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United States Department of State

Dept. of State

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Established:July 27, 1789
Renamed:September 15, 1789
Secretary:Condoleezza Rice
Deputy Secretary:Robert Zoellick
Budget:$9.96 billion (2004)
Employees:30,266 (2004)

The United States Department of State, often referred to as the State Department, is the Cabinet-level foreign affairs agency of the United States government, equivalent to foreign ministries in other countries. It is administered by the United States Secretary of State.

It is headquartered in the Harry S. Truman Building a few blocks from the White House in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, DC. The headquarters house (among other things) the State Department Operation Center and the Nuclear Risk Reduction Center.

Table of contents

History

The U.S. Constitution, drafted in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 and ratified by the states the following year, gave the President responsibility for the conduct of the nation's foreign relations. It soon became clear, however, that an executive branch was necessary to support the President in the conduct of the affairs of the new Federal Government.

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.

On September 29, 1789, President Washington appointed Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, then Minister to France, to be the first United States Secretary of State.

On September 11, 2001, as terrorists struck at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, there were also early reports that terrorists also struck at the State Department, detonating a car bomb within the vicinity. However, the reports turned out to be false.

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 adviser, though other officials or individuals may have more influence on his 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 United States Department of Commerce 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 U.S.

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, or about 12 cents a day for each American citizen. As stated by the Department of State, its purpose includes:

  • Promoting peace and stability in regions of vital interest;
  • Opening markets abroad;
  • Helping developing nations establish stable economic environments that provide investment and export opportunities;
  • Bringing nations together to address global problems such as cross-border pollution, the spread of communicable diseases, terrorism, nuclear smuggling, and humanitarian crises.

As the lead foreign affairs agency, the Department of State has the primary role in:

  • Leading interagency coordination in developing and implementing foreign policy;
  • Managing the foreign affairs budget and other foreign affairs resources;
  • Leading and coordinating U.S. representation abroad, conveying U.S. foreign policy to foreign governments and international organizations through U.S. embassies and consulates in foreign countries and diplomatic missions to international organizations;
  • Conducting negotiations and concluding agreements and treaties on issues ranging from trade to nuclear weapons;
  • Coordinating and supporting international activities of other U.S. agencies and officials.

The services the Department provides include:

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

The Department of State conducts these activities with a workforce of Civil Service employees. Overseas, members of the Diplomatic Service, including officers, specialists and other diplomatic personnel represent America; analyze and report on political, economic, and social trends in the host country; and respond to the needs of American citizens abroad. The U.S. maintains diplomatic relations with about 180 countries and also 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 domestic employees work alongside members of the Diplomatic Service compiling and analyzing reports from overseas, providing logistical support to posts, consulting with and keeping the Congress informed about foreign policy initiatives and policies, communicating with the American public, formulating and overseeing the budget, issuing passports and travel warnings, and more.

Operating units

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