Since 1789, the Department of State – also known as the State Department – has been responsible for the nation’s foreign policy and for advising presidents on international affairs.
The Constitution gives the president authority to determine foreign policy. The State Department, led by the secretary of state, carries out that president’s orders regarding international relations. The secretary is appointed by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
The secretary’s duties include advising the president on foreign policy and negotiating with other countries, among other things. The secretary is also responsible for protecting American citizens, property, and interests in foreign nations. The department also informs Congress and the American public on the status of U.S. foreign relations.
History of the State Department
The State Department was created in 1789 and was originally called the Department of Foreign Affairs. The first secretary of state was Thomas Jefferson. He later became president.
When Jefferson was secretary, the entire department was made up of three clerks, one chief clerk, a translator, and a messenger. It only had two diplomats, one in London and another in Paris. Both World Wars brought about the need for more staff as the United States established relationships with more nations. As of the year 2000, the department had grown to about 15,751 staffers, and the numbers continue to climb.
The Importance of Foreign Policy
Diplomats are responsible for negotiating treaties and solving disputes without military action. Sometimes, the secretary of state helps to resolve disagreements between other nations as well.
Along with the Department of Defense, the Department of State helps to keep the nation safe from foreign threats. The secretary of state is one of the president’s most-consulted members of the cabinet, which is why it is important that the commander in chief selects the best person for the job.