Definitions

executive department

United States Department of State

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, similar to foreign ministries, foreign offices, ministries of external relations, etc. in other countries. It is administered by the Secretary of State.

It is headquartered in the Harry S Truman Building at 2201 C Street, N.W., a few blocks from the White House in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, D.C. The Department's Secretary is the first Cabinet member in the line of succession in the event of the disability or death of the President, and is fourth after the Vice President, the Speaker of the House, and the President pro tempore of the United States Senate.

History

The U.S. Constitution, drafted in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1787 and ratified by the states the following year, gave the President the responsibility for the conduct of the nation's foreign relations. It soon became clear, however, that an executive department 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, although John Jay had been serving in that capacity as a holdover from the Confederation since before Washington had taken office and would continue in that capacity until Jefferson would return from Europe many months later.

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 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:

  • 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.

The Department of State conducts these activities with a civilian workforce. While assigned to diplomatic missions abroad, Foreign Service,Excepted Service,Competitive Service, and other categories of employees represent America, analyze and report on political, economic, and social trends; adjudicate visas; and respond to the needs of American 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.

Organization

United States Secretary of State: Chief executive officer of the Department of State, member of the United States Cabinet, answerable directly to the President of the United States. He or she 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 (also known as the Permanent Representative).

See also

References

External links

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