In 1961, the United States Congress passed the Foreign Assistance Act to administer long-range economic and humanitarian assistance to developing countries. Two months after passage of the act, President John F. Kennedy established the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). USAID unified pre-existing U.S. Government assistance programs and served as the U.S. Government's lead international development and humanitarian assistance agency, a role that it continues today as it celebrates its 50th anniversary.
USAID is an independent Federal agency that receives overall foreign policy guidance from the Secretary of State. The Agency provides economic, development and humanitarian assistance around the world in support of the foreign policy goals of the United States. USAID is headed by an Administrator and Deputy Administrator, both appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. In Washington, USAID's geographic, functional and central bureaus are responsible for coordinating the Agency's activities and supporting implementation of programs overseas. With an official presence in 87 countries and programs in several other, the Agency accelerates human progress in developing countries by reducing poverty, advancing democracy, empowering women, building market economies, promoting security, responding to crises, and improving the quality of life through investments in health and education.
The Agency has embarked on a comprehensive set of reforms, known as USAID Forward, which will transform the Agency into a modern development enterprise. USAID also carried out the Development Leadership Initiative to strengthen the Agency's overseas workforce in key technical areas. In 2011, the Agency's mission was supported by 2,270 Foreign Service Officers, 1,620 Civil Service Officers, 4,500 Foreign Service Nationals, and about 1,000 other non-direct-hire employees. Of these employees, 2,776 are based in Washington and 6,696 are deployed overseas.
USAID plans its development and assistance programs in close coordination with the Department of State, and collaborates with a variety of other U.S. Government agencies, multilateral and bilateral organizations, private companies, academic institutions, and non-governmental organizations.
The Department of State is the lead U.S. foreign affairs agency within the Executive Branch and the Secretary of State is the President's principal foreign policy advisor. Established by Congress in 1789, the Department is the oldest and most senior executive agency of the U.S. Government. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., it implements United States foreign policy worldwide.
The Department of State promotes and protects the interests of American citizens by:
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, listens to Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi after their meeting in Yangon, Myanmar, Friday, December 2, 2011. ©AP Image
The Department operates more than 270 Embassies, consulates, and other posts worldwide staffed by Locally Employed (LE) Staff and more than 13,500 American Foreign Service personnel and 43,000 locally employed staff. In each Embassy, the Chief of Mission (usually an Ambassador) is responsible for executing U.S. foreign policy goals and for coordinating and managing all U.S. Government functions in the host country. The President appoints each Ambassador, with the advice and consent of the Senate. Chiefs of Mission report directly to the President through the Secretary. U.S. Missions are the primary U.S. Government points of contact for Americans overseas and foreign nationals of host countries. Missions serve the needs of Americans traveling, working, and studying abroad, and support Presidential and congressional delegations visiting the country. In addition to Foreign Service personnel, a Civil Service corps of over 10,500 employees provides a base of continuity and expertise in performing all aspects of the Department's mission. The Department's mission is accomplished through six regional bureaus, each of which is responsible for a specific geographic region of the world, the Bureau of International Organization Affairs, and numerous functional and management bureaus. These bureaus provide policy guidance, program management, administrative support, and in-depth expertise in diverse matters such as law enforcement, economics, the environment, intelligence, arms control, human rights, counternarcotics, counterterrorism, public diplomacy, humanitarian assistance, security, nonproliferation, and consular services.
In carrying out its responsibilities, the Department of State consults with Congress about foreign policy initiatives and programs, and works in close coordination with other Federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Department of the Treasury, and the Department of Commerce, among others.