Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

United States Department of State

Dept. of State

Established:July 27, 1789
Renamed:September 15, 1789
Secretary:Colin Powell
Deputy Secretary:Richard L. Armitage
Budget:$11.0 billion (2003)
Employees:7,656 Civil Service
20,588 Foreign Service

The United States Department of State, or State Department for short, is the Cabinet-level foreign affairs agency of the United States government. It is administered by the United States Secretary of State.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Duties and Responsibilities
3 Operating Units
4 External Links


The United States 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 President Washington in the conduct of the affairs of the new Federal Government.

The House 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.

Duties and Responsibilities

The Executive Branch and the 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:

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

The services the Department provides include:

The Department of State conducts all of these activities with a small workforce comprised of Civil Service and Foreign Service employees. In fact, the Department employs fewer people than do many local governments -- for example, in Memphis, Tennessee or Baltimore, Maryland. Overseas, Foreign Service officers 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 Civil Service employees work alongside Foreign Service officers serving a stateside tour, 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

External Links