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 Guest House, managed by the Office of the Chief of Protocol.
The Blair House of today consists of four interconnected townhouses, forming a 120-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 America 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 eighth 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 1846, 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 guest house 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 minsters 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 food 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.
With 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 U.S. government officials. Events include, but are not limited to, official and state luncheons, ministerials, major international summits, receptions, and swearing-in ceremonies. Each function is curated, keeping in mind both the needs of our honored guests and the ultimate policy objectives. It is through the strategic integration of specially tailored event components and the application of diplomatic etiquette that the division sets the stage for successful diplomacy. Ceremonials Officers plan each event meticulously, creating a minute by minute scenario and considering every detail from invitations and seating to menus, décor, and entertainment. The guest experience is paramount and the environment should communicate mutual respect in an effort to facilitate meaningful dialogue. Through these functions, the Ceremonials Division plays a key role in maintaining the traditions of international protocol to welcome and host foreign guests.
Additionally, the Ceremonials Division organizes the participation of the foreign Diplomatic Corps members in special events and official public events such as Joint Sessions of Congress, Presidential inaugurations, state funerals, and other ceremonies. Ceremonials Officers advise on flag etiquette, forms of address, and event logistics and also maintain the [900 KB] of the United States of America.
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) maintaining the foreign Diplomatic Corps Order of Precedence
for bilateral foreign Chiefs of Mission, Heads of Delegation, and Chargés d’affaires, and the publication of the foreign Diplomatic List, 2) 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, 3) overseeing matters relating to privileges and immunities and issuance of the appropriate credentials for these individuals, 4) the development of policy and guidance concerning the accreditation of Chiefs and Mission and Heads of Delegation, 5) implementing the Diplomatic Partnerships outreach program, and 6) oversight of foreign domestic workers employed by foreign mission personnel.
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 serves as an overall liaison for the diplomatic community and handles problems that may arise in the Department’s relations with foreign diplomatic missions.
Additionally, the 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 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 Division’s Diplomatic Partnerships program helps provide the foreign Diplomatic Corps serving in Washington, D.C. with greater insight and understanding of the United States and its people, economy, and culture. The Diplomatic Partnerships team advances this goal by organizing unique events with the Diplomatic Corps, offering diverse types of exchanges to foster lasting relationships, enhance mutual appreciation, and strengthen bilateral relations. Through educational tours and structured travel opportunities, foreign ambassadors are given an intimate and informative look at the diverse fabric of America and provided with opportunities to explore business and trade development. The popular Experience America program offers foreign ambassadors the opportunity to discover life “outside the beltway” and experience the United States with a first-hand view of cities and communities across the country. The State of the Administration Speaker Series and Policy Roundtables afford Diplomatic Corps leadership a chance to meet and hear from senior Administration officials who provide insider knowledge on a wide range of pressing policy issues.
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.
Key logistical elements the Major Events team executes for summits and ministerials are:
- Inter and Intra-Agency Meeting and Communications Coordination
- Production Contract Management
- Event Budget Management
- Press Logistics Management
- Simultaneous Interpretation Management
- Transportation Management
- Airport Operations Management
- Credentials Management
- Website and Event App Management
- Graphics Design
- Hotel Accommodations Coordination
- City Host Committee Coordination
- Security Liaison
- Event Execution
In addition to Major Events, the Division also manages the Department’s Conference Tracker and Approval System (CTAS) for registration and approval of all conferences hosted by the Department’s bureaus or posts abroad. CTAS is both a regulation of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and a legal mandate. The Division’s CTAS administrators are responsible for generating annual reports to the OMB and the Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) on the Department’s conference spending. The Division manages the conference database and identifies those conferences that warrant review and Department approval. It also advises Department conference organizers on registration and reporting policies, designs and coordinates the technical elements of the registration site with its IT development team, manages the data collected, and updates the Department’s Comptroller on conference spending.
If you would like more information on what we do, please send an email to MajorEventsDivision@State.Gov.
The Management Division provides administrative support functions for the Office of the Chief of Protocol. These functions include financial management, human resources, information technology, procurement, contracting, and property and records management.
The division establishes and maintains management and internal control systems to ensure accountability, promote efficiency, and safeguard against waste, fraud and mismanagement of U.S. government resources. The division manages the bureau’s capital resources and ensures the effective implementation of the Chief of Protocol’s policies and programs. The division is led by the Executive Director and supports approximately 80 employees.
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.
Diplomatic Gifts Unit
The Diplomatic 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.