Order of Precedence
The United States Order Of Precedence is an advisory document maintained by the Ceremonials Division. For purposes of protocol, the U.S. Order of Precedence establishes the order and ranking of U.S. leadership for official events at home and abroad. Although this document establishes a general order for the country’s highest-level positions, it does not include every positional title across the federal government. Offices of Protocol for the Executive Departments and independent agencies should be consulted for internal rankings regarding positions not listed.
We invite you to learn more about the Office of the Chief of Protocol by exploring the work of the divisions and units below.
1651 Pennsylvania Avenue may not be a well-known address, but the structure on that site is known throughout the world as Blair House, the President’s guesthouse, managed by the Office of the Chief of Protocol.
The Blair House of today is actually four interconnected townhouses, forming a 110-room complex totaling 70,000 square feet. The original Blair House, from which the entire complex takes its name, appears on Pennsylvania Avenue as a yellow masonry structure in the late federal style. Blair House has long been associated with important events in American history, and in recent times, world history. An invitation to visit the United States and stay at Blair House is an extraordinary honor for a foreign head of state.
Blair House was built around 1824 by Dr. Joseph Lovell, the first Surgeon General of the United States, on land purchased from Commodore Stephen Decatur. In 1836, Francis Preston Blair, who ran the Globe newspaper and was one of Andrew Jackson’s closest confidants, purchased the house for $6,500. Following Blair’s retirement to Maryland in 1842, the house was occupied by his descendants and other notable people for the next 100 years.
During World War II, Blair House was purchased by the federal government and officially became the President’s guesthouse for heads of state visiting the White House. The house underwent a major renovation in the 1980s and remains a magnificent home for monarchs, presidents, and prime ministers while in Washington.
The staff at Blair House attend to these guests’ needs and wants, offering service and hospitality as luxurious as a five-star hotel. Blair House employs a team of chefs who offer the best of American cuisine, featuring locally sourced foods and the best American wines. The staff keep Blair House in a constant state of readiness and strive to make Blair House a comfortable home for all guests.
For a virtual tour and to learn more about the rooms and visitors to the Blair House, visit www.blairhouse.org.
Working with style, elegance, and an acute attention to detail, the Ceremonials division plans, executes, and supports a wide range of ceremonial and official functions hosted by the President, Vice President, Secretary of State, and other high-ranking United States Government officials.
The essence of international protocol is the practice of employing proper etiquette, official formalities, and dignified ceremonies in the welcoming and hosting of foreign leaders. The Ceremonials division plays a key role in maintaining this timeless tradition. A Ceremonials Officer will plan each event meticulously, considering every detail from the invitations and seating, to menus, décor, and official entertainment, all while adhering to cultural considerations and ensuring that the honored guests feel welcome and comfortable. These events include but are not limited to official and state Luncheons, ministerials and major international summits, receptions in the State Department’s official Diplomatic Reception Rooms, and swearing-in ceremonies.
The division also organizes the participation of the Diplomatic Corps in special events and official public events such as Joint Sessions of Congress, inaugurations, funerals, and other ceremonies.
In addition, the Ceremonials division maintains the Order of Precedence of the United States of America. It also answers questions on flag etiquette, forms of address, seating, and invitations, as well as dietary restrictions and cultural customs.
The Diplomatic Affairs Division assists the Chief of Protocol in serving as the President’s personal representative and liaison to Chiefs of Mission and Heads of Delegations in the United States. The Division is responsible for: 1) all activities associated with the accreditation of bilateral Chiefs of Mission, Heads of Delegation, Chargés d’affaires and Deputy Chiefs of Mission and their dependents, 2) overseeing matters relating to privileges and immunities and issuance of the appropriate credentials for these individuals, and 3) the development of policy and guidance concerning the accreditation of Chiefs and Mission and Heads of Delegation.
The Division directs the agrément process for new bilateral Chiefs of Mission and Heads of Delegation, including arrivals and presentations of credentials to the President at the White House. The Division is responsible for maintaining the Order of Precedence of bilateral foreign Chiefs of Mission, Heads of Delegation, and Chargés d’affaires, and manages the publication of the foreign diplomatic list. The Division serves as an overall liaison for the diplomatic community and handles problems that may arise in the Department’s relations with foreign diplomatic missions. Requests by foreign government entities to establish polling stations in the United States so that expatriates may vote in their national elections are also handled by this Division.
The Diplomatic Affairs Division implements the Department’s oversight program for foreign domestic workers employed by foreign mission personnel, including the pre-notification process, the In-person Registration Program, and the issuance of domestic worker registration cards.
In coordination with the Office of Foreign Missions, the division provides advice and assistance to diplomatic missions regarding the establishment of new missions and consular posts, and to other federal agencies, the Government of the District of Columbia, and state and local government authorities on matters of common concern.
Diplomatic Partnerships Unit
The Diplomatic Partnerships program was founded on the premise that through the exchange of ideas, cultures, and traditions, we can help provide the Diplomatic Corps with greater insight and understanding of the American way of life. Diplomatic Partnerships pursues this goal by organizing events with the Diplomatic Corps, offering diverse types of exchanges to foster lasting relationships, enhance mutual appreciation, and assist the Diplomatic Corps in carrying out their work while serving in the United States.
Diplomatic Partnerships engages diplomats through unique programs that showcase the full fabric of this country to the Diplomatic Corps, including Experience America and the State of the Administration Speaker Series.
Experience America gives foreign ambassadors the opportunity to step outside the beltway and experience the United States with a first-hand view of cities and communities across the country. Through educational tours and structured travel opportunities, foreign ambassadors are given an intimate and informative look at the diverse fabric of America. The State of the Administration Speaker Series affords Diplomatic Corps leadership a chance to meet and hear from senior Administration officials who can provide first-hand knowledge of our nation’s most important issues.
The Management Division administers all support functions for the Office of the Chief of Protocol. These functions include financial/budgetary management, human resources management, information resources management, procurement support, general administrative service, and records management.
The division ensures cohesive program implementation and cost-effective attainment of strategic program goals and objectives. The division manages the bureau’s material and capital resources, and ensures the effective implementation of the Chief of Protocol’s policies and programs. The Executive Director provides advice and counsel on all management issues to the Chief of Protocol, and to senior bureau and Department officials.
The Visits division plans, arranges, and executes detailed programs for visiting Chiefs of State and Heads of Government. From the arrival of a visiting foreign leader to their departure from the United States, Visits Officers work on the front lines of diplomacy and play a significant role in creating the framework for foreign relations.
The Visits division, often working closely with other federal agencies, takes a lead role in the logistical planning of everything from bilateral meetings with the President, First Lady, Vice President, and Secretary of State, to Official and State visits and large scale international meetings and summits.
In advance of a visit, the Visits division will work with the visiting leader’s delegation and embassy staff to create a detailed schedule from beginning to end. Working with the embassy, the division will lay the blueprint for a successful visit by ensuring all logical considerations are arranged and all cultural and traditional customs are met.
In addition, the Visits division will assist and accompany Presidential Delegations while traveling to events abroad. The division also handles foreign press arrangements between the Department of State, the White House, and foreign dignitaries.
The Gifts Unit within the Office of the Chief of Protocol receives all diplomatic gifts on behalf of White House and Department of State officials and maintains records pertaining to diplomatic gifts. This includes all diplomatic gifts received by the President, Vice President, and Secretary of State and their spouses. Working closely with the Chief of Protocol and the staffs of the President, the Vice President, and the Secretary of State, the Gifts Unit also helps select the gifts presented to foreign dignitaries.
The primary mission of the Major Events (ME) Division in the Office of the Chief of Protocol is to logistically support the President, Vice President and Secretary of State in hosting major international multilateral summits, peace talks, and other international conferences, either in the United States or abroad. The Major Events Division is responsible for creating, staffing, and executing the infrastructure and logistics platform upon which these major events take place.
For events hosted by the President, Vice President or Secretary of State such as a summit, ministerial, or conference, Major Events has the lead coordination role within the Protocol office to execute the event, including managing specialized logistical requirements in summits and conferences.
The Major Events Division also manages the Department’s Conference Tracker System (CTAS) for registration and approval of all conferences hosted by the Department’s bureaus or posts abroad, and is responsible for generating annual reports to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) on conference costs.