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An undersecretary is an executive government official in many countries, frequently 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.

Holy See[edit]

In the Holy See, undersecretary is a title given to senior administrative officials working in the dicasteries of the Roman Curia.

Hong Kong[edit]

In Hong Kong, undersecretary is a position created in 2008 to work closely with bureau secretaries and top civil servants to implement the Chief Executive's policy blueprint and agenda in an executive-led government. The appointment of undersecretaries and political assistants is an extension of the Principal Officials Accountability System into today's Political Appointments System.[1]


In India, Under Secretary is a Group A officer level secretariat post in Central Ministries, tenanted by officers of various civil services, usually promoted officers from the Group 'B' (Section Officers/Equivalent to Sub Divisional Magistrate) Central Secretariat Service, and Newly appointed officers of the Indian Administrative Service/District Magistrate on deputation in central govt , abbreviated as IAS, or other Group 'A' services. Officers in this capacity further manage Desk or Section Officers within a Ministry or Central Regulatory body. Under Secretaries occupy gazetted civil service posts in India, unlike in some western democracies, where they are political appointees.For Example: Under Secretaries in Home Ministry will look after the Transfer/Posting and other Service Related matters of Police officers like Assistant Commissioner/ Deputy Commissioner/Joint Commissioner depending on the Department.Under Secretaries in Finance Ministry will look after the Transfer/Posting and other Service Related matters of Income Tax/Custom & Excise officers like Assistant Commissioner/Deputy Commissioner/Joint Commissioner depending on the Department.

The hierarchy of secretariat posts in the Government of India begins with the Section officers who occupy the junior most gazetted post. Superior to the Section Officers are Undersecratary, Deputy Secretaries, Directors, Joint Secretaries, Additional Secretaries, Special Secretaries, and finally, Secretary to the Government of India. Undersecratary Level officer can attest Passport documents for tatkal scheme.

India Principal Private Secratry(PPS)[edit]

In India Principal Private Secratary is Group A Gazetted officer that generally take care of office of Additional Secratary or Equivalent to the Govt of India. Principal Private Secratary has a pay scale equivalent to (Undersecratary to Govt of India/Deputy Commisioner). Principal Private Secratary are promoted to Senior Principal Private Secratary (Senior PPS) generraly after 5 years of Service depending upon the Posts.Senior Principal Private Secratary has a pay scale equivalent to (Deputy Secratary to Govt of India/Joint Commisioner) and they run the office of Secratary to Govt of India or Equivalent. Level of Seniority after Senior PPS is PSO(Principal Staff Officer's). PSO has Pay Scale Equivalent to (Director to Govt of India/Divisional Commisioner of a state). In India PPS & above can attest passport documents for Tatkal scheme.


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.


In the Nederlands, undersecretary (Dutch: staatssecretaris) is the title of a junior member of the Cabinet of the Netherlands. An undersecretary takes over part of the portfolio of a certain minister and falls under the responsibility of that minister, but is at the same time also separately responsible to the parliament.[2] Undersecretaries do not attend the weekly council of ministers unless specifically invited. Some undersecretaries are allowed to use the title 'minister' in meetings with foreign colleagues who are responsible for the same topic area (who may be ministers).


In Portugal the level of undersecretary is not a pro-forma echelon in the executive hierarchy. Such posts are created on an ad hoc basis as required.[3] It is the lowest rung in the executive power. There is currently only one undersecretary of State in the present government.


In the Spanish Government, the Undersecretary is a political appointee charged with the daily representation of a ministry, the management of the common services and personnel. The position is equivalent to the British Permanent Secretary. The Undersecretary reports to the Minister, and is appointed by the King on the advice of the Council of Ministers.

United Kingdom[edit]

The title of Under-Secretary 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 Under-Secretary is a civil servant employed to head part of a government department and oversee the implementation of policy.

United States[edit]

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 and usually junior to a Deputy Secretary as well. 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. Before 1972, "Undersecretary" (also spelled "Under Secretary") signified the senior deputy to a cabinet Secretary, especially of State and Treasury. The Under Secretary would typically be a political appointee. The office of Under Secretary of State was replaced by the Deputy Secretary of State and the office of Under Secretary of the Treasury was replaced by the Deputy Secretary of the Treasury.

While the Cabinet Secretary provides vision and direction, undersecretaries run the department and are often considered the government equivalent of a chief operating officer, albeit for a specific branch.


  1. ^ Mary Ma, "It pays to be forward looking", The Standard, June 04, 2008
  2. ^ http://www.parlement.com/id/vh8lnhrogvv4/staatssecretaris
  3. ^ http://dre.pt/pdfgratis/1916/05/08600.pdf |3=Lei n.º 524 de 5 de maio de 1916 (Criando os lugares de sub-secretários de Estado dos Ministérios das Colónias, Finanças e Guerra)