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A Changing Role for the Secretary

After 1945, most Secretaries of State were chosen because they possessed broad foreign policy experience and the management skills deemed essential to effective performance. Secretaries traveled extensively to negotiate and coordinate with their foreign counterparts and chiefs of state, but they also had to spend a large amount of time on administration. Although the burdens of office increased exponentially, Secretaries also gained prestige, as a consequence of the high priority now accorded to foreign relations.

During this period, the Department absorbed several wartime organizations dealing with international economic affairs into its permanent bureaucratic structure. In August 1946, the Department created a new Under Secretary for Economic Affairs to manage the complex economic component of U.S. foreign policy. Working with the existing Assistant Secretary for Economic Affairs, the Under Secretary supervised international economic activities and established effective relations with the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

A change in foreign policy required a change in the Foreign Service as well. Congress passed the Foreign Service Act of 1946, which was intended to “improve, strengthen, and expand the Foreign Service . . . and to consolidate and revise the laws relating to its administration.” A new Director General and a Foreign Service Board were created to improve administration, while a new Board of Examiners maintained the principle of competitive entrance. The law also provided for improvements in assignments policy, promotion procedures, allowances and benefits, home leave, and the retirement system. In recognition of the growing importance of specialized experience, the act also created the Foreign Service Reserve for lawyers, doctors, economists, and intelligence analysts. Finally, the Foreign Service School became the Foreign Service Institute and offered advanced training for Department personnel in subjects of critical importance in the rapidly changing world.

In April 1947, the Department of State moved to new quarters, the wartime home of the War Department, now available after the completion of the Pentagon. The new headquarters of the Department of State was located in northwest Washington, D.C., in an area known as Foggy Bottom.