouraging and supporting commerce, both foreign and domestic, in the United States. It focuses on issues like job growth, technical innovation, and creating an economic climate which is friendly to business. Some notable bureaus in the Department of Commerce include the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Patent and Trade Office.


As a general rule, the US Secretary of Commerce is replaced with every new Presidential administration, since most Presidents want to surround themselves with a supportive and productive Cabinet. Presidents usually seek out appointees who share their goals for the American economy, and their philosophy about how these goals can be accomplished. This Cabinet appointment is subject to Senate confirmation hearings, allowing the Senate a chance to reject unwanted candidates.

In addition to managing the Department of Commerce, the US Secretary of Commerce is also responsible for providing advice and information to the President. He or she keeps the President informed about issues which may affect American commerce, and makes policy recommendations which are designed to promote the goals of the agency. The Secretary of Commerce also meets with representatives of other agencies which have an influence on the operations of the Department of Commerce, ranging from the Customs Service to the United States Treasury.


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