10 Things You Should Know About the State Department and USAID
Thomas R. Nides, Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, US State Department
This commentary was originally posted on Huffington Post
Do you ever wonder what the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) do every day and what it means for you?
In the eight months since I joined the State Department, I've learned firsthand about the important and wide ranging work done by the women and men who work here and around the world to enhance our national and economic security. We help train the Mexican National Police forces who battle violent drug gangs just south of our border and serve alongside our military in Iraq and Afghanistan. We negotiate trade agreements and promote U.S. exports by reducing barriers to commerce.
Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates used to say that the Department of Defense has as many people in military bands as the State Department has in the Foreign Service. With just over one percent of the entire federal budget, we have a huge impact on how Americans live and how the rest of the world experiences and engages America.
Here are a few examples of what we do on behalf of the American people:
1. We create American jobs. We directly support 20 million U.S. jobs by advocating on behalf of U.S. firms to open new markets, protect intellectual property, navigate foreign regulations and compete for foreign government and private contracts. State economic officers negotiate Open Skies agreements, which open new routes for air travel from the United States to countries throughout the world, creating thousands of American jobs and billions in U.S. economic activity each year.
2. We support American citizens abroad. In the past eight months, we provided emergency assistance to, or helped coordinate travel to safe locations for, American citizens in Japan, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Bahrain, and Cote d'Ivoire in the wake of natural disasters or civil unrest. Last year, we assisted in 11,000 international adoptions and worked on over 1,100 new child abduction cases - resulting in the return of 485 American children.
3. We promote democracy and foster stability around the world. Stable democracies and prosperous communities are less likely to pose a threat to their neighbors or to the United States. South Sudan, the world's newest nation, can be a viable ally for the United States in east Africa, but right now, violence and instability threatens its success. U.S. diplomats and development experts are there to help the South Sudanese learn how to govern and develop their economy so that South Sudan can stand on its own. In Libya, we helped create unprecedented international support to help the people shed 42 years of dictatorship and begin the long path to democracy.
4. We help to ensure the world is a safer place. Our nonproliferation programs have destroyed dangerous stockpiles of missiles, munitions and the material that can be used to make a nuclear weapon. The New START Treaty, negotiated by the State Department and signed by President Obama in 2010, reduced the number of deployed nuclear weapons to levels not seen since the 1950s. And, in 2010, the State Department helped more than 40 countries clear millions of square meters of landmines.
5. We save lives. Our programs that fight disease and hunger reduce the risk of instability abroad and, in return, protect our national security. Strong bipartisan support for U.S. global health investments has led to unparalleled successes in the treatment, care and prevention of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, as well as saved millions from diseases like smallpox and polio.
6. We help countries feed themselves. In the United States, we know agriculture. Building upon what we do best - grow and produce food - we help other countries plant the right seeds in the right way and get crops to markets to feed the most people. Food shortages can lead to riots and starvation, but strong agricultural sectors can lead to stable economies, helping countries become strong U.S. trading partners.
7. We help in times of crisis. After this year's earthquake and tsunami in Japan, State and USAID sent disaster response experts, nuclear experts and urban search and rescue teams to work assist the government of Japan with meeting immediate needs. Secretary Clinton personally delivered much needed supplies to Chile within hours of a devastating earthquake. From earthquakes in Haiti to famine in the Horn of Africa and devastating fires in Israel, our experienced and talented emergency professionals deliver assistance to those who need it most.
8. We promote the rule of law and protect human dignity. Every day, we help people find freedom and shape their own destinies. In Uzbekistan, we negotiated the release of prisoners held simply because their beliefs differed from those of the government. In Vietnam, we prevented political activists from suffering physical abuse. We have trained lawyers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to help rape victims, police officers in Peru to combat sex trafficking, and journalists in Malaysia in an effort to make their government more accountable.
9. We help Americans see the world. In 2010, we issued 14 million passports for Americans to travel abroad. We facilitate the lawful travel of students, tourists and business people, including issuing more than 700,000 visas for foreign students to study in the U.S. last year. And, if a storm could disrupt your vacation plans or if you could get sick from drinking the water, we alert you through our travel warnings.
10. We are the face of America overseas. Our diplomats, development experts, and the programs they implement are the source of American leadership around the world. They are the embodiments of our American values abroad. They are a force for good in the world.
The United States is a leader for peace, progress and prosperity, and the State Department and USAID help deliver that. All of this (and more) costs the American taxpayer about one percent of the overall federal budget. That is a small investment that yields a large return by advancing our national security, promoting our economic interests, and reaffirming our country's exceptional role in the world.