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U.S. Department of State

Department Organization

The following publication provides an overview of the organization of the Department of State.  Additional resources include an organization chart, a list of bureaus and offices, and the publication Diplomacy: The State Department at Work, which provides a more detailed look at how the Department formulates, represents, and implements the President's foreign policy. 

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 the Secretary of State is the President's principal foreign policy adviser. The Department advances U.S. objectives and interests in shaping a freer, more secure, and more prosperous 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 Commerce and the 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. This small investment is key to maintaining U.S. leadership, which promotes and protects the interests of our citizens by:

  • Promoting peace and stability in regions of vital interest;
  • Creating jobs at home by 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.
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 along side 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.

Bureaus and Offices of the Department
Of State in the U.S.

The Office of the Secretary of State

The immediate Office of the Secretary (S) is comprised of the Secretary's Chief of Staff, Deputy Chief of Staff, the Secretary's secretary, the Executive Assistant, two special assistants, the Secretary's scheduler, staff assistant, and two personal assistants. This staff handles all of the day-to-day matters of the Secretary, including meetings at the Department, functions in Washington and throughout the country, and travel around the world.

Deputy Secretary (D) serves as the principal deputy, adviser, and alter ego to the Secretary of State; serves as Acting Secretary of State in the Secretary's absence; and assists the Secretary in the formulation and conduct of U.S. foreign policy and in giving general supervision and direction to all elements of the Department.

The Executive Secretariat (S/S), comprised of the Executive Secretary and three Deputy Executive Secretaries, is responsible for coordination of the work of the Department internally, serving as the liaison between the Department's bureaus and the offices of the Secretary, Deputy Secretary, and Under Secretaries. It also handles the Department's relations with the White House, National Security Council, and other Cabinet agencies.

  • The Secretariat Staff (S/S-S) works with the various offices of the Department in drafting and clearing written materials for the Secretary, Deputy Secretary, and Under Secretary for Political Affairs. This staff also is responsible for taking care of advance preparations for the Secretary's official trips -- domestic and international -- and staffing the "mobile office" and keeping the Secretary's schedule on track during the trip.
  • The Operations Center (S/S-O) is the Secretary's and the Department's communications and crisis management center. Working 24 hours a day, the Operations Center monitors world events, prepares briefings for the Secretary and other Department principals, and facilitates communication between the Department and the rest of the world. The Operations Center also coordinates the Department's response to crises and supports task forces, monitoring groups, and other crisis-related activities.
In addition, there are several other offices attached to the Secretary's office:

Created in 1947 by George Kennan at the behest of Secretary George Marshall, the Policy Planning Staff (S/P) serves as a source of independent policy analysis and advice for the Secretary of State. The Director of Policy Planning has a rank equivalent to Assistant Secretary. S/P's primary responsibilities include formulation of long-term policies to achieve U.S. objectives; coordination of policy to promote the priorities of the Secretary of State; speech writing for the Secretary; and liaison with non-governmental organizations, "think tanks," and others for outside views on matters relevant to U.S. policy.

The Office of Protocol (S/CPR), under the direction of the Chief of Protocol, directly advises, assists, and supports the President of the United States, the Vice President, and the Secretary of State on official matters of national and international protocol, and in the planning, hosting, and officiating of related ceremonial events and activities for visiting heads of state. The Office also is the administrator of Blair House, the President's official guesthouse. In cooperation with the Under Secretary for Management, the Assistant Secretary of State for Administration, the Executive Secretary of the Department, and the regional bureaus, the Office of Protocol serves as the coordinator within and between the Department and the White House on all protocol matters for Presidential or Vice Presidential travel abroad. The Chief of Protocol, the Deputy Chief, and four Assistant Chiefs share responsibility for officiating the swearing in of senior State Department officials, selection boards, and incoming Foreign Service and Civil Service employees.

The Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism (S/CT) heads U.S. Government efforts to improve counterterrorism cooperation with foreign governments. The Coordinator chairs the Interagency Working Group on Counterterrorism and the State Department's task force to coordinate responses to international terrorist incidents. The Coordinator has primary responsibility for developing, coordinating, and implementing American counterterrorism policy.

Other offices attached to the Office of the Secretary deal with personnel issues, including the Office of Civil Rights,  the Civil Service Ombudsman, and the Foreign Service Grievance Board. There are also several offices headed by ambassadors at large, special advisers, and senior coordinators for such foreign policy areas as War Crimes and Democracy in the Balkans.

In addition, the following bureaus and offices, although not attached to the Office of the Secretary, report directly to the Secretary.

The Office of the Permanent Representative to the United Nations (USUN/W) is headed by the Permanent Representative, a Cabinet member who represents the United States at the UN. This office shapes U.S. policy at the UN, working for multilateral policy formulation and implementation where possible and seeking to make the UN and its agencies more effective instruments for advancing U.S. interests and addressing global needs.

The Bureau of Legislative Affairs (H) serves as liaison between the State Department and the Congress. The bureau performs a critical role in advancing the President's and the Department's legislative agenda in the area of foreign policy.

The Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), drawing on all-source intelligence, provides value-added independent analysis of events to Department policymakers, ensures that intelligence activities support foreign policy and national security purposes; and serves as the focal point in the Department for ensuring policy review of sensitive counterintelligence and law enforcement activities. INR's primary mission is to harness intelligence to serve U.S. diplomacy. The bureau also analyzes geographical and international boundary issues.

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) is an independent office that audits, inspects, and investigates the programs and activities of all elements of the Department of State and the Broadcasting Board of Governors for International Broadcasting. The Inspector General reports directly to the Secretary, the Broadcasting Board of Governors and to the Congress on the results of this work and makes recommendations to promote economy and efficiency and to prevent fraud, waste, and mismanagement in State Department and international broadcasting programs and operations.

The Office of the Legal Adviser (L) furnishes advice on all legal issues, domestic and international, arising in the course of the Department's work. This includes assisting department principals and policy officers in formulating and implementing the foreign policy of the United States and promoting the development of international law and its institutions as a fundamental element of those policies.

Also, although the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) remains an independent agency following the reorganization of the foreign affairs agencies in 1999 in which the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and the United States Information Agency (USIA) were merged into the Department of State, USAID receives general direction and overall foreign policy guidance from the Secretary.

Counselor of the Department

The Counselor is a principal officer of the Department, serving the Secretary as a special advisor and consultant on major problems of foreign policy, and providing guidance to the appropriate bureaus with respect to such matters.  The Counselor conducts special international negotiations and consultations, and also undertakes special assignments from time to time, as directed by the Secretary.

 Under Secretaries and Their Components

The Under Secretaries also report directly to the Secretary and serve as the Department's "corporate board" on foreign policy in the following areas:
Offices and bureaus that do not report directly to the Secretary are organized in groups to support policy planning, coordination, and execution by the six Under Secretaries, as follows:

Under Secretary for Political Affairs (P) Group 
The Under Secretary for Political Affairs is the Department's crisis manager and is responsible for integrating political, economic, global, and security issues into the United States' bilateral relationships.

The geographic bureaus coordinate the conduct of U.S. foreign relations. The Department has grouped countries of the world in the following areas of responsibility under six bureaus and one office. These are:

The Assistant Secretaries of these geographic bureaus advise the Under Secretary and guide the operation of the U.S. diplomatic missions within their regional jurisdiction. They are assisted by Deputy Assistant Secretaries, office directors, post management officers, and country desk officers. These officials work closely with U.S. embassies and consulates overseas and with foreign embassies in Washington, DC.

The State Department's Bureau of International Organization Affairs (IO) develops and implements the policies of the U.S. Government within the United Nations and its affiliated agencies, as well as within certain other international organizations. The IO Bureau does this via nine offices in Washington and seven field missions: in New York, Geneva, Vienna, Rome, Paris, Montreal, and Nairobi. Together, the various elements of the IO Bureau engage in what is known as "multilateral diplomacy" to promote and defend the many overlapping interests of the American people. Subject areas addressed by the IO Bureau include: peacekeeping, democracy and human rights, humanitarian and refugee assistance, international trade, economic development, safe food production, transportation safety, public health, terrorism, and the environment. To meet these objectives, the IO Bureau also promotes effective and efficient management within the international organizations themselves.

Under Secretary for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs (E) Group 
The Under Secretary for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs serves as the senior economic official at the Department of State. The Under Secretary advises the Secretary of State on international economic policy and leads the work of the Department on issues ranging from trade, agriculture, and aviation to bilateral relations with America's economic partners.

The Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs (EB) promotes the full range of U.S. economic and business interests around the world and in so doing, fosters regional and global stability, creates and secures good jobs, enhances consumer choice, lowers the prices Americans pay for goods and services, protects interests of U.S. business and investors abroad, advances commercial ties around the world, improves international communications systems, and promotes energy security and safe and efficient global transportation.

Within EB, the Office of Commercial and Business Affairs (EB/CBA):

  • Coordinates State Department advocacy on behalf of U.S. businesses;
  • Provides problem-solving assistance to U.S. companies in opening markets, leveling playing fields, and resolving trade and investment disputes;
  • Ensures that U.S. business interests are taken into account in the foreign policy process;
  • Develops and implements internal policies and training to improve the Department's support for U.S. businesses; and
  • Coordinates support with the Commerce Department's U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service for posts where the State Department is directly responsible for trade promotion and commercial services.

Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security (T) 
The Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security manages global U.S. security policy, principally in the areas of nonproliferation, arms control, regional security and defense relations, and arms transfers and security assistance. The Under Secretary leads in policy formulation for nonproliferation and by delegation from the Secretary, performs a range of functions under the Foreign Assistance Act, Arms Export Control Act, and related legislation. The Under Secretary also serves as Senior Adviser to the President and the Secretary of State for Arms Control, Nonproliferation and Disarmament, and in that capacity has additional access and authorities.

The Bureau of Arms Control (AC) leads U.S. negotiations for arms control agreements for nuclear, conventional, and chemical and biological weapons and their delivery systems. The Bureau will head up negotiations for a cutoff of fissile material production and an end to antipersonnel landmine transfer. In addition, the Bureau has the U.S. lead for negotiations and policy development related to efforts such as the Open Skies treaty and Confidence and Security Building Measures that help reduce the causes of mistrust, fear, and hostility amongst modern states. The AC Bureau leads implementation of all arms control agreements, including the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions.

The Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM) manages political-military relations throughout the world, including training and assistance for foreign militaries, and works to maintain global access for U.S. military forces. PM promotes responsible U.S. defense trade, while controlling foreign access to militarily significant technology, through export controls. PM also coordinates U.S. programs that help rid countries of landmines and other conventional weapons. PM helps protect national security by leading interagency efforts to plan for future crises -- including planning U.S. responses to cyber-attacks against vital computer networks or to nuclear, biological, or chemical attacks overseas.

The Nonproliferation Bureau leads U.S. efforts to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons) and their missile delivery systems; to secure nuclear materials in the states of the former Soviet Union; and to promote nuclear safety and the protection of nuclear materials worldwide. It also promotes responsibility, transparency, and restraint in international transfers of conventional arms and sensitive dual-use (commercial and military) technology.

The Bureau for Verification and Compliance (VC) is responsible within the Department for the overall supervision of all matters relating to verification of and compliance with international arms control, non-proliferation, and disarmament agreements and commitments. To this end the Bureau has oversight of policy development, implementation and resources related to verification and compliance. In this regard, the Bureau prepares the President's Annual Report to the Congress on Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control and Nonproliferation Agreements and Commitments. The Bureau also serves as the Department's verification and compliance policy liaison with the intelligence community, which includes providing guidance on funding and priorities for collection and analytic assets. As the lead in the Department for preserving and seeding development of verification technologies (e.g. managing the Verification Assets Fund), the Bureau heads the interagency Nonproliferation and Arms Control Technology Working Group (NPAC TWG). The VC Bureau also leads and coordinates multilateral negotiations in the EU, APEC, OECD, and other fora that address existing and emerging Information Technology threats and vulnerabilities to our economic security. The Bureau further leads and coordinates all bilateral negotiations and meetings aimed at identifying, developing, and facilitating science and technology solutions for critical infrastructure protection. The Nuclear Risk Reduction Center (NRRC) is also operated by the VC Bureau.

Under Secretary for Management (M)
The bureaus and offices that report to the 
Under Secretary for Management are responsible for management improvement initiatives; security; the Department's information technology infrastructure; support services for domestic and overseas operations; consular affairs; and personnel matters, including retirement programs, recruitment, career development, training, and medical services.

The Office of Management Policy (M/P) serves as a focal point for management improvement initiatives by providing dedicated policy, and analytical support to the Under Secretary for Management (M).

On behalf of the Under Secretary for Management, M/P coordinates cross-cutting management policy issues, including the Departmentís response to the Presidentís Management Agenda.  M/P is responsible for writing and securing interagency clearance on the Letter of Instruction sent by the President to his Ambassadors outlining their roles and responsibilities for the management of all U.S. Government operations in their missions. M/P also chairs the Permanent Coordinating Committee on Accountability Review Boards which review major security incidents overseas such as the bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

The Chief Information Officer (CIO) is the Department's lead official responsible for the information technology (IT) operations, policies and plans needed to achieve strategic Department missions. The CIO is the equivalent of an assistant secretary, and serves as the Secretary of State's and the Under Secretary for Management's principal advisor on IT matters. The CIO also heads the Department's Bureau of Information Resource Management (IRM). The IRM Bureau's mission is to provide the Department of State the reliable, secure, and high quality IT infrastructure and services that are fundamental to foreign affairs operations and the conduct of U.S. diplomacy.

The Foreign Service Institute (M/FSI) is the federal government training institution that prepares American diplomats and other professionals to advance U.S. foreign affairs interests overseas and in Washington. At the National Foreign Affairs Training Center, the FSI provides more than 300 courses to more than 15,000 people a year from the State Department and about 40 other government agencies and the military service branches.

The FSI's programs include courses in administrative, consular, economic/commercial, political, public diplomacy, and information management fields; leadership and management development; crisis management training; study of the world's major regions and countries; and training in some 60 languages from Albanian to Vietnamese. Other courses help family members prepare for the demands of a mobile lifestyle and living abroad. Most recently, FSI been making some courses available to U.S. private businesses that operate overseas.

The Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources (M/DGHR) oversees the Bureau of Human Resources (M/DGHR), the Office of Medical Services, and the Family Liaison Office. M/DGHR determines employment requirements and administers recruitment, assignment evaluation, promotion, discipline, career development, and retirement policies and programs for the Department's Foreign and Civil Service employees.

The Bureau of Administration (A) provides support programs to the Department of State and U.S. embassies and consulates. These programs include: real property and facilities management; procurement; supply and transportation; diplomatic pouch and mail services; official records, publishing, and library services; language services; setting allowance rates for U.S. Government personnel assigned abroad and providing support to the overseas schools educating their dependents; overseeing safety and occupational health matters; small and disadvantaged business utilization; and support for both White House travel abroad and special conferences called by the President or Secretary of State.

Direct services to the public and other government agencies include: authenticating documents used abroad for legal and business purposes; responding to requests under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts and providing the Electronic Reading Room for public reference to State Department records and information access programs; printing official publications; and determining use of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms of the Harry S Truman headquarters building in Washington, D.C.

The Bureau of Consular Affairs (CA) assists American citizens traveling or living abroad and issues visas to foreign nationals who wish to visit or reside in the United States. The Bureau's domestic passport agencies and U.S. consular sections overseas issue about 7.5 million passports each year. Annually, the Office of Overseas Citizens Services monitors the cases of an estimated 2,600 Americans arrested in other countries, responds to 21,000 welfare and whereabouts inquiries, repatriates about 1,000 U.S. citizens, assists about 3,000 returnees with family/friend prepaid trust funds, assists in the cases of some 6,000 Americans who die abroad, and deals with crises -- such as hostage-taking, mass casualty situations, and natural disasters. The Bureau also issues Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings, and Public Announcements that provide important information to American citizens considering foreign travel.

The Bureau of Diplomatic Security's (DS) regional security officers and engineers protect U.S. personnel and missions overseas, advising U.S. ambassadors on all security matters and providing an effective security program against terrorist, espionage, and criminal threats at U.S. diplomatic facilities. In the United States, the bureau's special agents investigate passport and visa fraud, conduct personnel security investigations, issue security clearances, and protect the Secretary of State and many visiting foreign dignitaries. The bureau also manages the Rewards for Justice Program, and trains foreign civilian police under the Antiterrorism Assistance Program. It also co-chairs the Overseas Security Advisory Council, a joint venture between the Department and the U.S. private sector to exchange timely information on overseas security issues with U.S. businesses. The bureau's Office of Foreign Missions regulates selected activities of foreign missions in the United States to protect U.S. foreign policy and national security interests, and also helps foreign missions protect their diplomats and facilities. The office also helps protect the public from abuses of diplomatic privilege and immunity by foreign mission members and works to ensure that privileges granted to each foreign country's diplomatic personnel in the United States are equitable to those granted to U.S. diplomatic personnel in that country.

The Bureau of Resource Management (RM) oversees the Department's worldwide financial and asset management activities. RM develops annual budget requests submitted to the Office of Management and Budget and the Congress; monitors financial execution of the budget; and reviews, on a biennial basis, the fees, royalties, rents, and other charges imposed by the Department for goods and services it provides. It leads Department-wide strategic planning activities. RM also has the lead for the implementing the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993. These efforts provide the linkage between foreign policy and management priorities.

In addition, the bureau performs payroll services--such as foreign currency management and accounting, payroll, and fiscal records monitoring--and provides pension services for Foreign Service employees.

Under Secretary for Global Affairs (G) Group 
The Office of the
Under Secretary for Global Affairs coordinates U.S. foreign relations on a variety of global issues, including democracy, human rights and labor; environment, oceans and science; narcotics control and law enforcement; and population, refugees and migration. In addition, the Senior Coordinator for Woman's Issues, whose office deals with issues such as stopping violence toward and trafficking in women and children, reports directly to the Under Secretary.

The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) oversees initiatives and policies to promote and strengthen democratic institutions, civil society, and respect for human and worker rights. The bureau ensures that human rights and labor conditions in foreign countries are taken into account in the U.S. policy-making process. In support of these efforts, the bureau prepares and submits to the Congress annual reports on human rights practices and religious freedom in countries around the world.

The Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) is charged with reducing illicit drug flows to the U.S. It works with foreign governments to reduce illicit drug crop cultivation and trafficking through crop control, enforcement, and alternative development programs. Through its training programs, it strengthens the ability of foreign law enforcement and judicial institutions to investigate, prosecute, incarcerate, and seize the assets of major drug traffickers and other international criminals.

The bureau's training and information-sharing programs also help combat money laundering, fraud and other financial crimes, public corruption, and the international trafficking of illegal aliens, women and children, stolen vehicles, and firearms.

The Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES) melds an emphasis on environmental issues and science and technology with traditional diplomacy. The bureau, along with environment, science, and technology officers overseas, deals with such global issues as trade and environment; biodiversity; global climate change; environmental pollution; oceans policy, fisheries, and marine conservation; international civil and commercial space cooperation; technology; and health.

The Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) coordinates the Department's policy on global population, refugees, and migration issues and manages migration and refugee assistance appropriations. The bureau is at the center of a cooperative effort among the State Department, other U.S. Government agencies, private voluntary organizations, and international agencies to implement a more comprehensive international population policy, including broadening of population assistance programs to cover a wider range of reproductive health services; provide assistance to refugees in first-asylum countries and admit refugees to the United States for permanent resettlement; and develop bilateral and multilateral approaches to international migration issues.

Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R)
Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs has oversight of the public diplomacy functions of cultural and educational exchange as well as international information programs and the public affairs function of providing information to the U.S. audience.

On September 23, 2004, Congress approved the creation of the Office of Policy, Planning and Resources for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R/PPR). This new office will provide long-term strategic planning and performance measurement capability for public diplomacy and public affairs programs. It will also enable the Under Secretary to better advise on the allocation of public diplomacy and public affairs resources, to focus those resources on the most urgent national security objectives, and provide realistic measurement of public diplomacyís and public affairsí effectiveness. The office will also coordinate the Departmentís public diplomacy presence in the interagency, in close consultation with relevant bureaus.

The Bureau of Public Affairs helps Americans understand U.S. foreign policy and the importance of foreign affairs by holding press briefings; hosting "town meetings" and other conferences around the U.S. and arranging local, regional, and national radio and television interviews with key Department officials; and providing audio-visual products and services. The bureau provides additional information and services by maintaining the State Department website at and a telephone information line (202-647-6575) for public inquiries. In addition, the Office of the Historian provides historical research and advice for the Department of State and publishes the official documentary history of U.S. foreign policy.

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) fosters mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries. It does this in close cooperation with State Department posts through cultural and professional exchanges and presenting U.S. history, society, art, and culture in all of its diversity to overseas audiences.

The Office of International Information Programs (IIP) is the principal international communications service for the U.S. foreign affairs community. IIP has a variety of information initiatives and strategic communications programs, including Internet and print publications, traveling and electronically transmitted speaker programs, and information resource services. These are created only for key international audiences, such as the media, government officials, opinion leaders, and the general public in more than 140 countries around the world.

Advisory Groups
The Department of State has 17 federally chartered advisory groups, ranging from committees to commissions and panels that provide expert advice, ideas, and diverse opinions on a variety of issues from declassification of historical documents to international economic policy. These groups are comprised of experts and other interested individuals in businesses or other non-governmental organizations with special interests in the particular issue or field.

Of the Department of State Abroad

U.S. Missions

To support its relations with other countries and international organizations, the United States maintains diplomatic and consular posts around the world. Under the President's direction, the Secretary of State is responsible for the overall coordination and supervision of U.S. Government activities abroad. Missions to countries and international organizations are headed by Chiefs

of Mission. They are considered the President's personal representatives and, with the Secretary of State, assist in implementing the President's constitutional responsibilities for the conduct of U.S. foreign relations.

Most missions have personnel assigned from other executive branch agencies in addition to those from the Department of State; in some cases, State Department employees may account for less than one-half of the mission staff. Department of State employees at missions comprise U.S.-based political appointees and career diplomats, and Foreign Service Nationals. The last are local residents, who provide continuity for the transient American staff and have language and cultural expertise; they also are employed at post by other agencies.

Other executive branch agencies represented may include the Departments of Commerce, Agriculture, Defense, and Justice (the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation) and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Other U.S. Government agencies also make vital contributions to the success of U.S. foreign relations and in promoting U.S. interests.

Country Missions

In most countries with which it has diplomatic relations, the U.S. maintains an embassy, which usually is located in the host country capital. The U.S. also may have consulates in other large commercial centers or in dependencies of the country. Several countries have U.S. ambassadors accredited to them who are not resident in the country. In a few special cases--such as when it does not have full diplomatic relations with a country--the U.S. may be represented by only a U.S. Liaison Office or U.S. Interests Section, which may be headed by a Principal Officer rather than a Chief of Mission.


The Chief of Mission--with the title of Ambassador, Minister, or Charge d'Affaires--and the Deputy Chief of Mission head the mission's "country team" of U.S. Government personnel. Responsibilities of Chiefs of Mission at post also include:

  • Speaking with one voice to others on U.S. policy--and ensuring mission staff do likewise--while providing to the President and Secretary of State expert guidance and frank counsel;
  • Directing and coordinating all executive branch offices and personnel (except for those under the command of a U.S. area military commander, under another chief of mission, or on the staff of an international organization);
  • Cooperating with the U.S. legislative and judicial branches so that U.S. foreign policy goals are advanced; security is maintained; and executive, legislative, and judicial responsibilities are carried out;
  • Reviewing communications to or from mission elements;
  • Taking direct responsibility for the security of the mission--including security from terrorism--and protecting all U.S. Government personnel on official duty (other than those personnel under the command of a U.S. area military commander) and their dependents;
  • Carefully using mission resources through regular reviews of programs, personnel, and funding levels;
  • Reshaping the mission to serve American interests and values and to ensure that all executive branch agencies attached to the mission do likewise;
  • Serving Americans with professional excellence, the highest standards of ethical conduct, and diplomatic discretion.
The country team has responsibilities covering the following areas:

Consular Affairs. Whether in a U.S. embassy or a consulate, consular officers at post are the State Department employees whom both American citizens overseas and foreign nationals are most likely to meet. Consular officers protect U.S. citizens abroad and their property. Overall, they touch the lives of millions of Americans living and traveling abroad:

Consular officers provide emergency loans to U.S. citizens who become destitute while traveling abroad, search for missing Americans at the request of their friends or family, visit arrested Americans in prison, maintain lists of local attorneys, act as liaison with police and other officials on matters that affect the welfare of American citizens, re-issue lost or stolen passports, assist in resolving international parental kidnaping cases, help next of kin when American relatives die abroad, and generally provide many types of assistance to U.S. citizens abroad.

Consular officers also perform non-emergency services -- dispensing information on absentee voting, Selective Service registration, and acquisition and loss of U.S. citizenship; providing U.S. tax forms; notarizing documents; issuing passports; and processing estate and property claims. U.S. consular officers also issue about 6 million nonimmigrant visas annually to foreign nationals who wish to visit, work or study in the United States and almost 500,000 immigrant visas to those who wish to reside here permanently.

Commercial, Economic, and Financial Affairs. By helping American businesses abroad, the Department helps Americans at home, since every $1 billion in exported goods generates about 20,000 jobs in the United States. State and Commerce Department officers specialize in four areas:

Commercial officers advise U.S. businesses on local trade and tariff laws, government procurement procedures, and business practices; identify potential importers, agents, distributores, and joint venture partners; and assist with resolution of trade and investment disputes.

Economic officers advise U.S. businesses on the local investment climate and economic trends; negotiate trade and investment agreements to open markets and level the playing field; analyze and report on macroeconomic trends and trade policies and their potential impact on U.S. interests; and promote adoption of economic policies by foreign countries which further U.S. interests.

Resource officers counsel U.S. businesses on issues of natural resources--including minerals, oil, and gas and energy--and analyze and report on local natural resource trends and trade policies and their potential impact on U.S. interests.

Financial attaches analyze and report on major financial developments as well as the host country's macro-economic condition.

Agricultural and Scientific Matters. Agricultural officers promote the export of U.S. agricultural products and report on agricultural production and market developments in their area. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service officers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture are responsible for animal and plant health issues that affect U.S. trade and the protection of U.S. agriculture from foreign pests and diseases. They also expedite U.S. exports affected by technical sanitary and phytosanitary regulations.

Environment, science, technology, and health officers analyze and report on developments in these areas and their potential impact on U.S. policies and programs.

Political, Labor, and Defense Assistance Issues. Political officers analyze political developments and their potential impact on U.S. interests; promote adoption by the host country of foreign policy decisions which support U.S. interests; and advise U.S. business executives on the local political climate.

Labor officers promote labor policies in countries to support U.S. interests and provide information on local labor laws and practices, including wages, non-wage costs, social security regulations, the political activities of local labor organizations, and labor attitudes toward American investments.

Many posts have defense attaches from the Department of Defense. Security assistance officers are responsible for Defense Cooperation in Armaments and foreign military sales.  They also function as the primary in-country point of contact for the U.S. defense industry and U.S. businesses. 

Administrative Support and Security Functions. Administrative officers are responsible for normal business operations of the post, including overall management of personnel, budget, and fiscal matters; real and expendable property; motor pools; and acquisitions.

Information management officers are responsible for the post's unclassified information systems, database management, programming, and operational needs. They also are responsible for the telecommunications, telephone, radio, diplomatic pouches, and records management programs within the diplomatic mission and maintain close contact with the host government's communications authorities on operational matters.

Regional security officers are responsible for providing physical, procedural, and personnel security services to U.S. diplomatic facilities and personnel; they also provide local in-country security briefings and threat assessments to business executives.

Public Affairs. Public affairs officers, information officers, and/or cultural affairs officers of U.S. missions overseas serve as press spokespersons and as administrators of such official U.S. exchange programs as those for Fulbright scholars, Humphrey and Muskie fellows, and foreign participants in International Visitor consultations in the United States. They also direct the overseas U.S. Speakers program and international electronic linkages such as the Worldnet TV satellite teleconferencing network at more than 200 posts.

Legal and Immigration Matters. Legal attaches serve as Department of Justice representatives on criminal matters.

Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services officers are responsible for administering the laws regulating the admission of foreign-born persons (aliens) to the United States and for administering various immigration benefits.

USAID mission directors are responsible for USAID Programs including dollar and local currency loans, grants, and technical assistance. USAID also provides humanitarian assistance abroad during times of natural or man-made disasters. Helping other countries develop through foreign assistance programs helps American business. As other countries develop, they begin to import goods from abroad -- and now account for one-third of all U.S. exports and more than one-half of America's farm exports.

U.S. Representation at International Organizations

U.S. representation at international organizations reflects the growing importance of multilateral diplomacy to the conduct of U.S. foreign relations. In addition to its bilateral embassies and consulates, accredited to just a single host country, the U.S. also sends official representatives to international organizations and conferences in various locations around the world. These representatives are typically organized into delegations. Some of the larger, more permanent delegations are designated "U.S. Missions," such as in Geneva or Vienna. Others are designated simply "U.S. Delegations," such as to the Conference on Disarmament or to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Other "U.S. Delegations" are assembled for only a finite period to represent the U.S. at a single international event.

Current permanent U.S. Missions to international organizations include:

  • U.S. Mission to the United Nations (USUN NY) (New York);
  • U.S. Mission to the Organization of American States (OAS) (Washington, DC);
  • U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Vienna (UNVIE) (Vienna);
  • U.S. Mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (USNATO) (Brussels);
  • U.S. Mission to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (USOECD) (Paris);
  • U.S. Mission to the United Nations Office and Other International Organizations in Geneva (Geneva);
  • U.S. Mission to the European Union (USEU) (Brussels);
  • U.S. Mission to the International Civil Aviation Organization (USICAO) (Montreal);
  • U.S. Mission to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture (FODAG) (Rome); and
  • U.S. Observer Mission to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (Paris).
  • U.S. Permanent Mission to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the United Nations Center for Human Settlements (Habitat) (UNCHS) (Nairobi)

Related Foreign Affairs Agencies

Following the reorganization of the foreign affairs agencies in 1999, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and the United States Information Agency (USIA) were merged into the Department of State, and the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which is responsible for all U.S. Government and government-sponsored broadcasting, became an independent, autonomous federal entity. The U.S. Agency for International Development remains an independent agency.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is an independent agency that receives general direction and overall foreign policy guidance of the Secretary of State. USAID is headquartered in Washington, D.C., with offices in many countries around the world. USAID administers U.S. economic and humanitarian assistance

programs designed to promote sustainable development in countries in Africa, Asia, the Near East, Latin America and the Caribbean, Central and Eastern Europe, and the New Independent States of the former Soviet Union.

USAID assistance programs are administered through overseas missions that work in close coordination with U.S. embassies. USAID works to advance U.S. foreign policy objectives of shaping a freer, more secure, and more prosperous world by focusing its programs in four interrelated areas:

  • Improving health and population conditions;
  • Protecting the environment;
  • Promoting economic growth and agricultural development;
  • Building human capacity through education and training; and
  • Supporting democracy.

In addition to providing humanitarian assistance, USAID promotes democratic values and international cooperation and helps establish economic conditions that expand markets for U.S. goods and services in developing countries. The agency funds technical assistance and commodity assistance, trains thousands of foreign students each year at American colleges, and supports development research. USAID also enlists the collaboration of the American for-profit private sector, non-governmental and private organizations, and universities in its programs. Foreign assistance programs, funded by a mere fraction of the 1% of the total federal budget that goes to all foreign affairs programs, have ultimately put more dollars into the pockets of American taxpayers than they have ever taken out, because money spent on foreign assistance programs is usually spent in the U.S. -- in the form of purchases of food to be sent overseas, in spending on equipment and services sent overseas. Nearly 80% of U.S. Agency for International Development contracts and grants go to U.S. firms for such purchases.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors is composed of nine bipartisan members with expertise in the fields of journalism, broadcasting, and public and international affairs. Eight members are appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. The ninth, an ex-officio member, is the Secretary of State.

The BBG oversees all U.S. Government and government-sponsored, non-military, international broadcasting. This includes the activities of the five U.S. international broadcasting services: The Voice of America (VOA), WorldNet Television and Film Service, and Radio and TV Marti, which are part of the International Broadcast Bureau (IBB), and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Radio Free Asia (RFA), which are non-profit, grantee corporations. In addition to the broadcasting services, the IBB includes an Engineering Directorate that maintains transmitting facilities and provides support for all of IBB's broadcasting elements.

The BBG Board also evaluates the mission and operation of U.S. international broadcasters in order to ensure compliance with statutory broadcasting standards, to assess quality and effectiveness, to determine the addition and deletion of language services, and to submit annual reports to the President and Congress.


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