The U.S. Secretary of Commerce

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. The mission of the department is to create conditions for economic growth and opportunity.

As of January 31, 2018, the department employs 46,608 employees located in all 50 states, every U.S. territory, and more than 86 countries. Currently, it has five main strategic goals:

  1. Accelerate American leadership
  2. Enhance job creation
  3. Strengthen US economic and national security
  4. Fulfill constitutional requirements and support economic activity
  5. Deliver customer-centric service excellence

The current Secretary of Commerce is Gina Raimondo, former Governor of Rhode Island, 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.
  • In reference to Article 1, Section 6 of the Constitution, there is an “ineligibility clause” 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.
  • The President of the United States can terminate the serving secretary at will and appoint a replacement at any point during their term.
  • The current Secretary of Commerce is Gina Raimondo.

Understanding the Secretary of Commerce

The Office of the Secretary is the management arm of the department. It is lead by the Secretary of Commerce, who formulates policy and provides advice to the President. Through this office, the Secretary carries out program functions and provides administrative support for its operating units.

The Office of the Secretary consists of the Secretary of Commerce, secretarial officers, and designated staff.

The Department of Commerce

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

  • Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA)
  • Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS)
  • U.S. Census Bureau
  • Economic Development Administration (EDA)
  • Office of the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs (OUS/EA)
  • International Trade Administration (ITA)
  • Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA)
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • National Technical Information Service (NTIS)
  • National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)
  • U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)
  • Office of the Secretary (OS)

The DOC also manages the following offices:

  • Office of Business Liaison (OBL)
  • Office of the Chief of Staff
  • Office of the Deputy Secretary
  • Office of Executive Secretariat
  • Office of General Counsel (OGC)
  • Office of Inspector General (OIG)
  • Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs (OLIA)
  • Office of Policy and Strategic Planning (OPSP)
  • Office of Public Affairs (OPA)
  • Office of the White House Liaison (OWHL)
  • The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI)
  • Office of the Chief Financial Officer and Assistant Secretary for Administration (CFO/ASA)
  • Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO)
  • Enterprise Services (ES)
  • Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships (CFBNP)

Secretary of Commerce Qualifications

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

In reference to Article 1, Section 6 of the Constitution, there is an “ineligibility clause” 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.

Secretary of Commerce is categorized as a Level 1 position in the Executive Schedule. Therefore, as of January 2021, the position earns an annual income of $221,400 USD.

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 Bottom Line

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 maybe engineered in collaboration with the president. 

Article Sources

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  1. Department of Commerce. "About Commerce." Accessed June 8, 2021.

  2. Department of Commerce. "Gina M. Raimondo Sworn in as 40th U.S. Secretary of Commerce." Accessed April 2, 2021.

  3. Department of Commerce. "Office of the Secretary." Accessed June 8, 2021.

  4. Department of Commerce. "Bureaus and Offices." Accessed June 8, 2021.

  5. Constitution Center. "Article 1, Section 6." Accessed June 8, 2021.

  6. Office of Personnel Management. "Salary Table." Accessed June 8, 2021.