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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Management's Response to Inspector General


Bureau of the Comptroller and Global Financial Services
Report
December 16, 2013

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In FY 2013, the Department of State's Office of Inspector General (OIG) identified management and performance challenges in the areas of: protection of people and facilities; contract and procurement management; information security and management; financial management; military to civilian-led transitions-Iraq and Afghanistan; foreign assistance coordination and oversight; public diplomacy; consular operations; leadership; and rightsizing. The Department promptly takes corrective actions in response to OIG findings and recommendations. Highlights are summarized below.

1. Protection of People and Facilities
Challenge Summary Protecting Department employees and facilities overseas remains a significant management challenge.
Actions Taken In 2013, the Department formed and deployed Interagency Security Assistance Teams (ISATs) to survey 19 posts identified as "high-threat, high-risk" (HTHR). The ISATs assessed each HTHR post's operating environment, the host government's willingness and capabilities to protect the U.S. presence, and physical security posture and security assets. These reviews resulted in over 200 recommendations. These HTHR posts receive increased focus and attention on threat response, threat mitigation efforts, and security resources.
Actions Remaining The Department will accomplish multiple projects in the near future. The Department intends to complete the remaining ISAT recommended actions; hire and deploy additional Diplomatic Security personnel; increase the number of Marine Security Guard detachments; deploy additional armored vehicles; conduct and complete perimeter security projects; upgrade compound access control points; design and construct post safe haven areas; and conduct research, development, and deployment of new security technologies.
2. Contract and Procurement Management
Challenge Summary The Department continues to face challenges with the proper management, oversight, and accountability of contracts and procurements, including grants and cooperative and interagency agreements.
Actions Taken In 2013, the Bureau of Administration strengthened its grants management practices. The Department received a monthly report from GrantSolutions.gov which listed all grants ready for closeout. Grants officers and specialists then de-obligated funds and closed expired grants. The Department closed 186 of 955 expired grants in the last two years, resulting in the de-obligation of over $9 million.
Actions Remaining The Department hired a new director to identify enhanced performance measurement practices and create a plan to implement them.
3. Information Security and Management
Challenge Summary The Department still faces difficulties meeting the requirements of the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 and implementing a fully effective information security management program.
Actions Taken In 2013, the Department worked to identify, document, and finalize a risk management framework for information systems. Efforts continue to complete the full assessment and authorization (A&A) of all the classified and unclassified general support and related contractor systems, in accordance with National Institute of Standards and Technology's Special Publication 800-53, Revision 3.
Actions Remaining The Department added two dedicated staff to the A&A team, and more dedicated staff will be added in 2014. The Department will communicate all information assurance requirements driven by changes in processes, tools, or templates. All classified and unclassified systems are slated to achieve full A&A.
4. Financial Management
Challenge Summary The Department made progress in resolving financial management concerns but considerable challenges remain.
Actions Taken In FY 2013, the Department continued to improve the management of FSN after-employment benefits, including establishing a comprehensive inventory by country. With regard to financial reporting, the Department improved procedures relating to the review of abnormal account balances and routine analytical reviews. The Department also considerably increased the centralization of vouchering services from posts, and continued to improve its global financial platform to meet the Department's 21st Century diplomatic needs. At the same time, additional focus was directed at improving our improper payment processes. Specifically, the Department updated its policies and procedures, redefined its programs and activities to be in alignment with the manner that funding is received, performed a risk assessment of all programs and activities, and expanded the number and type of payments subject to recapture audits.
Actions Remaining The Department will continue efforts at addressing concerns in property and equipment, budgetary accounting, and un-liquidated obligations. The Department will also continue its efforts to modernize, standardize, and consolidate its global financial platform to improve our financial business processes and produce greater efficiencies and effectiveness.
5. Military to Civilian-Led Transitions-Iraq and Afghanistan
Challenge Summary The Department continues to experience challenges sustaining and rightsizing U.S. Mission-Iraq (USM-I) as security remains volatile and the Government of Iraq's commitment to the U.S. presence and its programs remains unclear for security.
Actions Taken Overall staffing at USM-I was reduced from approximately 16,000 at the time of Departments of Defense-State transition in 2012 to approximately 6,000. OIG's August 2013 report, "Audit of U.S. Mission Iraq Staffing Process," concluded that the downsizing did not include a systematic analysis that fully considered U.S. foreign policy priorities. The Department disagreed with this conclusion and their response is included in an Appendix to the publication.
Actions Remaining The Ambassador insists that all stakeholders actively participate in Iraq transition planning and hold agency heads accountable for the execution of their parts of the transition plans. Now that the transition is nearly complete, the Ambassador requested a right-sizing review, which will occur early in 2014.
Challenge Summary The Department continues to face challenges in supporting and sustaining the civilian presence in Afghanistan as the U.S. military withdraws.
Actions Taken The Department has established processes, based on lessons learned in Iraq and coordinated by a Transition Office in Embassy Kabul, designed to continuously review challenges related to supporting and sustaining U.S. civilian presence in an uncertain environment. As the Administration continues to review troop levels for a post-2014 security assistance mission, the Department has worked to ensure it has adequate funding to develop a viable civilian platform that supports whatever option the President may choose.
Actions Remaining Security considerations will continue to impact decisions on civilian operations, affecting, among other issues, the costs and logistics associated with personnel movements and maintaining private contracts for security support. The planned U.S. Department of Defense train, advise, and assist mission will continue to shape the size and composition of the Afghan security forces.
6. Foreign Assistance Coordination and Oversight
Challenge Summary The Department continues to face obstacles in oversight and coordination of foreign assistance.
Actions Taken The Department's Bureau of Budget and Planning (BP) and Office of U.S. Foreign Assistance Resources (F), with USAID, coordinate the management of bureau and mission strategic and resource planning. Strategic planning is separate from and precedes resource planning to allow missions and bureaus to align their annual resource requests with achieving strategic goals. The strategies require collaboration across bureaus and among all U.S. agencies at posts to improve efficiency and coordination of efforts. BP, F, and USAID also conduct and/or manage additional ongoing reviews to inform resource decisions, such as data-driven reviews of agency priority goals, roundtables to learn about bureau programs and budget priorities, the annual collection of qualitative and quantitative foreign assistance performance data from missions worldwide, and a requirement that bureaus conduct evaluations of all large programs.
Actions Remaining To strengthen the use of evidence in the oversight and coordination of foreign assistance programs, BP and F will augment the evaluation policy guidance to clarify the use of evaluation findings by appropriate Bureau officials to inform program decisions. Further, BP and F will consult with the QDDR office regarding the specification of program and project management guidelines, as well as capacity building for these activities, in the 2014 QDDR.
7. Public Diplomacy
Challenge Summary Management oversight of exchange visitor programs, especially the Summer Work Travel program, is a continuing challenge and a significant deficiency.
Actions Taken The Department significantly reformed Summer Work Travel regulations and has greatly increased monitoring and oversight of the program in order to protect the health, safety, and welfare of participants and strengthen the program's core cultural purpose.
Actions Remaining To further strengthen these reform efforts, the Department is considering further changes to the specific regulations. The Department is also considering the OIG recommendation to determine the appropriate oversight responsibility for the Exchange Visitor Program's physician, au pair, intern, teacher, and trainee categories.
8. Consular Operations
Challenge Summary Demand for American visas has increased dramatically and slow visa processing can be detrimental to bilateral relations.
Actions Taken The Consul General at one inspected post tasked the non-immigrant visa (NIV) unit to develop a plan to interview 1,200 visa applicants per day (increased from approximately 800 per day), plus adjudicate drop box cases, by the start of the Summer Work Travel peak visa season, which begins in Spring 2014. This plan requires evaluating workflow, officer and staff productivity, infrastructure limitations, and other factors. The Consul General at this post has already scheduled a strategy session for 2014 for all officers and NIV staff to evaluate the NIV process.
Actions Remaining The Consul General at this one post tasked the organization to develop an updated internal website for posting of Consular policy notices, standard operating procedures, links to references and regulations, and calendars. The updated SharePoint site has recently been completed and is in the clearance process prior to launch. The Bureau of Consular Affairs is providing management training and its 1CA toolkit to Consular sections around the world. These sections are using the toolkit to implement the 1CA management framework and "leaning out" their workflows by removing steps that do not add value.
9. Leadership
Challenge Summary Maintaining excellence in the Department's top leadership positions remains a challenge.
Actions Taken The Department has developed and field-tested a "Chief of Mission Survey" at nine posts in the Bureau of South Central Asia. Based on the results of this pilot program, the Department will adapt the survey deployment and data collection processes for fielding to 180 posts.
Actions Remaining The Department intends to field the full survey early in 2014. Department Assistant Secretaries will receive the survey results and address areas of concern identified with the individual Chiefs of Mission.
10. Rightsizing
Challenge Summary OIG continues to find examples of the Department assigning tasks to overseas personnel when those tasks could be performed less expensively from the United States.
Actions Taken Management Policy, Rightsizing, and Innovation agreed to conduct a rightsizing review of Regional Information Management Centers. This review will provide a further analytical basis from which to make reasonable and rational staffing decisions.
Actions Remaining Select bureaus have follow-up actions to address rightsizing concerns. For example, the Bureau of Near East Asia will further assess an OIG recommendation to close U.S. Mission operations in Casablanca, Morocco, and move those operations to the U.S. Embassy in Rabat.

 




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