Chain of Command
Desk officers are seen as the backbone of our operations, they field complaints, coordinate between our U.S. embassies and Washington HQ of the Department (and also with respective foreign embassies in Washington), write core "action" memos on policy, serve as note-takers in meetings between foreign dignitaries and 7th floor decision-makers.
The other key node in the chain is the assistant secretary, who manages "regional" or "functional" issues for State. Regional bureaus (see map in separate slide) have direct line authority over staffing, funding operations, and advising on foreign assistance for their region, and are the one's that "operate and staff" our missions overseas. Other bureaus manage issues such as counterterrorism, economics/energy, oceans and the environment, legal affairs, political-military affairs, public affairs and international organizations.
A new office, the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (CRS) was set up in 2004 to develop tools to coordinate interagency cooperation in conflict areas. The coordinator in 2009, Ambassador John Herbst, functions much like an Assistant Secretary, but is formally in the office of the Secretary (with a separate link to the USAID Administrator).