Department of State (DOS)

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The Department of State is a cabinet-level federal executive body created in 1789 that handles United States’ foreign diplomatic affairs. The Department of State advises the President of the United States on foreign policy issues, carries out diplomatic missions, and “negotiates treaties and agreements with foreign entities.” The Department represents the United States through 270+ diplomatic locations around the world, including embassies, consulates, and missions to international organizations. The Secretary of State heads the department, serving as the nation’s chief diplomat and representative to foreign nations.

The Department’s mission is to lead “America’s foreign policy through diplomacy, advocacy, and assistance by advancing the interests of the American people, their safety and economic prosperity.” The Department works closely with the Congress and other departments such as Department of Defense, Department of Treasury, and Department of Commerce, to achieve this mission.  An example of an essential service administered by the Department is immigration services for U.S. citizens and foreign nationals.  Many states have their own departments of state.

Most recently, Department was in the news for the President’s firing of State Department inspector general, Linick, who was investigating the declaration of national emergency to justify the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia.  The firing raised eyebrows worldwide regarding the independence and job security of government watchdogs such as the one in question.

[Last updated in June of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]