The United States Department of State, also known as the State Department, is a federal executive department charged with implementing U.S. foreign policy and international relations.
The Secretary of State is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate to lead the State Department.
As the successor to the Department of Foreign Affairs under the Articles of Confederation, the State Department was established in 1789.
It is one of the executive branch’s oldest and most essential Cabinet-level departments. USAID is an operative division of the State Department, headquartered in the Harry S. Truman Building in Washington, D.C. The State Department maintains diplomatic missions worldwide to represent and advance U.S. interests abroad. It accomplishes its mission by:
- Protecting and assisting American citizens abroad
- Aiding U.S. enterprises in their international endeavours
- Coordinating the international activities of other United States agencies
- Exercising the authority of the Secretary of State to conduct relations with foreign governments
- Treaty and agreement negotiations, interpretation, and termination
- Representing the United States before the United Nations and other international bodies
- Monitoring democracy, human rights, and working circumstances in other nations
There are numerous bureaus and agencies within the State Department, each of which handles specific policy areas and functions. Among the principal components are:
- Regional bureaus – Such as the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs and the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs – deal with specific regions of the globe. There are a total of six regional bureaus.
- Handle functional domains such as arms control economic and political-military affairs. Examples include the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs and the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance.
- Includes more than 270 embassies, consulates, and other diplomatic posts around the globe. Regional bureaus and the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs oversee these matters.
- Office of the Secretary: The Department is led by the Secretary of State. Multiple Secretaries and other agencies, such as the Executive Secretariat and the Office of Global Women’s Issues, assist the Secretary.
- Other agencies and applications: The Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons is also essential. In addition, numerous programs such as Fulbright and the Bureau of Counterterrorism exist.
The Secretary of State is the Department’s chief and a Cabinet member. Antony Blinken is the current Secretary; he was confirmed in January 2021. Other prominent figures include:
- Wendy Sherman is the Under Secretary of State.
- Victoria Nuland is the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs.
- Jose W. Fernandez is the Undersecretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and Environment.
- Elizabeth Allen is the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.
There are also Assistant Secretaries who oversee the State’s various bureaus. Ambassadors of the United States oversee the various diplomatic missions abroad.
Duties and Accountabilities
The State Department is responsible for a vast array of foreign policy responsibilities, including:
- Diplomacy – The conduct of international negotiations and relations. This entails formulating foreign policy, resolving crises abroad, and maintaining embassies around the globe.
- Protection of U.S. interests entails ensuring the protection of U.S. citizens abroad and securing U.S. borders and assets abroad.
- Public diplomacy entails informing and influencing foreign public opinion to advance U.S. interests. This includes international broadcasting and educational exchanges.
- Consular services – Providing passports and visas to U.S. citizens abroad. Additionally, it issues travel alerts and assists Americans in international emergencies.
- Development assistance provides economic, development, and humanitarian aid to other nations.
- Assistance to the President – Advising the President on foreign policy matters and carrying out his agenda.
- Reporting and policy advice – Providing the President, Congress, and U.S. agencies with foreign relations information, analysis, and policy recommendations.
Current State Department foreign policy priorities under the Biden administration include:
- China is a competitor
- Restoring America’s standing in the world
- Enhancing alliances such as NATO
- Joining accords such as the Paris Climate Accords
- Renewal of armaments limitation accords with Russia.
- Revivifying the Iran nuclear agreement
- Ending the Yemen conflict
- Promoting democracy and human rights
The State Department continues to be indispensable in advancing U.S. interests abroad and implementing the President’s foreign policy vision.
With diplomats, specialists, and personnel stationed around the globe, it will continue to be a vital agency for national security in the future.