Number of employees
27 July 1789
July 27, 1789; 227 years ago (1789-07-27)
Department of Foreign Affairs
Rex Tillerson, SecretaryThomas A. Shannon, Jr., Deputy Secretary (Acting)Vacant, Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources
Washington, D.C., United States
47.4 billion USD (FY 2015; including $26.5 billion for State and $21.0 billion for international assistance)
The United States Department of State (DOS), often referred to as the State Department, is the United States federal executive department that advises the President and leads the country in foreign policy issues. Equivalent to the foreign ministry of other countries, the State Department is responsible for the international relations of the United States, negotiates treaties and agreements with foreign entities, and represents the United States at the United Nations. The Department was created in 1789 and was the first executive department established.
- Duties and responsibilities
- Mission statement
- Core activities
- Secretary of State
- Other agencies
- Diplomats in Residence
- The Fulbright Program
- Jefferson Science Fellows Program
- Franklin Fellows Program
- Department of State Air Wing
- Audit of expenditures
- Central Foreign Policy File
- Freedom of Information Act processing performance
The Department is headquartered in the Harry S Truman Building located at 2201 C Street, NW, a few blocks away from the White House in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, D.C. The Department operates the diplomatic missions of the United States abroad and is responsible for implementing the foreign policy of the United States and U.S. diplomacy efforts. The Department is also the depositary for more than 200 multilateral treaties.
The Department is led by the Secretary of State, who is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate and is a member of the Cabinet. The current Secretary of State is Rex Tillerson, beginning 1 February 2017. The Secretary of State is the second Cabinet official in the order of precedence and in the presidential line of succession, after the Vice President of the United States.
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 the conduct of the nation's foreign relations.
The House of Representatives and Senate 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. 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. Most of these domestic duties of the Department of State were eventually turned over to various new Federal departments and agencies that were 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. John Jay had been serving in as Secretary of Foreign Affairs as a holdover from the Confederation since before Washington had taken office and would continue in that capacity until Jefferson returned from Europe many months later.
From 1790 to 1800, the State Department had its headquarters 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). In 1800, it moved from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., where it first occupied the Treasury Building and then the Seven Buildings at 19th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. It moved into the Six Buildings in September 1800, where it remained until May 1801. It moved into the War Office Building due west of the White House in May 1801. It occupied the Treasury Building from September 1819 to November 1866, except for the period from September 1814 to April 1816 (during which it occupied a structure at G and 18th streets NW while the Treasury Building was repaired). It then occupied the Washington City Orphan Home from November 1866 to July 1875. It moved to the State, War, and Navy Building in 1875. Since May 1947, it has occupied the Harry S. Truman Building in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington; the State Department is therefore sometimes metonymically referred to as "Foggy Bottom."
Madeleine Albright became the first woman to become the United States Secretary of State and the first foreign-born woman to serve in the Cabinet when she was appointed Secretary of State in 1997. Condoleezza Rice became the second female secretary of state in 2005. Hillary Rodham 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 (48,000 m2) 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.
Duties and responsibilities
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, though other officials or individuals may have more influence on their foreign policy decisions. The Department advances U.S. objectives and interests in the world through its primary role in developing and implementing the President's foreign policy. The Department also supports the foreign affairs activities of other U.S. Government entities including the Department of Defense, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Homeland Security, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. 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. The total Department of State budget, together with 'Other International Programs' (see below), costs about 45 cents a day ($165.90 a year) for each resident of the United States. As stated by the Department of State, its purpose includes:
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.
To: 'Advance freedom for the benefit of the American people and the international community by helping to build and sustain a more democratic, secure, and prosperous world composed of well-governed states that respond to the needs of their people, reduce widespread poverty, and act responsibly within the international system.'
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'.
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.
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.
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.
The Fulbright Program
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.
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. 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 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; eighty-two have won Pulitzer Prizes.
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.
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. 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.
Department of State Air Wing
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.
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 events of the September 11 attacks, and the subsequent war on terror, the Air Wing went on to expand their operations from mainly anti-narcotics operations to also support security of United States nationals and interests, primarily in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Safe transport 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. Armed escorts were also increased using various helicopters fitted as gunships.
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.
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. 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 15 November 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; 'Stengthening Consular and Management Capabilities', $4.0 billion; 'Executive Direction and Other Costs Not Assigned', $4.2 billion.
Audit of expenditures
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."
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. About 900,000 records spanning the time period from 1973 to 1976 can be accessed online from the National Archives and Records Administration.
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 (United States) (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.
In 2009, the Department of State was the fourth most desired employer for undergraduates according to BusinessWeek.
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 and their internal professional networking software, "Corridor", is a success. Finally, State has embraced Government crowdsourcing, establishing the Virtual Student Foreign Service.
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".