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 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. This budget 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. 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, 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.
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.
The Deputy Secretary 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 Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources serves as the Department’s Chief Operating Officer, alter ego to the Secretary, and principal adviser to the Secretary on overall supervision, direction of resource allocation, and management activities of the Department. The Deputy Secretary is charged with promoting innovation, developing a management reform agenda, and ensuring our people and posts are safe and secure. In addition, the Deputy Secretary is responsible for the budget, development assistance, and promoting coordinated strategic planning. Under her purview is also the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) office.
- The Office of U.S. Foreign Assistance Resources (F) reports to the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources and ensures the strategic and effective allocation, management, and use of foreign assistance resources.
The Executive Secretariat (S/ES), comprised of the Executive Secretary and four Deputy Executive Secretaries, is responsible for coordinating 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/ES-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 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/ES-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:
- The Policy Planning Staff (S/P) serves as a source of independent policy analysis and advice for the Secretary of State. The Policy Planning Staff''s mission is to take a longer term, strategic view of global trends and frame recommendations for the Secretary of State to advance U.S. interests and American values.
- The Office of the Chief of Protocol (S/CPR) 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. S/CPR 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.
- Other offices attached to the Office of the Secretary deal with personnel issues, including the Office of Civil Rights, Office of the Ombudsman, and the Foreign Service Grievance Board. The President and the Secretary of State also appoint Special representatives, envoys, and advisers, and coordinators for top-level foreign policy issues, such as HIV/AIDS, women’s issues, food security, and tribal consultation. Some appointees report directly to the Secretary, while others report to Senior Department Officials.
In addition, the following bureaus and offices, although not attached to the Office of the Secretary, report directly to the Secretary.
- The U.S. Mission to the United Nations (USUN) serves as the United States’ delegation to the United Nations. USUN is responsible for carrying out the nation’s participation in the world body.
- The Bureau of Legislative Affairs (H) coordinates legislative activity for the Department of State and advises the Secretary, the Deputy, as well as the Under Secretaries and Assistant Secretaries on legislative strategy. H facilitates effective communication between State Department officials and the Members of Congress and their staffs.
- 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. INR also analyzes geographical and international boundary issues. INR is a member of the U.S. intelligence community.
- 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 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.
Counselor of the Department
The Counselor of the Department is a principal officer, 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:
- Political Affairs;
- Economic, Energy, and Agricultural Affairs;
- Arms Control and International Security;
- Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights;
- Management; and
- Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.
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.
Under Secretary for Political Affairs (P)
The Under Secretary for Political Affairs is the day-to-day manager of overall regional and bilateral policy issues. The Department has grouped countries of the world in the following areas of responsibility under six bureaus:
- Bureau of African Affairs (AF)
- Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP)
- Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR)
- Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA)
- Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA)
- Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA)
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 Bureau of International Organization Affairs (IO) is the U.S. Government’s primary interlocutor with the United Nations and other international agencies and organizations. IO is charged with advancing the President’s vision of robust multilateral engagement as a crucial tool in advancing U.S. national interests. U.S. multilateral engagement spans the full range of important global issues, including peace and security, nuclear nonproliferation, human rights, economic development, climate change, and global health.
Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment (E)
The Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment leads the State Department’s efforts to develop and implement economic growth, energy, agricultural, oceans, environmental, and science and technology policies to promote economic prosperity and address global challenges in a transparent, rules-based, and sustainable system. The bureaus and offices under the E group work to advance the Department’s economic statecraft agenda, using America’s global leadership to strengthen the domestic economy; elevate and intensify efforts on energy security and environmental sustainability; and foster innovation through robust science, entrepreneurship, and technology policies.
- The Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs (EB) promotes economic security and prosperity at home and abroad and a coherent economic policy across the U.S. Government.
- The Bureau of Energy Resources (ENR) ensures that U.S. diplomatic relationships advance interests in having access to secure, reliable, and ever-cleaner sources of energy.
- The Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES) advances U.S. foreign policy goals in critical areas such as climate change, renewable energy, resource scarcity, polar issues, oceans policy, infectious diseases, science and technology, and space policy.
- The Office of the Science & Technology Adviser serves the U.S. national interest by promoting global scientific and technological progress as integral components of U.S. diplomacy.
Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security (T)
The Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security serves as Senior Adviser to the President and the Secretary of State for Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament. In this capacity, the Under Secretary attends and participates, at the direction of the President, in National Security Council (NSC) and subordinate meetings pertaining to arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament and has the right to communicate, through the Secretary of State, with the President and members of the NSC on arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament concerns.
The following bureaus report to the Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security:
- The Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance (AVC) core missions within the U.S. Department of State concern arms control, verification and compliance with international arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament agreements or commitments.
- The Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN) manages a broad range of nonproliferation, counterproliferation, and arms control functions. ISN leads U.S. efforts to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction – nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons – and their delivery systems.
- The Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM) is the Department of State's principal link to the Department of Defense. The Bureau provides policy direction in the areas of international security, security assistance, military operations, defense strategy and plans, and defense trade.
Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights (J)
The Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights oversees and coordinates U.S. foreign relations on the spectrum of civilian security issues across the globe, including democracy, human rights, population, refugees, trafficking in persons, rule of law, counter-narcotics, crisis prevention and response, global criminal justice, and countering violent extremism.
The following bureaus and offices report to the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights:
- The Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) helps countries and people find the road away from conflict and toward peace. By creating new opportunities for advancing democracy, promoting sustainable economic growth, and strengthening the rule of law in fragile states, CSO helps reduce violent conflict and strengthen governance in states around the world.
- The Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism (CT) forges partnerships with non-state actors, multilateral organizations, and foreign governments to advance the counterterrorism objectives and national security of the U.S. Working with the U.S. Government counterterrorism team, CT takes a leading role in developing coordinated strategies to defeat terrorists abroad and in securing the cooperation of international partners.
- The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) leads the U.S. efforts to promote democracy, protect human rights and international religious freedom, and advance labor rights globally.
- The Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) advises on the development of policies and programs to combat international narcotics and crime. INL programs support two of the Department's strategic goals: to reduce the entry of illegal drugs into the United States; and to minimize the impact of international crime on the United States and its citizens. Counternarcotics and anticrime programs also complement counterterrorism efforts by promoting modernization of and supporting operations by foreign criminal justice systems and law enforcement agencies charged with the counter-terrorism mission.
- The Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) provides aid and sustainable solutions for refugees, victims of conflict, and stateless people around the world, through repatriation, local integration, and resettlement in the United States. PRM also promotes the United States' population and migration policies.
- The Office of Global Criminal Justice (GCJ) advises and formulates U.S. policy on prevention and accountability for mass atrocities. GCJ coordinates U.S. Government support for international and hybrid courts that are currently trying persons responsible for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity committed in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Cambodia. GCJ also works closely with other governments, international institutions, and nongovernmental organizations to establish and assist international and domestic commissions, courts and tribunals to investigate, judge, and deter atrocity crimes in every region of the globe.
- The Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons leads U.S. global engagement against human trafficking, including forced labor, sex trafficking, bonded labor, debt bondage, involuntary domestic servitude, forced child labor, child soldiers, and child sex trafficking. The Office is responsible for bilateral and multilateral diplomacy, targeted foreign assistance, and public engagement on this issue of modern slavery, and partners with foreign governments and civil society to develop and implement effective counter-trafficking strategies.
- The Office of Global Youth Issues oversees efforts to empower young people as economic and civic actors through U.S. programs, encourage governments to respond to youth through U.S. diplomacy, and directly engage young people around the world.
Under Secretary for Management (M)
The Under Secretary for Management is the State Department's representative on the President's Management Council, and is responsible for implementing the President's Management Agenda (PMA). The PMA is a set of management initiatives designed to make government more citizen-centered, effective, and efficient. There are five government-wide PMA initiatives: Human Capital; E-Government; Competitive Sourcing; Financial Management, and Budget and Performance Integration. The Department is also working with the White House Office of Management and Budget on the PMA initiative focused on "rightsizing" the U.S. Government's overseas presence.
The following bureaus and offices report to the Under Secretary for Management:
- 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.
- The Bureau of Budget and Planning (BP) carries out the principal responsibilities of preparing and submitting the Department's budget requests, managing the Department's operational resource requirements, and ensuring that operational planning and performance management is synchronized with the Department's resource requirements. BP also coordinates with the Office of U.S. Foreign Assistance Resources in developing policies, plans, and programs to achieve foreign policy goals.
- The Bureau of Consular Affairs (CA) protects the lives and interests of American citizens abroad and strengthens the security of United States borders through the vigilant adjudication of visas and passports. CA contributes to the goal of promoting international exchange and understanding by helping American citizens engage the world. CA issues the travel documents that allow Americans to travel the globe and lawful immigrants and visitors to travel to America and provides essential cycle of life services to American citizens overseas. CA also provides information to American citizens considering international travel.
- The Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) is the security and law enforcement arm of the U.S. Department of State. DS is a world leader in international investigations, threat analysis, cyber security, counterterrorism, security technology, and protection of people, property, and information. DS is responsible for providing a safe and secure environment for the conduct of U.S. foreign policy. In the U.S., DS personnel protect the Secretary of State and high-ranking foreign dignitaries and officials visiting the U.S., investigate passport and visa fraud, and conduct personnel security investigations. DS plays a vital role in protecting U.S. embassies and personnel overseas, securing critical information systems, investigating passport and visa fraud, and fighting the war on terror.
- The Bureau of Human Resources (M/DGHR) handles recruitment, assignment evaluation, promotion, discipline, career development, and retirement policies and programs for the Department's Foreign and Civil Service employees. The Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources oversees the Bureau.
- The Bureau of Information Resource Management (IRM), headed by the Chief Information Officer, provides the information technology and services the Department needs to successfully carry out its foreign policy mission by applying modern IT tools, approaches, systems, and information products.
- The Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) directs the worldwide overseas building program for the Department of State and the U.S. Government community serving abroad under the authority of the chiefs of mission. In concert with other State Department bureaus, foreign affairs agencies, and Congress, OBO sets worldwide priorities for the design, construction, acquisition, maintenance, use, and sale of real properties and the use of sales proceeds.
- The Director of Diplomatic Reception Rooms overseas the Department of State's Diplomatic Reception Rooms, one of the greatest mirrors of America's cultural accomplishments in fine and decorative arts of the 18th and 19th centuries. Here, visiting Chiefs of State, Heads of Government, Foreign Ministers, and other distinguished foreign and American guests are entertained officially.
- The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) is the Federal Government's primary training institution for officers and support personnel of the U.S. foreign affairs community, preparing American diplomats and other professionals to advance U.S. foreign affairs interests overseas and in Washington.
The Office of Management Policy, Rightsizing, and Innovation (M/PRI) is the Under Secretary for Management’s central management analysis organization. M/PRI is comprised of three staffs:
- Management Policy Staff provides analysis of cross-cutting issues for the Under Secretary for Management and other senior managers in the Department.
- Rightsizing Staff provides expertise to senior managers on chief of mission authority.
- Innovation Staff serves as the primary M representative to the Regional Initiatives Council (RIC) and leads regionalization/standardization activities, especially those with an overseas focus.
- The Office of Medical Services (MED) provides healthcare to U.S. Government employees and their families who are assigned to embassies and consulates worldwide. M also advises embassy and State Department management about health issues throughout the world. Although MED cannot provide medical services to U.S. citizens abroad who are not affiliated with the U.S. Government, the office does collaborate with the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs to ensure the assistance they render is medically appropriate for the situation and available resources.
The Under Secretary also oversees the Office of White House Liaison.
Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R)
The Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs leads America's public diplomacy outreach, which includes communications with international audiences, cultural programming, academic grants, educational exchanges, international visitor programs, and U.S. Government efforts to confront ideological support for terrorism. R also oversees the public affairs function of providing information to the U.S. audience.
The following bureaus and offices report to the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs:
- The Office of Policy, Planning, and Resources (R/PPR) provides long-term strategic planning and performance measurement capability for public diplomacy and public affairs programs. It also enables 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 diplomacy's and public affairs' effectiveness.
- The Bureau of Public Affairs (PA) carries out the mandate to help Americans understand the importance of foreign affairs. PA pursues the State Department's mission to inform the American people and to feed their concerns and comments back to policymakers.
- The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) fosters mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries to promote friendly, and peaceful relations.
- The Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP) is the State Department’s public diplomacy communications bureau, leading the Department’s support for U.S. Embassy public diplomacy efforts and engagement with overseas audiences.
A number of advisory councils, commissions, committees, and boards exist to maintain an open dialogue between the U.S. Government and the private sector on various issues.
Organization of the Department of State Abroad
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. Department of State employees at missions comprise U.S.-based political appointees and career diplomats, and Foreign Service Nationals.
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.
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. 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 parental child abduction 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 nonimmigrant visas to foreign nationals who wish to visit, work or study in the United States and 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. 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 macroeconomic 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 official U.S. exchange programs. They also direct the overseas U.S. Speakers program and international electronic linkages.
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.
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.