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United States Department of State

United States Department of State

The United States Department of State (DOS),[3] commonly referred to as the State Department, is a federal executive department responsible for carrying out U.S. foreign policy and international relations. Established in 1789 as the nation's first executive department,[4] its duties include advising the U.S. President, administering the nation's diplomatic missions, negotiating treaties and agreements with foreign entities, and representing the U.S. at the United Nations.

The department is led by the Secretary of State, a member of the Cabinet who is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The Secretary of State serves as the nation's chief diplomat and representative abroad, and is the first Cabinet official in the order of precedence and in the presidential line of succession.

The State Department is headquartered in the Harry S Truman Building, a few blocks away from the White House, in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, D.C.; "Foggy Bottom" is thus sometimes used as a metonym. The current Secretary of State is Mike Pompeo, who ascended to the office in April 2018 after Rex Tillerson resigned.

United States Department of State
Flag of the United States Department of State.svg
Flag of the department
United States Department of State headquarters.jpg
Agency overview
FormedJuly 27, 1789 (1789-07-27)
Preceding agency
  • Department of Foreign Affairs
TypeExecutive department
JurisdictionU.S. federal government
HeadquartersHarry S Truman Building
2201 C Street
Northwest, Washington, D.C., U.S.
38°53′39″N 77°2′54″W [63]
Employees13,000 Foreign Service employees
11,000 Civil Service employees
45,000 local employees[1]
Annual budget$52.404 billion (FY 2018)[2]
Agency executives
  • Mike Pompeo, Secretary
  • John Sullivan, Deputy Secretary
Websitewww.state.gov [64]


Old State Department building in Washington, D.C., c. 1865

Old State Department building in Washington, D.C., c. 1865

The U.S. Constitution, drafted in Philadelphia in September 1787 and ratified by the 13 states the following year, gave the President the responsibility for conducting the nation's foreign relations.

To that end, Congress approved legislation to establish a Department of Foreign Affairs on July 21, 1789, and President Washington signed it into law on July 27, making the Department of Foreign Affairs the first federal agency to be created under the new Constitution.[5] This legislation remains the basic law of the Department of State.

In September 1789, additional legislation changed the name of the agency to the Department of State and assigned to it a variety of domestic duties. These responsibilities grew to include management of the United States Mint, keeper of the Great Seal of the United States, and the taking of the census. President George Washington signed the new legislation on September 15.[6] Most of these domestic duties were eventually transferred to various new federal departments and agencies established during the 19th century. However, the Secretary of State still retains a few domestic responsibilities, such as being the keeper of the Great Seal and being the officer to whom a President or Vice President of the United States wishing to resign must deliver an instrument in writing declaring the decision to resign.

On September 29, 1789, President Washington appointed Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, then Minister to France, to be the first United States Secretary of State.[7] John Jay had been serving as Secretary of Foreign Affairs as a holdover from the Confederation since before Washington had taken office; he would continue in that capacity until Jefferson returned from Europe many months later.

From 1790 to 1800, the State Department was headquartered in Philadelphia, the capital of the United States at the time. It occupied a building at Church and Fifth Streets (although, for a short period during which a yellow fever epidemic ravaged the city, it resided in the New Jersey State House in Trenton, New Jersey).[8] In 1800, it moved from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., where it first briefly occupied the Treasury Building[8] and then the Seven Buildings at 19th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.[9] The State Department moved several times throughout the capital in the ensuing decades, including Six Buildings in September 1800;[10] the War Office Building west of the White House in May 1801;[11] the Treasury Building once more from September 1819 to November 1866[12] (except for a period between September 1814 to April 1816, during which it occupied a structure at G and 18th Streets NW while the Treasury Building was repaired);[11] the Washington City Orphan Home from November 1866 to July 1875;[13] and the State, War, and Navy Building in 1875.[14]

Since May 1947, the State Department has been based in the Harry S. Truman Building in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington; it is therefore sometimes metonymically referred to as "Foggy Bottom".[15][16][17]

Madeleine Albright became the first woman to become the Secretary of State and the first foreign-born woman to serve in the Cabinet when she was appointed in 1997. Condoleezza Rice became the second female Secretary of State in 2005 and the second African-American after Colin Powell. Hillary Clinton became the third female Secretary of State when she was appointed in 2009.

In 2014, the State Department began expanding into the Navy Hill Complex across 23rd Street NW from the Truman Building.[18] A joint venture consisting of the architectural firms of Goody, Clancy and the Louis Berger Group won a $2.5 million contract in January 2014 to begin planning the renovation of the buildings on the 11.8 acres (4.8 ha) Navy Hill campus, which housed the World War II headquarters of the Office of Strategic Services and was the first headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency.[19]

Duties and responsibilities

Armed Department of State security agents accompany U.S. Ambassador Deane Hinton in El Salvador in the early 1980s.

Armed Department of State security agents accompany U.S. Ambassador Deane Hinton in El Salvador in the early 1980s.

The Executive Branch and the U.S. Congress have constitutional responsibilities for U.S. foreign policy. Within the Executive Branch, the Department of State is the lead U.S. foreign affairs agency, and its head, the Secretary of State, is the President's principal foreign policy advisor. The Department advances U.S. objectives and interests in the world through its primary role in developing and implementing the President's foreign policy. It also provides an array of important services to U.S. citizens and to foreigners seeking to visit or immigrate to the United States. All foreign affairs activities—U.S. representation abroad, foreign assistance programs, countering international crime, foreign military training programs, the services the Department provides, and more—are paid for by the foreign affairs budget, which represents little more than 1% of the total federal budget. As stated by the Department of State, its purpose includes:

  • Protecting and assisting U.S. citizens living or traveling abroad;

  • Assisting U.S. businesses in the international marketplace;

  • Coordinating and providing support for international activities of other U.S. agencies (local, state, or federal government), official visits overseas and at home, and other diplomatic efforts.

  • Keeping the public informed about U.S. foreign policy and relations with other countries and providing feedback from the public to administration officials.

  • Providing automobile registration for non-diplomatic staff vehicles and the vehicles of diplomats of foreign countries having diplomatic immunity in the United States.[20]

The Department of State conducts these activities with a civilian workforce, and normally uses the Foreign Service personnel system for positions that require service abroad. Employees may be assigned to diplomatic missions abroad to represent The United States, analyze and report on political, economic, and social trends; adjudicate visas; and respond to the needs of U.S. citizens abroad. The U.S. maintains diplomatic relations with about 180 countries and maintains relations with many international organizations, adding up to a total of more than 250 posts around the world. In the United States, about 5,000 professional, technical, and administrative employees work compiling and analyzing reports from overseas, providing logistical support to posts, communicating with the American public, formulating and overseeing the budget, issuing passports and travel warnings, and more. In carrying out these responsibilities, the Department of State works in close coordination with other federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, the Department of the Treasury, and the Department of Commerce. As required by the principle of checks and balances, the Department also consults with Congress about foreign policy initiatives and policies.


Core activities

The DOS promotes and protects the interests of American citizens by (1) 'Promoting peace and stability in regions of vital interest'; (2) 'Creating jobs at home by opening markets abroad'; (3) 'Helping developing nations establish investment and export opportunities'; and (4) 'Bringing nations together and forging partnerships to address global problems, such as terrorism, the spread of communicable diseases, cross-border pollution, humanitarian crises, nuclear smuggling, and narcotics trafficking.'[21]

BioPrepWatch reported that, on May 30, 2013, the State Department submitted the Country Reports on Terrorism 2012 to Congress. Most terrorist attacks have been decentralized and target the Middle East countries. There have been no other reports that have previously talked about this topic, but the biggest shifts in terrorism in 2012 included an increase in state-sponsored terrorism in Iran. The State Department states the best way to counter international terrorist attacks is to work with international partners to cut funding, strengthen law-enforcing institutions, and eliminate terrorist safe havens.[22]

Secretary of State

The Secretary of State is the chief executive officer of the Department of State and a member of the Cabinet that answers directly to, and advises, the President of the United States. The secretary organizes and supervises the entire department and its staff.[23]


The Department of State has 75,547 employees (2018), including 13,855 Foreign Service Officers and 49,734 Locally Employed Staff, whose duties are primarily serving overseas. In addition, 10,171 employees form part of the predominantly domestic Civil Service.[24]

  • United States Deputy Secretary of State: The Deputy Secretary (with the Chief of Staff, Executive Secretariat, and the Under Secretary for Management) assists the Secretary in the overall management of the department. Reporting to the Deputy Secretary are the six Under Secretaries and the counselor, along with several staff offices: Chief of Staff [[INLINE_IMAGE|//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/82/US_Department_of_State_organizational_chart.svg/290px-US_Department_of_State_organizational_chart.svg.png|//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/82/US_Department_of_State_organizational_chart.svg/435px-US_Department_of_State_organizational_chart.svg.png 1.5x, //upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/82/US_Department_of_State_organizational_chart.svg/580px-US_Department_of_State_organizational_chart.svg.png 2x||h213|w290|thumbimage]] Organizational chart of the U.S. Department of State Executive Secretariat Office of Cultural Heritage Office of Global Intergovernmental Affairs National Foreign Affairs Training Center (which houses the Foreign Service Institute) Office of the Legal Adviser Office of the Inspector General Office of Management Policy Office of Civil Rights Office of Protocol Office of the Science and Technology Adviser Office of the Senior Advisor for Civil Society and Emerging Democracies Office of Global Women's Issues Bureau of Intelligence and Research Bureau of Legislative Affairs Bureau of Budget and Planning Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs: The fourth-ranking State Department official. Becomes Acting Secretary in the absence of the Secretary of State and the two Deputy Secretaries of State. This position is responsible for bureaus, headed by Assistant Secretaries, coordinating American diplomacy around the world: Bureau of African Affairs Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Bureau of International Organization Affairs Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs Under Secretary of State for Management:[25] The principal adviser to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary on matters relating to the allocation and use of Department's budget, physical property, and personnel. This position is responsible for bureaus, headed by Assistant Secretaries, planning the day-to-day administration of the Department and proposing institutional reform and modernization: Bureau of Administration [[INLINE_IMAGE|//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/e3/Hillary_Clinton_arrives_at_State_Dept._1-22-09_clinton-arrival-1.2209_600_1.jpg/220px-Hillary_Clinton_arrives_at_State_Dept._1-22-09_clinton-arrival-1.2209_600_1.jpg|//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/e3/Hillary_Clinton_arrives_at_State_Dept._1-22-09_clinton-arrival-1.2209_600_1.jpg/330px-Hillary_Clinton_arrives_at_State_Dept._1-22-09_clinton-arrival-1.2209_600_1.jpg 1.5x, //upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/e3/Hillary_Clinton_arrives_at_State_Dept._1-22-09_clinton-arrival-1.2209_600_1.jpg/440px-Hillary_Clinton_arrives_at_State_Dept._1-22-09_clinton-arrival-1.2209_600_1.jpg 2x||h146|w220|thumbimage]] Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is greeted by Department employees during her arrival on her first day. Bureau of Consular Affairs Office of Children's Issues Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) U.S. Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) Office of Foreign Missions Bureau of Human Resources Bureau of Information Resource Management Bureau of Medical Services[26][27] Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations Director of Diplomatic Reception Rooms Foreign Service Institute Office of Management Policy, Rightsizing, and Innovation Office of White House Liaison Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment: The senior economic advisor for the Secretary and Deputy Secretary on international economic policy. This position is responsible for bureaus, headed by Assistant Secretaries, dealing with trade, agriculture, aviation, and bilateral trade relations with America's economic partners: Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs Bureau of Energy Resources Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Office of the Science and Technology Adviser[28] Office of the Chief Economist Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs: This Under Secretary leads functions that were formerly assigned to the United States Information Agency but were integrated into the State Department by the 1999 reorganization. This position manages units that handle the department's public communications and seek to burnish the image of the United States around the world: Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Internet Access and Training Program Bureau of Public Affairs Spokesperson for the United States Department of State Office of the Historian United States Diplomacy Center Bureau of International Information Programs Office of Policy, Planning, and Resources for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs: This Under Secretary coordinates the Department's role in U.S. military assistance. Since the 1996 reorganization, this Under Secretary also oversees the functions of the formerly independent Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation Bureau of Political-Military Affairs Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights: This Under Secretary leads the Department's efforts to prevent and counter threats to civilian security and advises the Secretary of State on matters related to governance, democracy, and human rights. Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization Bureau of Counterterrorism Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration Office of Global Criminal Justice Office of Global Youth Issues Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons Global Engagement Center[29] Counselor: Ranking with the Under Secretaries, the Counselor is the Secretary's and Deputy Secretary's special advisor and consultant on major problems of foreign policy. The Counselor provides guidance to the appropriate bureaus with respect to such matters, conducts special international negotiations and consultations, and undertakes special assignments from time to time as directed by the Secretary.

  • Office of Global AIDS Coordinator: The President's main task force to combat global AIDS. The Global AIDS Coordinator reports directly to the Secretary of State.

Other agencies

Since the 1996 reorganization, the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), while leading an independent agency, has also reported to the Secretary of State, as does the United States Ambassador to the United Nations.

Diplomats in Residence

Diplomats in Residence are career Foreign Service Officers and Specialists located throughout the U.S. who provide guidance and advice on careers, internships, and fellowships to students and professionals in the communities they serve. Diplomats in Residence represent 16 population-based regions that encompass the United States.[30]

The Fulbright Program

Mike Pompeo with 2018 summer interns

Mike Pompeo with 2018 summer interns

The Fulbright Program, including the Fulbright–Hays Program, is a program of competitive, merit-based grants for international educational exchange for students, scholars, teachers, professionals, scientists and artists, founded by United States Senator J. William Fulbright in 1946. Under the Fulbright Program, competitively selected U.S. citizens may become eligible for scholarships to study, conduct research, or exercise their talents abroad; and citizens of other countries may qualify to do the same in the United States. The program was established to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries through the exchange of persons, knowledge, and skills.

The Fulbright Program provides 8,000 grants annually to undertake graduate study, advanced research, university lecturing, and classroom teaching. In the 2015–16 cycle, 17% and 24% of American applicants were successful in securing research and English Teaching Assistance grants, respectively. However, selectivity and application numbers vary substantially by country and by type of grant. For example, grants were awarded to 30% of Americans applying to teach English in Laos and 50% of applicants to do research in Laos. In contrast, 6% of applicants applying to teach English in Belgium were successful compared to 16% of applicants to do research in Belgium.[31][32]

The U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs sponsors the Fulbright Program from an annual appropriation from the U.S. Congress. Additional direct and in-kind support comes from partner governments, foundations, corporations, and host institutions both in and outside the U.S.[33] The Fulbright Program is administered by cooperating organizations like the Institute of International Education. It operates in over 160 countries around the world.[34] In each of 49 countries, a bi-national Fulbright Commission administers and oversees the Fulbright Program. In countries without a Fulbright Commission but that have an active program, the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy oversees the Fulbright Program. More than 360,000 persons have participated in the program since it began. Fifty-four Fulbright alumni have won Nobel Prizes;[35] eighty-two have won Pulitzer Prizes.[36]

Jefferson Science Fellows Program

The Jefferson Science Fellows Program was established in 2003 by the DoS to establish a new model for engaging the American academic science, technology, engineering and medical communities in the formulation and implementation of U.S. foreign policy.[37][38] The Fellows (as they are called, if chosen for this program) are paid around $50,000 during the program and can earn special bonuses of up to $10,000. The whole point of this program is so that these Fellows will know the ins and outs of the Department of State/USAID to help with the daily functioning.[39] There is no one winner every year rather it's a program that you apply for and follow a process that starts in August and takes a full year to learn the final results of your ranking. It isn't solely based on achievement alone but intelligence and writing skills that have to show that you encompass all of what the committee is looking for. First you start with the online application then you start to write your curriculum vitae which explains more about yourself and your education and job experience then you move onto your statement of interest and essay where you have your common essay and your briefing memo. Finally you wrap up with letters of recommendations and letters of nominations to show that you are not the only person who believes that they should be a part of this program.

Franklin Fellows Program

The Franklin Fellows Program was established in 2006 by the DoS to bring in mid-level executives from the private sector and non-profit organizations to advise the Department and to work on projects.[40] Fellows may also work with other government entities, including the Congress, White House, and executive branch agencies, including the Department of Defense, Department of Commerce, and Department of Homeland Security. The program is named in honor of Benjamin Franklin, and aims to bring mid-career professionals to enrich and expand the Department's capabilities. Unlike the Jefferson Science Fellows Program this is based on volunteer work as you do not get paid to be a part of this. Rather you have sponsors or you contribute your own money in order to fulfill what it will take to do the year long program. The more seniority you have in this program determines what kind of topics you work on and the priority that the issues are to the country. Although the bottom line is that the other Fellows are the ones with the final say of where you are placed however they try to take into account where you would like to be placed.[41]

Department of State Air Wing

Logo of the "Air Wing" of The Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL)- Office of Aviation, U.S. Department of State

Logo of the "Air Wing" of The Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL)- Office of Aviation, U.S. Department of State

In 1978, the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) formed an office to use excess military and government aircraft for support of foreign nations' counter-narcotics operations. The first aircraft used was a crop duster used for eradication of illicit crops in Mexico in cooperation with the local authorities. The separate Air Wing was established in 1986 as use of aviation assets grew in the war on drugs.[42]

The aircraft fleet grew from crop spraying aircraft to larger transports and helicopters used to support ground troops and transport personnel. As these operations became more involved in direct combat, a further need for search and rescue and armed escort helicopters was evident. Operations in the 1980s and 1990s were primarily carried out in Colombia, Guatemala, Peru, Bolivia and Belize. Many aircraft have since been passed on to the governments involved, as they became capable of taking over the operations themselves.

Following the September 11 attacks and the subsequent War on Terror, the Air Wing went on to expand its operations from mainly anti-narcotics operations to also support security of United States nationals and interests, primarily in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Safe transports for various diplomatic missions were undertaken, requiring the acquisition of larger aircraft types, such as Sikorsky S-61, Boeing Vertol CH-46, Beechcraft King Air and De Haviland DHC-8-300. In 2011, the Air Wing was operating more than 230 aircraft around the world, the main missions still being counter narcotics and transportation of state officials.[42]


In FY 2010 the Department of State, together with 'Other International Programs' (for example, USAID), had a combined projected discretionary budget of $51.7 billion.[43] The United States Federal Budget for Fiscal Year 2010, entitled 'A New Era of Responsibility', specifically 'Imposes Transparency on the Budget' for the Department of State.[43]

The end-of-year FY 2010 DoS Agency Financial Report, approved by Secretary Clinton on November 15, 2010, showed actual total costs for the year of $27.4 billion.[44] Revenues of $6.0 billion, $2.8 billion of which were earned through the provision of consular and management services, reduced total net cost to $21.4 billion.[44]

Total program costs for 'Achieving Peace and Security' were $7.0 billion; 'Governing Justly and Democratically', $0.9 billion; 'Investing in People', $4.6 billion; 'Promoting Economic Growth and Prosperity', $1.5 billion; 'Providing Humanitarian Assistance', $1.8 billion; 'Promoting International Understanding', $2.7 billion; 'Strengthening Consular and Management Capabilities', $4.0 billion; 'Executive Direction and Other Costs Not Assigned', $4.2 billion.[44]

Audit of expenditures

The Department of State's independent auditors are Kearney & Company.[45] Since in FY 2009 Kearney & Company qualified its audit opinion, noting material financial reporting weaknesses, the DoS restated its 2009 financial statements in 2010.[45] In its FY 2010 audit report, Kearney & Company provided an unqualified audit opinion while noting significant deficiencies, of controls in relation to financial reporting and budgetary accounting, and of compliance with a number of laws and provisions relating to financial management and accounting requirements.[45] In response the DoS Chief Financial Officer observed that "The Department operates in over 270 locations in 172 countries, while conducting business in 150 currencies and an even larger number of languages ... Despite these complexities, the Department pursues a commitment to financial integrity, transparency, and accountability that is the equal of any large multi-national corporation."[46]

Central Foreign Policy File

Since 1973 the primary record keeping system of the Department of State is the Central Foreign Policy File. It consists of copies of official telegrams, airgrams, reports, memorandums, correspondence, diplomatic notes, and other documents related to foreign relations.[47] Over 1,000,000 records spanning the time period from 1973 to 1979 can be accessed online from the National Archives and Records Administration.[48]

Freedom of Information Act processing performance

In the latest Center for Effective Government analysis of 15 federal agencies which receive the most Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests published in 2015 (using 2012 and 2013 data, the most recent years available), the State Department was the lowest performer, earning an F by scoring only 37 out of a possible 100 points, i.e. failed the grade, unchanged from 2013. The State Department's score was dismal due to its extremely low processing score of 23 percent, which was completely out of line with any other agency's performance.[49]


In 2009, the Department of State was the fourth most desired employer for undergraduates according to BusinessWeek.[50]

The Department's blog, started in 2007, is known as Dipnote, and a Twitter account is maintained with the same name. The internal wiki is Diplopedia. The internal suggestion blog within State is called the Sounding Board[51] and their internal professional networking software, "Corridor", is a success.[52][53] Finally, State has embraced e-government, establishing in May 2009 the Virtual Student Federal Service (VSFS).[54]

In 2009, the State Department launched 21st century statecraft. The U.S. Department of State's official explanation of 21st Century Statecraft is: "complementing traditional foreign policy tools with newly innovated and adapted instruments of statecraft that fully leverage the technologies of our interconnected world."[55]

See also

  • Awards of the United States Department of State

  • Diplomatic missions of the United States

  • Diplomatic Reception Rooms

  • Five Nations Passport Group

  • Stanislas Hernisz

  • Shared Values Initiative

  • State Magazine

  • Title 22 of the Code of Federal Regulations

  • United States Foreign Service

  • Iran's 2018 prisoner swap proposal to the United States


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