Learning about Government: The State Department

The United States Department of State, or as it is most commonly known, the State Department is one of the two original Executive Departments of the United States. It was started in 1789, and was initially called the Department of Foreign Affairs. The head of the State Department is known as the Secretary of State. John Kerry currently serves in the position which is forth in line for presidential succession.

When the United States Constitution was originally drafted, it placed the power to conduct foreign affairs directly into the hand of the President. It quickly became apparently that the job of conducting foreign affairs was a much more complicatedtask than one that could be simply handled on the side by the President. On July 21, 1789, the House of Representative and the Senate both passed legislation approving the creation of the State Department.

It is the job of the State Department to implement and develop the foreign policy decisions of the President. The State Department often works in close proximity to the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security. It is the mission of the State Department to:

Advance freedom for the benefit of the American people and the international community by helping to build and sustain a more democratic, secure, and prosperous world composed of well-governed states that respond to the needs of their people, reduce widespread poverty, and act responsibly within the international system”

It is the stated duty of the State Department promote peace, encourage trade with developing nations, and engage in global partnerships which battle against the forces of terrorism, narcotics trafficking, pollution, and nuclear smuggling. A large number of sub-bureaus answer to the State Department including the Bureau of Human Resources and the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. To date, the State Department maintains a staff of nearly 75,000 individuals.