The Foreign Missions Act of 1982 ensures that the conditions/treatment of U.S. diplomats abroad is fair and based on reciprocity, and ensures that the benefits, privileges and immunities of foreign diplomats are fair and reciprocal. In addition, pursuant to the Foreign Missions Act of 1982, the DOS is authorized to acquire property in the United States for the establishment of property exchange agreements with foreign governments, whereby the U.S. government would reciprocally obtain a site abroad that is of equal benefit to the United States.
Washington, D.C. is one of the smallest national capitals in terms of land area, yet it is home to more foreign embassies than any other city in the world. Currently, 186 foreign embassies, 31 headquarters or offices of international organizations, and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office are located within Washington, D.C. All of these entities are currently situated in the District’s Northwest quadrant and are heavily concentrated along Massachusetts Avenue, the Sheridan-Kalorama neighborhood, and at the International Chancery Center near the intersection of Connecticut Avenue and Van Ness Street.
The International Chancery Act of 1968 established the International Chancery Center. The International Chancery Center comprises 47 acres and currently houses 17 chanceries, State Annex 33, 4 public parks, and the headquarters of Intelsat (which was formerly an international organization). The International Chancery center is essentially built out as all 47 acres have been developed with the exception of two lots, both of which have been assigned to Morocco.
There is a high and increasing demand for additional property to be developed and/or redeveloped for use as foreign embassy or chancery space within Washington, D.C. Just as a large number of new countries were created in the years following World War II, the collapse in the 1990s of both the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia resulted in the creation of 21 new countries, all of which quickly moved to establish diplomatic missions in Washington, D.C. In addition, the rapid growth and prominence in the past decade with respect to some countries, such as Brazil, China, India, and Vietnam, has had a significant impact on the diplomatic presence of such governments in Washington, D.C., as well as on the DOS’s reciprocal presence and operations in those countries.
As security realities abroad have resulted in larger “footprints” for U.S. diplomatic and consular properties abroad, the DOS has witnessed increasing reciprocal pressures given the lack of even remotely comparable sites in Washington, D.C.