What Is the Secretary of Commerce?

The United States Department of Commerce (DOC) is one of the cabinet-level agencies of the executive branch of the United States federal government. It cultivates economic opportunity and growth for working U.S. citizens by doing the following:

  • Supporting American businesses in the United States, as well as overseas
  • Promoting U.S. exports and foreign trade
  • Regulating the export of sensitive technologies and goods
  • Circulating economic studies and statistics that can be used by the public, businesses, and the government
  • Gathering demographic and economic data that quantifies the well-being of the economy
  • Implementing international trade agreements
  • Issuing trademarks and patents
  • Supporting technological, engineering, and scientific research and development

The current Secretary of Commerce is Gina Raimondo, who took office on March 3, 2021.

Key Takeaways

  • The U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) is an executive branch of the federal government tasked with addressing economic growth.
  • The Secretary of Commerce, appointed by the President of the U.S. and approved by the majority of the Senate, is the head of the Department of Commerce.
  • The Secretary of Commerce strives to increase job opportunities and represents U.S. businesses within the president's cabinet, as well as fulfills other duties to drive economic development and growth.
  • The commerce secretary cannot simultaneously serve as a member of the House of Representatives during their term.
  • The current Secretary of Commerce is Gina Raimondo.

Understanding the Secretary of Commerce

As the head of the Department of Commerce, the Secretary of Commerce nurtures a relationship with the business community to develop and grow job opportunities and industries for American workers.

The commerce secretary is responsible for representing U.S. businesses within the President’s Cabinet, interacting with communities, businesses, universities, and American workers, and promoting economic growth, job creation, and balanced economic development.

The Department of Commerce consists of 12 bureaus that work in unison to enhance the US economy. As part of a broad mission, the DOC manages the following offices:

  • National Telecommunications and Information Administration
  • International Trade Administration
  • National Technical Information Service
  • Census Bureau
  • Bureau of Economic Analysis
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology
  • Economics and Statistics Administration
  • Patents, Trademarks, and Licenses
  • Patent and Trademark Office
  • Bureau of Industry and Security
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service
  • National Marine Fisheries Service
  • National Weather Service
  • National Ocean Service
  • Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research
  • Office of Marine and Aviation Operations
  • Office of Program Planning and Integration
  • Economic Development Administration
  • Minority Business Development Agency

Secretary of Commerce Qualifications

An individual gets the position of Secretary of Commerce by presidential appointment and receiving majority consent by the U.S. Senate.

The candidate for commerce secretary that the president chooses can come from a vast array of career backgrounds. The person may have worked in education, law, the military, economics, or business, or the person may have held a position in a previous government post. However, there is an “ineligibility clause” in the Constitution stating that a person serving as a secretary in the president’s cabinet is not allowed to simultaneously serve as a member of the House of Representatives during their tenure as secretary.

Other than the ineligibility clause, the president has no restrictions on who may be selected as the nominee for commerce secretary.

The Secretary of Commerce has no fixed term.

The Secretary of Commerce's Term

The President of the United States can terminate the serving secretary at will and appoint a replacement at any point during their term. The commerce secretary typically resigns when a new president is elected. The incoming commerce secretary must go through the nominating process again.

The work of the Department of Commerce is generally overlooked and taken for granted. Many citizens don’t realize how important the department is and how influential the commerce secretary can be. The efforts this person makes in promoting economic programs for the sake of the average U.S. citizen play a major role in the health of the American economy.

It is the goal of the Commerce Department to enhance economic growth and to stimulate progress for the United States economy. Such a stimulus may come directly from the secretary or may be engineered in collaboration with the president.