The United States Department of State (DoS), often referred to as the State Department, is the United States federal executive department responsible for international relations of the United States, equivalent to the foreign ministries of other countries. The Department was created in 1789 and was the first executive department established.
The Department is headquartered in the Harry S. Truman Building located at 2201 C Street, NW, a few blocks from the White House in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, D.C. The Department operates the diplomatic missions of the United States abroad and is responsible for implementing the foreign policy of the United States and U.S. diplomacy efforts.
The Department is led by the Secretary of State, who is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate and is a member of the Cabinet. The current Secretary of State is John Kerry. The Secretary of State is the first Cabinet official in the order of precedence and in the presidential line of succession.
The U.S. Constitution, drafted in Philadelphia in 1787 and ratified by the states the following year, gave the President the responsibility for the conduct of the nation's foreign relations. It soon became clear, however, that an executive department was necessary to support the President in the conduct of the affairs of the new federal government.
The House of Representatives and Senate approved legislation to establish a Department of Foreign Affairs on July 21, 1789, and President Washington signed it into law on July 27, making the Department of Foreign Affairs the first Federal agency to be created under the new Constitution. This legislation remains the basic law of the Department of State. In September 1789, additional legislation changed the name of the agency to the Department of State and assigned to it a variety of domestic duties.
These responsibilities grew to include management of the United States Mint, keeper of the Great Seal of the United States, and the taking of the census. President George Washington signed the new legislation on September 15. Most of these domestic duties of the Department of State were eventually turned over to various new Federal departments and agencies that were established during the 19th century. However, the Secretary of State still retains a few domestic responsibilities, such as being the keeper of the Great Seal and being the officer to whom a President or Vice-President of the United States wishing to resign must deliver an instrument in writing declaring the decision to resign.
On September 29, 1789, President Washington appointed Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, then Minister to France, to be the first United States Secretary of State. John Jay had been serving in as Secretary of Foreign Affairs as a holdover from the Confederation since before Washington had taken office and would continue in that capacity until Jefferson returned from Europe many months later.
From 1790 to 1800, the State Department had its headquarters in the then-capital of the United States, Philadelphia. It occupied a building at Church and Fifth Streets (although, for a short period during which a yellow fever epidemic ravaged the city, it resided in the New Jersey State House). In 1800, it moved from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., where it first occupied the Treasury Building and then the Seven Buildings at 19th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. It moved into the Six Buildings in September 1800, where it remained until May 1801. It moved into the War Office Building due west of the White House in May 1801. It occupied the Treasury Building from September 1819 to November 1866, except for the period from September 1814 to April 1816 (during which it occupied a structure at G and 18th streets NW while the Treasury Building was repaired). It then occupied the Washington City Orphan Home from November 1866 to July 1875. It moved to the State, War, and Navy Building in 1875. Since May 1947, it has occupied the Harry S Truman Building.