embassy departments

The Departments

While the ‘French Ambassador’ may sounds like something of a singular term, in reality it’s huge and has the support of countless departments.

The roles of the Ambassador span far and wide and contrary to popular belief, it’s not merely the case of being a spokesperson. Instead, there are all sorts of areas to cover and we’ll now take a look at the 22 departments which are able to aid the Ambassador significantly.


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This is a small team who are regarded as closest to the Ambassador. Should the Ambassador be absent for any reason, it’s down to the Deputy Chief of Mission and First Counselor to step in and act on his behalf.

Each counselor within the Chancery have their own role related to French policy. Usually, this will involve cooperation with other Embassy Departments, with much of their work being the preparation of papers for the Ambassador.


Maison Française

Based at the Embassy of France in Washington, the Maison Française is designed to promote relations between the two states.

Countless events have been held this in a bid to encourage friendlier relations, whether it’s a business conference or an art exhibition.

The facilities in Washington are 11,250 square feet in size, with a capacity of 1,500 guests, meaning that the types of events that they can host can vary enormously.


Press and Communication Office

The role of this department is fairly self-explanatory; it’s all in the name. The Press and Communication Office are responsible for three missions.

Firstly, they need to be able to inform the U.S. about France and any policies. This will come through the Press Counselor, also known as the spokesperson for the Embassy, who will act as the official source of communication for any American media. On a similar level, if the American media have any questions, this is the department they will be filtered towards.

Another responsibility of this department is to monitor any media which is being covered by the U.S. Specifically, this tends to revolve around how news is being reported that relates to France.

The final responsibility is organizing any events for the U.S. press if they visit the country.


Finance and Administrative Department

Once again, the name gives plenty away here. The role of this department is to manage the budget, accounting, human resources and social dialogue of any French diplomats who are in the U.S.

As well as this, any events which are scheduled to be hosted on the grounds of the Embassy will be managed by this department.


Real Estate and Civil Engineering Regional Office

This department is responsible for any facilities which are either owned or rented by the French Republic in other countries. The fact that there are 8 regional offices dotted around the world highlights its importance.

Each of these regional offices will manage its own geographic area. This management could come in the form of the execution of building projects, management of leases or even just providing technical expertise for other French organizations.

To provide some scope to the size of this department, the Washington office manages around 150 facilities.


Office of the Defense Attaché

In the current climate, this is another hugely important department. The Office of the Defense Attaché represent the French Department of Defense in the U.S. and attempt to liaise in relation to any defense policies.

For example, this department will look to introduce any new French defense policies to the relevant U.S. political officials. As well as this, they will advise to the other side, advising the French Ambassador on any issues which may affect the home country.

The General who leads this department will also be able to cast his eye on any French officers who are based through the U.S.


Homeland Security Office

This department is led by the Police and Homeland Security Attaché. Based at the Embassy in the U.S., he represents the two French police forces in the form of the National Gendarmerie and the National Police. As well as this, he represents Puerto Rico.

The role of this department is simple; it’s there to cooperate with the Americans in relation to law enforcement and homeland security.

As well as the above, any security issues surrounding French nationals based in the U.S. will be dealt with by this department.


Justice Attaché

Based in Washington, the Justice Attaché is headed by the Magistrat de liaison. In simple terms, this is the person who represents the Ministry of Justice in the U.S. and will be closely involved in any criminal matters. When we talk about these matters, they can include anything from extraditions, prisoner transfers to basic enforcement of judicial decisions involving both countries.

As well as this, the department will regularly compare the laws across both countries and report back with any findings.

There are a total of 17 French Magistrats de liaison serving around the world at the moment.


Paymaster General

This department is responsible for all of the payment tasks in relation to the Embassy of France. This could revolve around anything from debt collection to just basic recordkeeping.

Perhaps an even more important part of its role is in relation to debtors which are based in the U.S. For example, if a U.S. resident owes any payment for hospitalization or income tax following their time in France, the Paymaster General is the party who will pursue this.

In short, the department will represent the Public Finance Authority of the Ministry of the Budget, Public Accounts, Public Accounts and State Reform but as we’ve just seen – the tasks surrounding this can span far and wide.


Regional Department of Economic Affairs

This is one of the simpler departments to explain. In basic terms, this organization will monitor and analyze any economic, financial, commercial or industrial issues that will affect the French in the U.S. As well as this, if conversations need to be held with the U.S. on any of the above topics, this department is the one who will instigate them.

Additionally, this department is pivotal in relation to foreign investment in France. It tends to work with lots of other departments, in a bid to facilitate further development of French companies and promote more investment in the country.


Health, Welfare and Labor Office

This department strictly deals with policy matters and represents the French Ministries of Labor, Health and Social Affairs. In other words, if any French national has an enquiry about their own personal circumstances in this regard, they should turn to the Consulate General of France instead.

This department will primarily focus on three areas; labor and employment policies; welfare policies and health care and public health policies.

It will cooperate with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as well as any other relevant organizations in the country.


Taxation office

Tax is a tricky matter at the best of times, not least when it focusses on multiple countries. This is where the Taxation office comes into play; they are here to help people who are having problems related to the treaties between France, Canada, Mexico and the U.S.

However, like several of other departments we have looked at, this isn’t an office for individual enquiries. Instead, it’s more related to policies and they won’t get involved in any specific cases that are presented to them.


Agricultural Department

The name of this department should give everything away here; it’s here to constantly analyze the U.S. agricultural policies and note how they are impacted from a political and economic standpoint. The department will represent France in any negotiations concerning this sector and the two countries.

The department will also do everything in its power to promote exports in this regard from France. It will negotiate with the U.S. to make it as easy as possible for French food products to be made available in the country.


Ecology, Sustainable Development, Energy and Transportation

This is becoming an increasingly important department, for the sole reason that it concentrates on climate change (and its effects on animals), energy, transportation as well as a whole host of related factors.

It will make an effort to share as much information as possible on the above subjects with the relevant American bodies. It should be noted that all of these areas can apply to land-based, maritime or aerial projects.


Délégation générale de la Fondation Alliance Française aux Etats-Unis

For the purposes of simplicity, we’ll refer to this next department as Alliance française. This is actually one of the easiest departments to explain; it’s main responsibility is to help spread knowledge of the French language around the U.S. It’s not just languages that the department attempts to develop either and cultural and artistic exchanges are encouraged as well.

To put the scope of this department into perspective, there are a total of 800 based around the world. 111 of these are situated in the U.S.


Office for Science and Technology

Once again, little needs explaining here. This department of the Embassy attempts to encourage science and technological developments between France and the U.S.

To achieve this, various approaches are taken. Members of the department might attempt to promote partnerships in the form of exchanges with students and researchers, just so knowledge can be shared amongst the countries. As well as this, France’s biggest laboratories and universities for science will be promoted around the U.S. to increase their visibility.


Office for Nuclear Affairs

This is one of the older departments which exists, with the Office for Nuclear Affairs first being established in 1963. Nuclear energy is its main topic; but in dealing with this it concentrates on the technical, economic, political and scientific impacts that this area creates.

Information exchange here is key to allow both countries to get the maximum out of each other’s knowledge on nuclear affairs.


CNRS Office

This is another department which places a heavy emphasis on science and research. If we take the CNRS office in Washington as an example, this is something that focusses on the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

There are numerous aims of this department, with one of the principle ones being the promotion of cooperation between the big French and North-American scientific companies. In doing this, the CNRS Office will encourage the creation of collaborative projects between international companies and in general, just act as a point-of-contact for all of the relevant research agencies.


National Center for Space Study (CNES)

CNES has been designed to support the space industry within France and allow it to tap into export markets. As such, one of its key role is promotion cooperating with the U.S. – which happens to be one of the oldest allies in this regard anyway. In fact, when it comes to space, France is regarded as the top partner in the world for the U.S.

All of this means that the two parties work together immensely and the CNES provides a key role in facilitating this. Whether it’s work in relation to the International Space Station, or in just general space surveillance, the CNES covers the majority of areas that are related to space.

Its office in the U.S. allows for both countries to easily communicate about the industry and it’s worth mentioning that another of CNES’ responsibilities is to support cooperation with the rest of Europe and America as well.


Office for Cooperation with Civil Society Organizations

This Office looks to enhance the amount of transatlantic civil society organizations that are based around the world. In turn, this will allow more French development institutions to gain more prominence in the U.S.

This department also serves the General Department for Globalization – providing it with crucial information in relation to U.S. issues. Such issues could relate to large conferences that the country is about to hold, such as the World Water Forum.


Cultural Services

The role of this department is simple; it’s there to promote anything related to the arts, literature and education in France. Of course, all of these areas have to be served in U.S. institutions.

Cultural Services have countless offices around the country and they will aim to promote a cultural exchange between the best artists, writers and students in both countries. They will regularly devise ideas to achieve this, whilst also holding award ceremonies to U.S. residents to credit their artistic and academic achievements.


Customs office

Based in Washington, the Customs Office provides individuals with information on a whole host of subjects related to their travel to France. It might be include the likes of tax refunds, the rules on pets or even details on moving to the country.