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U.S. Department of State

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Bureau of the Comptroller and Global Financial Services
February 15, 2013



The Department of State is the lead U.S. foreign affairs agency within the Executive Branch and the lead institution for the conduct of American diplomacy. Established by Congress in 1789, the Department is the oldest and most senior executive agency of the U.S. Government. The head of the Department, the Secretary of State, is the President's principal foreign policy advisor. The Secretary carries out the President's foreign policies through the State Department and its employees. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Department of State implements U.S. foreign policy worldwide. The Department of State promotes and protects the interests of American citizens by:

  • Promoting peace and stability in regions of vital interest;
  • Creating jobs at home by opening markets abroad;
  • Helping developing nations establish investment and export opportunities; and
  • Bringing nations together and forging partnerships to address global problems, such as climate change and resource scarcity, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, the spread of communicable diseases, cross-border pollution, humanitarian crises, nuclear smuggling, and narcotics trafficking.

The Foreign Service Officers and Civil Service staff in the Department of State and U.S. missions abroad represent the American people. They work together to achieve the goals and implement the initiatives of American foreign policy. The Department operates more than 270 embassies, consulates, and other posts worldwide staffed by Locally Employed (LE) Staff and more than 13,700 Foreign Service Officers. 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. A Civil Service corps of over 10,700 employees provides continuity and expertise in performing all aspects of the Department's mission. The Department's mission is supported through its regional, functional, and management bureaus and offices. The regional bureaus, each of which is responsible for a specific geographic region of the world, work in conjunction with subject matter experts for other bureaus and offices to develop policies and implement programs that achieve the Department's goals and foreign policy priorities. These bureaus and offices provide policy guidance, program management, administrative support, and in-depth expertise.

In carrying out these 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 (USAID), the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Agriculture.


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 unified pre-existing U.S. Government assistance programs and served as the U.S. Government's lead international development and humanitarian assistance agency. USAID's mission is to advance broad-based economic growth, democracy, and human progress in developing countries. USAID is an independent federal agency that receives overall foreign policy guidance from the Secretary of State. With an official presence in 87 countries and programs in several other non-presence countries, 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. USAID is headed by an Administrator and Deputy Administrator, both appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. 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 (NGO).

To transform USAID into a modern development enterprise, the Agency continues to implement USAID Forward reforms initiated in 2010. This includes a strengthening of the Agency's overseas workforce in key technical areas. In 2012, the Agency's mission was supported by 3,658 permanent and non-permanent direct hire employees including 2,136 in the Foreign Service and 1,522 in the Civil Service. Additional support came from 4,390 Foreign Service Nationals, and approximately 1,231 other non-direct hire employees (not counting institutional support contractors). Of these employees, 2,682 are based in Washington and 6,597 are deployed overseas. For more information on the organizational structure see the Department of State organization chart and the USAID organization chart, respectively.


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