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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Management Challenges - State

Bureau of Resource Management
April 21, 2011


In FY 2010, the Department of State OIG and GAO identified significant challenges in the areas of contracting and procurement, coordinating and overseeing foreign assistance, human resources, public diplomacy, protection of people and facilities, information security, financial management, counterterrorism and border security, and transitioning from a military to a civilian presence in Iraq. The Department promptly takes corrective actions in response to OIG and GAO findings and recommendations. Highlights are summarized below. See the FY 2010 Department of State Agency Financial Report (p. 136-141) for the OIG’s full statement.

OIG/GAO1 Challenge Administration and Oversight: The Department’s administration and oversight of some contracts is inadequate, especially property management and accountability in Iraq and Afghanistan. Additionally, the Department needs to improve planning and transparency in its procurement process.
Actions Taken The Department hired over 50 employees and 52 contract staff since 2008 in contract officer/procurement positions. It issued continuing education requirements for contract specialists and training standards for Contracting Officer Representative (COR) and Government Technical Monitor certification. It created a framework to assess workforce balance between direct-hire employees and contractors.
Actions Remaining The Department will continue to focus on balancing its workforce and rebuilding core capabilities. It is developing a COR course. It will link bureau program planning to procurement planning, put past performance information in government-wide databases, and improve the quality of data entered into the Federal Procurement Database and
OIG/GAO2 Challenge Workforce Management: The Department needs to expand its contract and grant workforce, provide it with more training and resources, and improve its management of contractors supporting contracts and grant administration in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Actions Taken The Department hired over 50 employees and 52 contract staff since 2008 in contract officer/procurement positions. It issued continuing education requirements for contract specialists, and training standards for COR and Government Technical Monitor certifications. It created a framework to assess workforce balance between direct-hire employees and contractors.
Actions Remaining The Department will assess the direct-hire vs. contractor workforce balance of two large bureaus. It plans to include COR duties in employee work commitments and evaluations, and is developing a COR course. It must also employ enough government personnel to ensure adequate oversight of its contractors.
OIG Challenge Coordination and Evaluation: The Department needs to improve evaluation of some foreign assistance and better coordinate programs at the Embassy level.
Actions Taken The Department is implementing a recently developed Department-wide program evaluation policy. It is also in the process of allocating additional human resources to execute program evaluation activities.
Actions Remaining The Department will request that bureaus provide a bureau level evaluation plan as part of the Bureau Strategic and Resource Plan.
OIG Challenge Staffing and Training: The Department has difficulty getting the right number and mix of personnel, assigning officers to senior positions, and avoiding training gaps. Additionally, failure to assess staffing needs properly resulted in haphazard growth at some Embassies.
Actions Taken The Department continues to develop a personnel simulation model to determine needs more accurately, and better balance training and operational requirements and staffing resources.
Actions Remaining As part of its Diplomacy 3.0 hiring initiative, the Department plans to expand the training complement, fill vacant positions, and realign resources.
OIG Challenge Information Security Management: The Department faces challenges in implementing an effective information security management program; it must strengthen its plan of action, milestones process, and monitoring of user access and training.
Actions Taken In FY 2010, the Department modified its systems inventory management approach, its certification and accreditation toolkits, and updated its contingency plan policy.
Actions Remaining The Department must ensure timely reporting of security weaknesses; test contingency plans; develop standard operating procedures for identified weaknesses; and actively monitor, validate, and implement remediation steps to correct them.
OIG Challenge Training and Planning: The Department needs to improve mentoring of new public diplomacy officers, development of Embassy-level strategic communications plans, and its websites’ compliance with its social media guidance.
Actions Taken The Department is developing a plan for providing support to entry-level public diplomacy officers, to include mentoring, professional development events, and clearer guidance for new officers. The Department is currently working to leverage existing tools and processes to create mission-level strategic communications plans and continues to reach out to foreign audiences through a variety of interactive multimedia platforms. It is also undertaking a world-wide assessment of overseas outreach platforms and has increased the staffing of its Office of Innovative Engagement.
Actions Remaining The Department will re-design its training curriculum and integrate into its operations the latest tools and technologies, as well as the innovators behind them, to extend public diplomacy beyond traditional constituencies and engage new actors.
OIG Challenge Security of Facilities: The Department needs to continue to identify and implement interim protective security measures until it replaces all facilities not meeting security standards.
Actions Taken Since 2001, the Department has constructed 72 new buildings overseas and moved over 21,000 people into safer facilities. The Department has also instituted more high-threat training for post personnel and more rigorous security procedures at posts.
Actions Remaining The Department will continue to replace all facilities not meeting security standards and to identify and implement interim security measures.
OIG Challenge Repairs and Improvements: The Department needs to improve its process to prioritize overseas maintenance and improvement needs.
Actions Taken In March 2010, the Department issued the first Long-Range Overseas Maintenance Plan (LROMP), a $3.7-billion, 3,500-project strategic document focused on the management of deferred and planned maintenance.
Actions Remaining The Department will execute the LROMP upon receipt of the funding required, and will establish a timeline concurrent with the availability of funds.
OIG Challenge Reporting: Continue to improve internal controls over financial management and reporting.
Actions Taken The Department issued its FY 2010 audited agency-wide financial statements by the mandatory deadline with an unqualified opinion and no material weaknesses. In order to do so, the Department expanded its process to analyze leases; performed a reconciliation of real property information and modified its financial reporting process; expanded the estimation process for overseas, domestic, and intergovernmental accounts payable; and worked to address weaknesses related to unliquidated obligations.
Actions Remaining The Department will enhance the process for estimating the overseas, domestic, and intra-governmental accounts payable; and continue to improve controls over financial reporting and accounting for capitalized property.
OIG/GAO Challenge Cross-border issues including illegal immigration, alien smuggling, environmental issues, and U.S. business interests, continue to challenge the Department, either directly or indirectly.
Actions Taken With the implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, the Department added passport agencies and a new passport card to meet the demand for documents. The Department also deployed an online visa application form to improve information sharing and prevent fraud in the visa application process.
Actions Remaining The Department continues to make steady progress toward completely eliminating paper applications and records while increasing its capacity to obtain and store data electronically. The Department is also expanding use of online fee collection and appointment systems, and incorporating streamlined fraud tracking and statistical reporting into new consular systems that will result in more effective and efficient service provision and more secure document issuance. As part of its Biometric Screening Program, the Department will supplement facial recognition with iris scanning to combat document substitution while screening applicants for fraud, criminal activity, and terrorist ties.
OIG/GAO Challenge Security and Budget: In preparation for the end of the U.S. military presence, the Department needs to expand its security responsibilities. It also needs to pay close attention to the cost projections for its future civilian presence.
Actions Taken The Department requested $1.9 billion to provide for security and is considering with the Department of Defense (DOD) options and potential funding sources for a large U.S. Office of Security Cooperation. The Department also requested $4.7 billion in the FY 2010 supplemental and FY 2011 budget.
Actions Remaining The Department will absorb many of the support roles and activities currently undertaken by the military. The Department is coordinating closely with DOD to transfer the security and support tasks that must continue as the military prepares to leave Iraq.

Feed the Future Initiative

More than 1 billion people—one-sixth of the world’s population—suffer from chronic hunger, and more than 3.5 million children die from undernutrition each year. At the G8 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy, in July 2009, global leaders committed to “act with the scale and urgency needed to achieve sustainable global food security.”

“The question is not whether we can end hunger, it’s whether we will.”
Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton

Feed the Future (FTF) is President Obama’s signature initiative on global food security. It renews the United States commitment to combat chronic hunger and poverty by investing at least $3.5 billion to support the goals established in L’Aquila. The strategy for implementing FTF recognizes that food security is not just about food, but is also closely linked to economic, environmental, and human security. It is critical to the sustainable development of individuals, communities, and nations.

As the lead U.S. Government agency for food security, USAID is working with partners and stakeholders to advance action that addresses the needs of small-scale farmers and agribusinesses, and harnesses the power of women to drive economic growth. The Agency’s efforts build on its comparative advantage in research, innovation, and private sector-led growth. It will increase its investment in nutrition and agriculture development while maintaining the Agency’s support for humanitarian food assistance. As a result of U.S. efforts so far, several developing countries have raised incomes, reduced poverty, and boosted food security through agriculture-led growth, and are beginning to incorporate climate change adaptation into agricultural planning for more sustainable growth.

For more information on Feed the Future, visit USAID’s Food Security and State’s Global Hunger and Food Security.

Photo showing a road that has been rehabilitated in Madagascar and now facilitates community access to markets and greatly improves the chance to develop income-generating activities.
Road rehabilitation in Madagascar facilitates community access to markets and greatly improves the chance to develop income-generating activities. USAID

1 For more information, see the GAO Study Contingency Contracting. (back to text)
2 For more information, see the GAO Study Contingency Contracting. (back to text)


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