By Sarah Schornstein
The Under Secretariat for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, known colloquially as the E family, includes three bureaus and four offices, led by Under Secretary Jose W. Fernandez. The E family helps formulate and implement American foreign policy on issues that touch the daily lives of all Americans, from capturing the benefits of international commerce and ensuring access to clean, reliable energy to fuel factories, homes, and cars to safeguarding the environment and public health. Together, the E family advances the Administration’s foreign policy agenda to create jobs in the United States and abroad while prioritizing industries of the future that protect the planet from climate change.
“We are on a mission to build a better future for the people of the United States and the world, to expand economic prosperity through building global partnerships in trade and commerce, and to bring about a cleaner and more energy-secure future through technological innovation and development,” said Fernandez.
The Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs (EB) helps ensure that the United States remains the world’s strongest and most dynamic economy by promoting the creation of well-paying jobs at home, boosting economic opportunities overseas, and safeguarding national security. EB protects national security by ensuring proposed foreign investments in sensitive sectors of the American economy do not create vulnerabilities that our adversaries can exploit and by using targeted financial sanctions to, for example, impose significant costs on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. EB also helps build resilient global supply chains, enhance global food security, and safeguard the commercial aviation and maritime sectors. To support economic growth that reflects the nation’s democratic values, the bureau has launched initiatives like Providing Opportunities for Women’s Economic Rise (to promote women’s economic empowerment); the National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct (to promote responsible private sector practices overseas); and the Secretary’s Award for Corporate Excellence (to highlight American companies that have made a positive impact in communities abroad).
The Bureau of Energy Resources (ENR) promotes sustainable, affordable, and reliable energy access for a low-emissions future that ensures economic prosperity at home and abroad. ENR is working with European allies and partners to strengthen regional energy security, as Russia’s unjustified war has highlighted the urgent need to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. ENR represents the Department of State at the International Energy Agency, which has played a key role in bolstering global oil markets in the face of Russian aggression. ENR also leads Department efforts in several multilateral organizations to advance the Administration’s objectives for clean energy and transparency in the oil, gas, and mining sectors.
“ENR’s top priorities today are ensuring energy security for the United States and our allies and partners, working to accelerate the clean energy transition, and promoting long term economic prosperity through sustainable, affordable, and reliable energy access,” said Senior Bureau Official Harry Kamian.
ENR has launched several initiatives to promote clean energy investment and development. The Energy Resource Governance Initiative promotes the development of resilient, transparent, and sustainable critical mineral supply chains—essential for the clean energy transition. ENR also supports a program that trains power sector technicians on how to adjust and manage the variable power produced by renewables such as solar and wind in Morocco, Costa Rica, and other countries. ENR’s officers collaborate with U.S. innovators and entrepreneurs to develop green energy technology and help them succeed abroad. In Vietnam, an American firm recently received a contract for a $3 million battery storage project.
“There can be no energy security until more of us are reliant on energy sources that can’t be used as a political weapon—like wind, solar, hydro, and geothermal,” said Fernandez. “More importantly, there can be no security at all without a healthy planet.”
At a moment when environment, science, technology, and health (ESTH) issues have risen to the top of the national security agenda, the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES) works to conserve and protect the global environment for this and future generations. Assistant Secretary Monica Medina makes it clear that OES is “seeking every path, every seaway, and every avenue to foster a healthier planet for us all.” OES is leading the Department in addressing environmental security threats such as wildlife trafficking and illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. OES mobilizes ESTH officers around the world to work on global solutions to address the onslaught of plastic pollution that harms biodiversity and spills into waterways and oceans; help countries conserve lands and waters to reverse the dramatic loss of biodiversity; and much more. The United States is also leading the global fight against COVID-19 and putting health security back at the top of the national security agenda. OES works with partners worldwide through the Global Health Security Agenda framework, which positions countries to develop technical knowledge and a collaborative foundation to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to threats and strengthen global health security.
“We in government do not have a monopoly on expertise,” said Office of Global Partnerships’ (GP) Managing Director Thomas Debass. “The private sector is a rich pool of talented innovators and problem solvers, with extensive knowledge and resources, and GP is State’s direct link for collaborating with it.”
GP builds partnerships that harness the technology, markets, and resources of the private sector to advance U.S. foreign policy goals. These collaborations have leveraged creativity through more than 1,600 partners and mobilized more than $3.7 billion in public and private sector commitments to achieve sustainable and equitable economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, help resettle or house Afghan and Ukrainian refugees, and more.
The E family relies on strategic advice and expert analysis from the Office of the Chief Economist (OCE), which combines in-house data analysis with economic reporting from posts and cutting-edge research to inform and advance Department priorities. The team analyzes complex economic questions to understand the impediments and accelerators to global economic growth and the frontiers of strategic economic policy. OCE advises decision makers and mentors colleagues to advance economic statecraft in the modern economy. In recent months, the OCE team has also taken a leading role in keeping Department leaders abreast of the global economic fallout from Russia’s unjust, unprovoked war in Ukraine to help mitigate negative consequences.
The United States has succeeded by unlocking opportunities through invention and innovation and will continue to thrive through strategic leadership in critical and emerging technologies. The U.S. needs to further integrate the rigor of scientific research with the reach of public policy to support the next wave of innovation and invention across all fields, including health, environment, and technology. The Office of the Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State (STAS) supports the development of international technology policy to open doors to new discoveries that will benefit America, our friends and allies, and the entire planet. STAS recently launched the Regional Technology Officer program, placing experts at embassies in key partner countries worldwide. STAS has also developed fellowship programs to incorporate experts from various science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields into bureaus and offices across the E family and the rest of the Department, where they provide their fresh perspectives on foreign policy challenges.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken welcomed the new Special Envoy for Global Food Security, noted expert Dr. Cary Fowler, to lead the Department in diplomatic engagement with allies and partners responding to current global food security challenges, hunger reduction efforts, and nutrition objectives. Fowler also serves as deputy coordinator for diplomacy for Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s lead initiative to address the root causes of hunger and poverty.
Together, the E family is on a critical mission to meet today’s challenges, expand tomorrow’s opportunities, and create lasting solutions for the United States and its partners around the world.
Sarah Schornstein is an intern in the Office of the Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment.