Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs

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United States
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
U.S. Department of State official seal.svg
Seal of the United States Department of State
Flag of the United States Department of State.svg
Flag of the United States Department of State
Thomas A. Shannon Jr official photo.jpg
Thomas A. Shannon Jr.

since February 12, 2016
United States Department of State
Style Mister Under Secretary
Reports to The Secretary of State[1]
Appointer The President
with Senate advice and consent
Term length Appointed
Inaugural holder Robert D. Murphy
Formation August 1959
Salary $172,100 annually[2]  (Executive Schedule III)[3]
Website Official Website

The Under Secretary for Political Affairs is currently the third ranking position[4][5] in the United States Department of State, after the Secretary and the two Deputy Secretaries. While the positions of Secretary and Deputy Secretary are occupied by political appointees, the position of Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs is usually (but not always) occupied by a career Foreign Service Officer, making the occupant the highest-ranking member of the Foreign Service. The current Under Secretary is Thomas A. Shannon, who assumed office on February 12, 2016.[6] Mr. Shannon announced his retirement on February 1, 2018 but agreed to stay on until a successor could be named.[7]

The Under Secretary serves as the day-to-day manager of overall regional and bilateral policy issues, and oversees the bureaus for Africa, East Asia and the Pacific, Europe and Eurasia, the Near East, South and Central Asia, the Western Hemisphere, and International Organizations. The Under Secretary is advised by Assistant Secretaries of the geographic bureaus, who guide U.S. diplomatic missions within their regional jurisdiction.[8]

The political bureaus were first overseen in 1949 by a Deputy Under Secretary for Political Affairs. Prior to the creation of the position of Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs in August 1959, the Deputy Under Secretary for Political Affairs assisted the Secretary and Under Secretary of State in the formulation and conduct of U.S. foreign policy. After August 1959, the Deputy Under Secretary for Political Affairs served as a focal point for interdepartmental relations, especially those dealing with politico-military issues. During 1969, the Department discontinued the position and created a new Bureau for Politico-Military Affairs, which exists today as the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs under another Under Secretary.[9][10]

List of Under Secretaries for Political Affairs[10]

Image Name State of Residency Appointment Entry on Duty Termination of Appointment
Robert D. Murphy Wisconsin August 12, 1959 August 14, 1959 December 3, 1959
Livingston T. Merchant.jpg Livingston Merchant District of Columbia December 1, 1959 December 4, 1959 January 31, 1961
Portrait of George C. McGhee.jpg George McGhee Texas November 29, 1961 December 4, 1961 March 27, 1963
William Averell Harriman.jpg Averell Harriman New York April 4, 1963 April 4, 1963 March 17, 1965
Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F026365-0001, Bonn, Bundeskanzler empfängt USA-Staatssekretär.jpg Eugene Rostow Connecticut October 13, 1966 October 14, 1966 January 20, 1969
Alexis Johnson California February 7, 1969 February 7, 1969 February 1, 1973
WilliamJPorter.jpg William J. Porter Massachusetts February 2, 1973 February 2, 1973 February 18, 1974
Joseph Sisco Maryland February 11, 1974 February 19, 1974 June 30, 1976
Philiphabib.jpg Philip Habib California June 16, 1976 July 1, 1976 April 1, 1978
David Newsom California April 13, 1978 April 19, 1978 February 27, 1981
Walter J. Stoessel, Jr.jpg Walter Stoessel California February 27, 1981 February 28, 1981 January 26, 1982
Lawrence Eagleburger.jpg Lawrence Eagleburger Florida February 11, 1982 February 12, 1982 May 1, 1984
Michael Armacost Maryland May 17, 1984 May 18, 1984 March 2, 1989
Robert Kimmitt, official Treasury photo.jpg Robert Kimmitt Virginia March 2, 1989 March 2, 1989 August 23, 1991
Arnold Kanter Virginia October 4, 1991 October 4, 1991 January 20, 1993
Peter Tarnoff.GIF Peter Tarnoff New York March 11, 1993 March 11, 1993 April 18, 1997
ThomasRPickering.jpg Tom Pickering New Jersey May 27, 1997 May 27, 1997 December 31, 2000
Marc Grossman US State Department portrait.jpg Marc Grossman Virginia March 23, 2001 March 26, 2001 2005
Burns, R. Nicholas - Under Secretary for Political Affairs.jpg R. Nicholas Burns Massachusetts March 18, 2005 March 18, 2005 February 29, 2008
AmbassadorBurns.jpg William Joseph Burns Maryland February 29, 2008 May 13, 2008 July 28, 2011
Wendy R. Sherman.jpg Wendy Sherman[11] Maryland September 21, 2011 September 21, 2011 October 2, 2015
Thomas A. Shannon Jr official photo.jpg Thomas A. Shannon Jr.[6] Virginia February 12, 2016 February 12, 2016 Incumbent


  1. ^ "1 FAM 041 UNDER SECRETARY FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS (P)". Foreign Affairs Manual. U.S. Department of State. January 31, 2017. Retrieved March 28, 2018. 
  2. ^ "Pay & Leave: Salaries & Wages". Salary Table No. 2015-EX. United States Office of Personnel Management. January 1, 2015. Retrieved January 4, 2016. 
  3. ^ 5 U.S.C. § 5312.
  4. ^ President Trump nominated John J. Sullivan for the offices of United States Deputy Secretary of State and Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources on April 11, 2017, meaning that Shannon will be third in the department.
  5. ^ "Senior Officials". U. S. Department of State. 
  6. ^ a b "State Department gets some nominees, after Cruz clears his roadblock". Washington Post. February 12, 2016. 
  7. ^ Wroughton, Leslie. "No. 3 U.S. diplomat quits in latest departure under Trump". www.reuters.com. Reuters. Retrieved 15 April 2018. 
  8. ^ "Under Secretary for Political Affairs". Retrieved September 20, 2007. 
  9. ^ "History of the U.S. Department of State". Retrieved September 20, 2007. 
  10. ^ a b "Under Secretaries of State for Political Affairs". Retrieved September 20, 2007. 
  11. ^ "Biography, Wendy R. Sherman, Under Secretary, Political Affairs". United States Department of State. Retrieved December 29, 2011. 
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