Foreign Affairs Policy Board

The Foreign Affairs Policy Board was launched in December 2011 to provide the Secretary of State, the Deputy Secretaries of State, and the Director of Policy Planning with independent, informed advice and opinion concerning matters of U.S. foreign policy. The Board serves in a solely advisory capacity, with an agenda shaped by the questions and concerns of the Secretary. Its discussions focus on assessing global threats and opportunities; identifying trends that implicate core national security interests; providing recommendations with respect to tools and capacities of the civilian foreign affairs agencies; defining priorities and strategic frameworks for U.S. foreign policy; and performing any other research and analysis of topics raised by the Secretary of State, the Deputy Secretaries, and the Director of Policy Planning.

The Board meets in a plenary session several times a year and is chartered to have up to 25 members. The Board comprises a distinguished, diverse, and bipartisan membership with a wide range of expertise and background, including past government service, academia, politics, development, and business. Strobe Talbott, President of the Brookings Institution and a former Deputy Secretary of State, serves as the Board’s Chair. He works closely with the Secretary and his Policy Planning Director to coordinate the Board and its meetings.

Commission on Unalienable Rights

On July 8, 2019, Secretary Pompeo announced the formation of a Commission on Unalienable Rights. The commission, composed of academics, philosophers, and activists, will provide the Secretary with advice on human rights grounded in our nation’s founding principles and the principles of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Secretary of State’s Policy Guidance

The Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) of 2010 stated that the Secretary of State would provide high-level policy guidance for the Department of State in order to provide more in-depth guidance on certain of the Department’s priorities and to encourage increased coordination in advancing key U.S. foreign policy interests. As part of this effort, the Secretary of State will disseminate a series of cables that outline policy guidance across a range of issues.

These cables address cross-cutting topics that have relevance across multiple bureaus and posts, and they build on the Secretary’s speeches and the Department’s existing policies and programming activities. They identify objectives, our intended means to achieve those objectives, and benchmarks to assess progress. The goal is to create a shared understanding of key policy goals – especially those that cut across organizational lines and are new or emerging priorities – and to provide actionable guidance for relevant bureaus and posts around the world to advance these goals.

Twelve policy guidance cables have been issued to date. Although the cables are internal documents, the Department has, in certain cases, developed public fact sheets to complement them, which are available below.

Secretary’s Open Forum

What Is the Open Forum?
“The Open Forum (S/OF), headed by an elected Chairperson who serves directly under the Secretary of State, brings new or alternative policy recommendations to the Secretary and other principals from U.S. Government employees, at all levels, of the Department of State and USAID. The Open Forum provides opportunities for any employee to express professional views (including dissenting views) candidly, free of bureaucratic constraints, and under safeguards against pressures or penalties.” [1 FAM 022.6]

The Secretary’s Open Forum was established by Secretary of State Dean Rusk in 1967 during U.S. involvement in the Vietnam conflict. The Open Forum strengthens the American foreign policy process by encouraging creative thinking on vital policy issues, including presentations of differing visions and viewpoints. The Chairman actively solicits speakers and participants from both State Department employees and sources outside the State Department and is elected by the employees of the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future