Department of State

Department of State

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.

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Hurricane Irene

Hurricane Irene

U.S. citizens traveling to storm-prone regions during hurricane and typhoon season should carefully consider the potential dangers and inconveniences associated with their travel before finalizing plans. Even inland areas far from the coastline can experience destructive winds, tornadoes, and floods from tropical storms, hurricanes and typhoons. Those who choose to travel should devise an emergency plan in advance of their departure. Prior to leaving the United States, enroll your trip on the State Department’s travel enrollment website or at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

For U.S. citizens overseas, in the event of a tropical storm, hurricane or typhoon, the U.S. Embassy will send out a warden message and will monitor the storm’s track, issuing updated messages as information becomes available. The Department of State may also issue Travel Alerts or Travel Warnings to apprise the traveling public of the situation.

Please also take this time to check your travel documents and those of your family members to assure that all U.S. passports are still valid and that any non-U.S. citizen family members have valid U.S. visas. You may need to travel to the United States on short notice and would not want to be stuck without valid travel documents.

For situations involving an injury to, or the death of, an American citizen overseas, contact the OCS Call Center at 1-800-407-4747 (from overseas: 202-501-4444).

For additional travel information and the traveler’s checklist, click here.

Question:
How can I estimate my retirement benefit at several different ages?

Answer:
It’s easy! Use our Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator to get a retirement benefit estimate based on current law and real time access to your earnings record.  The Retirement Estimator also lets you create additional “what if” retirement scenarios to find out how changes in your situation might change your future benefit amount.  Remember, Social Security is not sending out the yearly Statements any more, so this is a good way to keep track of your future benefit entitlement.

Question:
If both my spouse and I are entitled to Social Security benefits, is there any reduction in our payments because we are married?

Answer:
No. We calculate lifetime earnings independently to determine each spouse’s Social Security benefit amount.  When each member of a married couple meets all other eligibility requirements to receive Social Security retirement benefits, each spouse receives a monthly benefit amount based on his or her own earnings.  Couples are not penalized because they are married.  If one member of the couple earned low wages or failed to earn enough Social Security credits (40) to be insured for retirement benefits, he or she may be eligible to receive benefits as a spouse based on the spouse’s work record.  Learn more about spouse benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2/yourspouse.htm.

Prior to submitting my application as a White House intern I asked myself, “Can a broadcast journalist student really be welcomed by the Executive Office of the President?”  I found that the answer was an overwhelming yes.

So many university students have the incorrect perception that the White House Internship Program is only for political science majors or students with political ambitions. The White House Intern Program is, in many ways, just like a college campus – made up of students from diverse backgrounds and scholastic interests.  In fact, as a White House Intern, I learned that there was no better place for a student studying Communications than the White House.  

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Startup Stories: Coming to America

On August 5, 2011, in Careers, Economy, People, by Hyderabad ACS

To celebrate the first six months of the White House-led Startup America initiative, this week we are highlighting the stories of real entrepreneurs who are creating jobs across the country. Startup America aims to create the right policy environment for entrepreneurs to flourish. For example, the Department of Homeland Security has clarified the eligibility of immigrant entrepreneurs for existing visa categories, and has expanded the number of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) graduates who can extend their work training in the U.S.

“I came to the United States in 1992 at the age of 17 to attend college in Pittsburgh. Today, I am proud to be a naturalized U.S. citizen. I have helped found four companies, three of which have been successfully acquired, and one is poised to change an entire industry. As an investor, I have helped fund 15 companies. Collectively the companies I have been involved with have created well over 400 jobs – all here in the United States.

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