|Formed||July 27, 1789|
|Jurisdiction||U.S. federal government|
|Headquarters||Harry S Truman Building|
2201 C Street
Northwest, Washington, D.C., U.S.
|Employees||13,000 Foreign Service employees|
11,000 Civil Service employees
45,000 local employees
|Annual budget||$52.505 billion (FY 2020)|
The United States Department of State (DOS), or State Department, is an executive department of the U.S. federal government responsible for the nation's foreign policy and international relations. Equivalent to the ministry of foreign affairs of other nations, its primary duties are advising the U.S. president, administering diplomatic missions, negotiating international treaties and agreements, and representing the U.S. at the United Nations. The department is headquartered in the Harry S Truman Building, a few blocks from the White House, in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, D.C.; "Foggy Bottom" is thus sometimes used as a metonym.
Established in 1789 as the first administrative arm of the U.S. executive branch, the State Department is considered among the most powerful and prestigious executive agencies. It is led by the secretary of state, a member of the Cabinet who is nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Analogous to a foreign minister, the secretary of state serves as the federal government'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 position is currently held by Antony Blinken who was appointed by President Joe Biden and confirmed by the Senate on January 26, 2021 by a vote of 78-22.
As of 2019, the State Department maintains 273 diplomatic posts worldwide, second only to China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It also manages the US Foreign Service, provides diplomatic training to US officials and military personnel, exercises partial jurisdiction over immigration, and provides various services to Americans, such as issuing passports and visas, posting foreign travel advisories, and advancing commercial ties abroad. The department administers the oldest US civilian intelligence agency, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and maintains a law enforcement arm, the Diplomatic Security Service.
To that end, on July 21, 1789, the First Congress approved legislation to establish a Department of Foreign Affairs, which President George Washington signed into law on July 27, making the Department the first federal agency to be created under the new Constitution. 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 it a variety of domestic duties, including managing the United States Mint, keeping the Great Seal of the United States, and administering the census. President Washington signed the new legislation on September 15. Most of these domestic duties gradually were transferred to various federal departments and agencies established in the 19th century. However, the Secretary of State still retains a few domestic responsibilities, such as serving as keeper of the Great Seal and being the officer to whom a President or Vice President wishing to resign must deliver an instrument in writing declaring the decision.
On September 29, 1789, Washington appointed Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, then Minister to France, as the first U.S. Secretary of State.John Jay had been serving as Secretary of Foreign Affairs as a holdover from the Confederation since before Washington took office; he would continue in that capacity until Jefferson returned from Europe many months later. Reflecting the fledgling status of the US at the time, Jefferson's department comprised only six personnel, two diplomatic posts (in London and Paris), and 10 consular posts.
For much of its history, the State Department was composed of two primary administrative units: the diplomatic service, which staffed US legations and embassies, and the consular service, which was primarily responsible for promoting American commerce abroad and assisting distressed American sailors. Each service developed separately, but both lacked sufficient funding to provide for a career; consequently, appointments to either service fell on those with the financial means to sustain their work abroad. Combined with the common practice of appointing individuals based on politics or patronage, rather than merit, this led the Department to largely favor those with political networks and wealth, rather than skill and knowledge.
The Department of State underwent its first major overhaul with the Rogers Act of 1924, which merged the diplomatic and consular services into the Foreign Service, a professionalized personnel system under which the Secretary of State is authorized to assign diplomats abroad. An extremely difficult Foreign Service examination was also implemented to ensure highly qualified recruits, along with a merit-based system of promotions. The Rogers Act also created the Board of the Foreign Service, which advises the Secretary of State on managing the Foreign Service, and the Board of Examiners of the Foreign Service, which administers the examination process.
The post-Second World War period saw an unprecedented increase in funding and staff commensurate with the US's emergence as a superpower and its competition with the Soviet Union in the subsequent Cold War. Consequently, the number of domestic and overseas employees grew from roughly 2,000 in 1940 to over 13,000 in 1960.
In 1997, Madeleine Albright became the first woman appointed Secretary of State and the first foreign-born woman to serve in the Cabinet.
The 21st century saw the Department reinvent itself in response to the rapid digitization of society and the global economy. In 2007, it launched an official blog, Dipnote, as well as a Twitter account of the same name, to engage with a global audience. Internally, it launched a wiki, Diplopedia; a suggestion forum called the Sounding Board; and a professional networking software, "Corridor". In May 2009, the Virtual Student Federal Service (VSFS) was created to provide remote internships to students. The same year, the Department of State was the fourth most desired employer for undergraduates according to BusinessWeek.
From 2009 to 2017, the State Department launched 21st Century Statecraft, with the official goal of "complementing traditional foreign policy tools with newly innovated and adapted instruments of statecraft that fully leverage the technologies of our interconnected world." The initiative was designed to utilize digital technology and the Internet to promote foreign policy goals; examples include promoting an SMS campaign to provide disaster relief to Pakistan, and sending DOS personnel to Libya to assist in developing Internet infrastructure and e-government.
Colin Powell, who led the department from 2001 to 2005, became the first African-American to hold the post; his immediate successor, Condoleezza Rice, was the second female Secretary of State and the second African-American. 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. 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.
The Executive Branch and the Congress have constitutional responsibilities for US foreign policy. Within the Executive Branch, the Department of State is the lead US foreign affairs agency, and its head, the Secretary of State, is the President's principal foreign policy advisor. The Department advances US 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 US citizens and to foreigners seeking to visit or immigrate to the United States.
All foreign affairs activities -- US representation abroad, foreign assistance programs, countering international crime, foreign military training programs, the services the department provides, and more -- are paid for out of the foreign affairs budget, which represents little more than 1% of the total federal budget.
The Department's core activities and purpose include:
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 US citizens abroad.
The US maintains diplomatic relations with about 180 countries and maintains relations with many international organizations, adding up to over 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 departments of Defense, Treasury, and Commerce. The Department also consults with Congress about foreign policy initiatives and policies.
The Secretary of State is the chief executive officer of the Department of State and a member of the Cabinet who answers directly to, and advises, the President of the United States. The secretary organizes and supervises the entire department and its staff.
Under the Obama administration, the website of the Department of State had indicated that the State Department's 75,547 employees included 13,855 foreign service officers; 49,734 locally employed staff, whose duties are primarily serving overseas; and 10,171 predominantly domestic civil service employees.
Since the 1996 reorganization, the Administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), while leading an independent agency, also reports to the Secretary of State, as does the US Ambassador to the United Nations.
As of November 2018, people nominated to ambassadorships to 41 countries had not yet been confirmed by the Senate, and no one had yet been nominated to ambassadorships to 18 additional countries (including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Mexico, Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan, South Africa, and Singapore). In November 2019, a quarter of US embassies around the world--including Japan, Russia and Canada--still had no ambassador.
From 1790 to 1800, the State Department was headquartered in Philadelphia, the national capital at the time. It occupied a building at Church and Fifth Street.[Note 1] In 1800, it moved from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., where it briefly occupied the Treasury Building and then the Seven Buildings at 19th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.
The State Department moved several times throughout the capital in the ensuing decades, including six buildings in September 1800; the War Office Building west of the White House the following May; the Treasury Building once more from September 1819 to November 1866;[Note 2] the Washington City Orphan Home from November 1866 to July 1875; and the State, War, and Navy Building in 1875.
Since May 1947, the State Department has been based in the Harry S. Truman Building, which originally was intended to house the Department of Defense; it has since undergone several expansions and renovations, most recently in 2016. Previously known as the "Main State Building", in September 2000 it was renamed in honor of President Harry S. Truman, who was a major proponent of internationalism and diplomacy.
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 US 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.
The US 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 US The Fulbright Program is administered by cooperating organizations like the Institute of International Education. It operates in over 160 countries around the world. 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 US 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; eighty-two have won Pulitzer Prizes.
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 US foreign policy.
The Fellows (as they are called, if chosen for the program) are paid around $50,000 during the program and can earn special bonuses of up to $10,000. The program's intent is to equip Fellows with awareness of procedural intricacies of the Department of State/USAID, to help with its daily operations. The program is applied for, follows a process starting in August, and takes about a year to learn a candidate's ranking results. Awards are not solely achievement based, but intelligence and writing skills should support one's suitability for the position as the committee determines. A candidate applies for the program online, which entails submitting a curriculum vitae, a statement of interest and a written essay. Opportunity is provided to upload letters of recommendations and nominations to support one's application.
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.
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 attract mid-career professionals to enrich and expand the department's capabilities. Unlike the Jefferson Science Fellows Program, a Franklin Fellowship is a year-long volunteer position for which one may obtain sponsor support or participate out of personal resources. Participation areas assigned to Franklin Fellows are determined by several factors, including issues of priority to the country as well as a candidate's degree of career seniority and personal interests.
Diplomats in Residence are career Foreign Service Officers and Specialists located throughout the US who provide guidance and advice on careers, internships, and fellowships to students and professionals in communities they serve. Diplomats in Residence are located in 16 population-based regions throughout the United States.
In 1978, the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) formed an office to use excess military and government aircraft to support counter-narcotics operations of foreign states. The first aircraft used was a crop duster used to eradicate illicit crops in Mexico in cooperation with local authorities. The separate Air Wing was established in 1986 as use of aviation assets grew in the war on drugs.
The aircraft fleet grew from crop spraying planes to larger transports and helicopters to support ground troops and move personnel. As these operations became more involved in direct combat, the need for search and rescue and armed escort helicopters became 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 become able to take over the operations themselves.
After 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 providing security support for United States nationals and interests, primarily in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Safe transports for various diplomatic missions were undertaken, requiring acquisition of larger aircraft, 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 over 230 aircraft around the world, the main missions still being counter narcotics and transportation of state officials.
In 1964, at the height of the Cold War, Seabees were assigned to the State Department after listening devices were found in the Embassy of the United States in Moscow; this initial unit was called the "Naval Mobile Construction Battalion FOUR, Detachment November". The U.S. had just constructed a new embassy in Warsaw, and the Seabees were dispatched to locate "bugs". This led to the creation of the Naval Support Unit in 1966, which was made permanent two years later. That year William Darrah, a Seabee of the support unit, is credited with saving the U.S. Embassy in Prague, Czechoslovakia from a potentially disastrous fire. In 1986, "as a result of reciprocal expulsions ordered by Washington and Moscow" Seabees were sent to "Moscow and Leningrad to help keep the embassy and the consulate functioning".
The Support Unit has a limited number of special billets for select NCOs, E-5 and above. These Seabees are assigned to the Department of State and attached to Diplomatic Security. Those chosen can be assigned to the Regional Security Officer of a specific embassy or be part of a team traveling from one embassy to the next. Duties include the installation of alarm systems, CCTV cameras, electromagnetic locks, safes, vehicle barriers, and securing compounds. They can also assist with the security engineering in sweeping embassies (electronic counter-intelligence). They are tasked with new construction or renovations in security sensitive areas and supervise private contractors in non-sensitive areas. Due to Diplomatic protocol the Support Unit is required to wear civilian clothes most of the time they are on duty and receive a supplemental clothing allowance for this. The information regarding this assignment is very scant, but State Department records in 1985 indicate Department security had 800 employees, plus 1,200 Marines and 115 Seabees. That Seabee number is roughly the same today.
In FY 2010 the Department of State, together with "Other International Programs" (such as USAID), had a combined projected discretionary budget of $51.7 billion. 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.
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. 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.
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.
The Department of State's independent auditors are Kearney & Company. Since in FY 2009 Kearney & Company qualified its audit opinion, noting material financial reporting weaknesses, the DoS restated its 2009 financial statements in 2010. 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. 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."
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. Over 1,000,000 records spanning the time period from 1973 to 1979 can be accessed online from the National Archives and Records Administration.
In the 2015 Center for Effective Government analysis of 15 federal agencies which receive the most Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (using 2012 and 2013 data), the State Department was the lowest performer, earning an "F" by scoring only 37 out of a possible 100 points, 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.
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United States Department of State