AskDefine | Define undersecretary

Dictionary Definition

undersecretary n : a secretary immediately subordinate to the head of a department of government

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. An administrator immediately subordinate to a head of a government department or to a member of a cabinet

Extensive Definition

An undersecretary is a career public servant who typically acts as a senior administrator or second-in-command to a politically-appointed Cabinet Minister or other government official. The title is used in many different political systems.

United States

In the United States executive branch, an undersecretary is a senior official in a government department, junior to a departmental Secretary such as the Secretary of State. An Undersecretary is typically a career government official, as opposed to a political appointee; they may head specific sub-departments or agencies such as the Defense Intelligence Agency, or be responsible for a specific area of policy within the department, e.g. the Undersecretary for Management within the Department of State.
While the Cabinet Secretary provides vision and direction, undersecretaries run the department and are often considered the political counterpart to a Chief Operating Officer, albeit for a specific branch.

United Kingdom

The title of Undersecretary is used in two different contexts in the British political system. A Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State is a junior member of the government, always an MP from the governing party, who is appointed to assist a Secretary of State or other government minister. They rank between a Minister of State and a Parliamentary Private Secretary; the rank is usually seen as a stepping-stone to higher political office. In contrast, a Permanent Undersecretary is a civil servant employed to head part of a government department and oversee the implementation of policy.


In Italy, Undersecretary is a second-in-command to a politically-appointed Minister. In particular, he/she is appointed with a President of the Republic Decree, on proposal of the Prime Minister, who previously agreed such proposal with the relevant Minister.

Undersecretaries in fiction

In the BBC political drama The State Within, the Undersecretary for Defence Intelligence is one of the major characters. In the popular book series, Harry Potter, by author J.K. Rowling, Dolores Jane Umbridge acts as the Senior Undersecretary to Minister for Magic, Cornelius Fudge in the 5th installment, Order of the Phoenix. She later serves to Ministers Rufus Scrimgeour and Pius Thicknesse before she is incarcerated for crimes against muggle-borns.
undersecretary in Spanish: Subsecretaría
undersecretary in Italian: Sottosegretario di stato

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

alderman, archon, bailie, burghermaster, burgomaster, cabinet member, cabinet minister, chancellor, city councilman, city father, city manager, commissar, commissioner, councillor, councilman, councilwoman, county commissioner, county supervisor, elder, headman, induna, legislator, lord mayor, magistrate, maire, mayor, minister, minister of state, portreeve, reeve, secretary, secretary of state, selectman, supervisor, syndic, warden
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1