The U.S. Constitution grants some authority over foreign relations to Congress, such as the power to declare war. Most of the work of foreign affairs, however, resides with the executive branch of the federal government. Early on, the fledgling U.S. formed a Cabinet department specifically to deal with such issues. Initially called the Bureau of Foreign Affairs on its foundation in July 1789, it soon changed its name to the Department of State, the name it carries today.

Matters of State

The State Department handles U.S. foreign relations, including responsibility for embassies and diplomats, economic assistance and development, and negotiations covering a wide range of issues and concerns; the secretary of state advises the president on foreign policy. The ambassador to the United Nations, a Cabinet-level post, is also part of the Department of State. Some foreign affairs issues may fall under the jurisdiction of other Cabinet departments, such as the Department of Homeland Security, tasked with predicting and preventing terrorist attacks on Americans at home and abroad and to protect both people and resources.