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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy: The State Department At Work

". . . there is no country on earth that is not touched by America, for we have become the motive force for freedom and democracy in the world. And there is no country in the world that does not touch us. We are a country of countries with a citizen in our ranks from every land. We are attached by a thousand cords to the world at large, to its teeming cities, to its remotest regions, to its oldest civilizations, to its newest cries for freedom. This means that we have an interest in every place on this Earth, that we need to lead, to guide, to help in every country that has a desire to be free, open and prosperous."  -- Colin L. Powell, Secretary of State

As the lead U.S. foreign affairs agency, the Department of State helps to shape a freer, more secure, and more prosperous world through formulating, representing, and implementing the President's foreign policy. The Secretary of State, the ranking member of the Cabinet and fourth in line of presidential succession, is the President's principal adviser on foreign policy and the person chiefly responsible for U.S. representation abroad.

red white and blue cover of brochureTo carry out U.S. foreign policy, the Department of State:

l Leads interagency coordination and manages the allocation of resources in conducting foreign relations;
l Represents the United States overseas and conveys U.S. policies to foreign governments and international organizations through U.S. embassies and consulates in foreign countries and diplomatic missions;
l Coordinates and supports international activities of other U.S. agencies, hosts official visits, and performs other diplomatic missions; and
l Conducts negotiations and concludes agreements and treaties on issues ranging from trade to nuclear weapons.

There are 191 countries in the world, and the United States maintains diplomatic relations with some 180 of them and with many international organizations. The Department of State, located in Washington, DC, takes the leading role in our mission to maintain and improve relationships with these countries. We maintain nearly 260 diplomatic and consular posts around the world, including embassies, consulates, and missions to international organizations.

How Diplomacy Works for Us
The Department of State uses diplomacy to promote and protect American interests. We:

Manage diplomatic relations with other countries and international institutions. The peace and security of the American people require constructive relations with other great powers and with international institutions. By sharing financial and diplomatic burdens, the U.S. works to reform and revitalize the United Nations to achieve common goals and leverage resources. We also cooperate with institutions such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Promote peace and stability in regions of vital interest. U.S. diplomacy helps prevent local conflicts from becoming wider wars that could threaten our allies, embroil American troops, and create instability in key regions. And in the best tradition of America, we respond to humanitarian crises to help save lives. That is why we work so hard to develop common action with our allies and friends.

Bring nations together to address global challenges. We fight terrorism and international crime and narcotics. We help prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the spread of communicable diseases, nuclear smuggling, humanitarian crises, trafficking in women and girls, and environmental degradation. These threats to the security and prosperity of Americans respect no border and must be fought at home and abroad.

Create jobs at home by opening markets abroad. We have achieved great success by putting the bottom lines of American businesses on the front lines of American diplomacy. More than 250 trade agreements over the last 20 years have helped our trade expand 25-fold since 1970 and nearly 120% since 1990. This has created some 16 million new jobs. By passing the North American Free Trade Agreement and concluding the Uruguay Round of worldwide trade negotiations, we have positioned the United States to be an even more dynamic force in the global economy in the 21st century. At the 1994 Summit of the Americas, we aimed to achieve free and open trade in the Western Hemisphere by 2005 and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation commitment to do the same in the Asia-Pacific by 2020.

Help developing nations establish stable economic environments that provide investment and export opportunities. By helping other countries to develop, we help ourselves. Developing countries currently account for more than 40%--over $300 billion worth--of U.S. exports. These countries represent the fastest-growing markets for American goods and services. The Commerce Department estimates that every $1 billion worth of exports to developing countries generates about 13,000 American jobs. More than one-half of U.S. farm exports go to the developing world, and U.S. assistance programs help get U.S. business in the door.

The success of American business in international markets is a vital national interest. Twelve million American jobs depend on export-related jobs that pay 13% to 17% more than non-trade-related jobs. America's economic well-being, global leadership, and national security are all reinforced when American companies successfully compete in the global economy.

Foreign Affairs Budget and Assistance
All foreign affairs activities and personnel costs are paid from the foreign affairs budget. That budget is a real bargain for the American people. In fact, we spend just a little more than 1% of the total federal budget on international affairs in contrast to the approximately 16% spent on defense. Moreover, the entire international affairs budget has fallen 51% in real terms since 1984. Meanwhile, the State Department's responsibilities have expanded enormously to include combating threats like terrorism, international crime, and narcotics trafficking. The amount spent for foreign affairs activities and personnel actually represents a tiny fraction of the amount our nation earns from exports or of the amount it is forced to spend when foreign crises erupt into war. This small investment protects the interests of the American people and allows the United States to maintain its position of leadership.

The Department of State conducts all of its responsibilities with a relatively small work force. The Department is smaller than 10 of the 14 U.S. Cabinet departments. In fact, the State Department employs fewer people than do many local city governments.

Foreign assistance programs have ultimately put more dollars into the pockets of American taxpayers than they have ever taken out. For one thing, most foreign assistance dollars stay right here at home. Nearly 80% of USAID contracts and grants go to U.S. firms. Ninety-five percent of all food assistance purchases are made in the U.S., and virtually all military assistance is spent on U.S. goods and services.

State Department Services
The State Department provides a wide variety of services to U.S. citizens.

Traveling and Living Abroad. When U.S. citizens travel or live abroad, we:

  • Provide information, including pamphlets and Travel Warnings, on traveling and residing abroad;
  • Issue passports for U.S. citizens (more than 7 million issued in 2000);
  • Help U.S. citizens obtain emergency funds;
  • Check on the welfare/whereabouts of U.S. citizens who are traveling or residing abroad;
  • Help families with arrangements in the event of death of a U.S. citizen overseas;
  • Assist U.S. travelers who become ill or are arrested while overseas;
  • Assist in international child custody disputes and adoptions;
  • Protect and assist U.S. citizens living or traveling abroad during international crises;
  • Distribute federal benefits payments, assisting with absentee voting and Selective Service registration, and advising on property claims; and
  • Issue visas for foreigners wishing to enter the U.S. (more than 9 million issued in 2000).

American Businesses. Support for U.S. businesses is a core function of the State Department at home and abroad. The Office of Commercial and Business Affairs (CBA) is a good initial point of contact for firms seeking State Department assistance and support. This office works directly with American companies to help them tap the worldwide resources of the Department. Officers at U.S. embassies around the world work to create a level playing field for American businesses. These officers often are the eyes, ears, and in-country negotiators for U.S. business interests. As experts on host-country markets and business practices, they identify opportunities for American firms and advocate on their behalf. The State Department:

  • Helps ensure that American farmers, businesspeople, and workers have a level playing field on which to compete for foreign investment and trade;
  • Negotiates market-opening trade agreements that expand opportunities for the sale of American products and services abroad;
  • Promotes and licenses exports that contribute tens of billions of dollars to the U.S. economy;
  • Protects American intellectual property rights; and
  • Helps other countries develop strong free-market economies and become better trading partners for the United States.

Foreign and Civil Services at Work

The Foreign Service and the Civil Service in the Department of State and U.S. missions abroad represent the American people. They work together to achieve the goals and to implement the initiatives of American foreign policy. The Foreign Service is a corps of about 9,000 employees. They are dedicated to representing America and responding to the needs of American citizens in other countries. They also are America's first line of defense in a complex and often dangerous world. A Foreign Service career is a way of life that requires uncommon commitment. It offers unique rewards, opportunities, and sometimes hardships. Members of the Foreign Service can be sent to any embassy, consulate, or other diplomatic mission anywhere in the world, at any time, to serve the diplomatic needs of the United States. More than 30,000 Foreign Service National (local) employees also supplement the personnel requirements of the Department overseas. There are about 6,500 Civil Service employees, most of whom are headquartered in Washington, DC. They provide continuity and expertise in accomplishing all aspects of the Department's mission. Civil Service officers are involved in virtually every area of the Department--from human rights to narcotics control to trade to environmental issues. They also are the domestic counterpart to consular officers abroad, issuing passports and assisting U.S. citizens in trouble overseas.

Both the Foreign and Civil Services offer a variety of career opportunities. For information on careers at the State Department on the Internet, see: For further information, contact:

U.S. Department of State
Office of Recruitment, Examination and Employment
2401 - E St. NW., 5th Floor Highrise
Washington, DC  20522-0151
Tel: (202) 261-8888  Fax: (202) 261-8841

For additional information on the organization of the Department of State, see the publication "Department Organization," the organization chart, and the list of bureaus and offices.

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