Strategic Goal 7: Strengthening Consular and Management Capabilities
The overarching goal of the Department of State and USAID in this area is to provide the best visa and American citizen services possible that are compatible with our responsibilities for homeland security, and to ensure a high quality workforce, including locally employed staff, supported by modern secure infrastructure and operational capabilities. When American citizens seek passports or emergency assistance overseas, they rely on the Department. Foreign visitors seeking to enter the United States meet the Department face-to-face when U.S. consular officers conduct their visa interviews. Sound management and organizational excellence are essential to support our embassies, consulates, and USAID missions abroad. While remaining two separate organizations with distinct legislative mandates and budgets, the Department and USAID will pursue opportunities to create more integrated management structures where analyses demonstrate that such structures are cost-effective, efficient, and support our mission. Such management reforms to date have been accomplished largely through the work of the State/USAID Joint Management Council (JMC), created in 2003 to provide a mechanism for facilitating change. Most of the inspection and audit work carried out by the Department of State Office of Inspector General (OIG) is focused on the areas covered in this strategic goal.
Our strategic priorities cover nine main areas: Visa Services, Passports/American Citizen Services, Human Resources, Information Technology, Security, Facilities, Planning and Accountability, Administrative Services, and Rightsizing the U.S. Government Overseas Presence.
Visa Services: The Department is responsible for safeguarding U.S. borders through vigilance in adjudicating visas. The Department must simultaneously balance security with facilitating legitimate travel. Consular officers around the world process over seven million non-immigrant visa applications and nearly 700,000 immigrant visa applications each year. To meet security challenges, we will:
- Use new technologies, including facial recognition and biometric data collection, to detect fraud and individuals with false or multiple identities; and
- Expand interagency partnerships and develop agreements with other governments to share information and build real-time data links.
To welcome visitors who contribute materially to the U.S. economy and enrich American society in countless intangible ways, we strive to improve both efficiency and customer service. We employ modern tools, such as Web-based application forms and appointment systems, to manage workflow. Through initiatives like the Business Visa Center, Web chats with students in China, and dialogue with U.S. academic institutions, the Department communicates directly with the public at home and abroad.
Passports/American Citizen Services:
Passport services: The new e-passport is a state-of-the-art citizenship and identity document which exceeds international standards. By March 2007, we will have completed the transition to electronic passport production at all 17 domestic passport agencies. Despite record-breaking demand, Passport Services will continue to uphold high standards of customer service.
American Citizen Services: Assisting approximately four million Americans who reside overseas and nearly 60 million who travel abroad remains a top priority. Though consular work is punctuated by extraordinary acts to help U.S. citizens during times of crisis or urgent need, it is built upon a foundation of services provided to an American public that increasingly lives, works, and learns in the global community.
We will continue to improve the quality of and access to reliable information for travelers through our consular information program and our Web site, travel.state.gov. We also have toll-free call centers to answer questions about the full range of consular services. Encouraging more Americans to use our expanded Internet-based Registration System is a major objective. We rely upon this tool to communicate directly with Americans abroad during crises, whether they stem from natural disasters, civil unrest, or terrorist attacks. During such crises, including evacuations, the Department takes all requisite steps to protect and assist Americans. The Department will also fully implement the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, and work tirelessly to prevent and resolve cases of international parental child abduction.
Human Resources: Where efficient and cost-effective, the Department, USAID, and the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) will integrate systems and coordinate strategies to improve the skill base, diversity, and performance of our workforce. USAID and FSI will continue to expand joint classroom and distance learning training opportunities in the areas of leadership, crisis management, reconstruction and stabilization, foreign assistance, management and administration, foreign languages, and information technology (IT). USAID has designated FSI as its President's Management Agenda (PMA) e-training service provider, and will leverage this strong partnership to further e-Government initiatives. We will continue to partner in our recruiting efforts with the aim of creating synergies and cost savings while attracting a diverse, multi-skilled workforce for the 21st century—a workforce that gives the Department and USAID the flexibility to respond quickly to constantly evolving needs and challenges around the world. We will also work together to facilitate the Secretary's Global Diplomatic Repositioning initiative that will increase our presence in critical parts of the world. As a growing percentage of USAID and Department employees reach retirement age, we will focus on career development, mentoring, and leadership training to retain talented mid-level employees and cultivate the next generation of leaders.
Information Technology: The Department and USAID require secure and modern IT to provide the information required for effective diplomacy and development. To this end, we will pursue five IT strategic goals over the next five years:
- Provide the right information via state-of-the-art information management tools, services, and repositories both internally to our employees and to our e-Government partners, citizens, other U.S. Government agencies, private businesses, NGOs, and other governments.
- Provide worldwide access to information and systems via an integrated, continually refreshed infrastructure that extends to mobile end-user devices, such as laptops, cell phones, blackberries, and wireless networks.
- Enhance collaboration and information sharing with external partners and, through interagency connectivity, the entire foreign affairs community; participate in the expansion of government-wide applications and services under the e-Government initiative.
- Balance the need for security with the need for continuous innovation by developing a rapid and disciplined risk management process and a comprehensive flexible security architecture; develop a robust and fully tested plan for IT contingency operations for all Department and USAID locations.
- Provide for more efficient work practices and effective IT workforces for both agencies by: strengthening IT skills; achieving established service levels; strengthening IT project management; and ensuring flexible, rapid, and consistent IT governance. Develop and implement an appropriate and cost-effective mix of U.S. direct hire, contractor, and locally employed staff to support IT requirements.
Security: The Department and USAID are committed to ensuring a safe and secure environment for the successful conduct of U.S. foreign policy and global development efforts. In the face of high threats, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Department and USAID are working together to provide the highest level of security for people, property, and information. Key areas of collaboration are:
- Worldwide security operations: Enhance security globally through human, physical, and technical measures, including an increase of local guards, mobile security deployments, high threat protection teams, and command center operations.
- Transformational Diplomacy Security Requirements: Provide security to protect U.S. personnel operating beyond the traditional embassy and consulate environments, and to support new initiatives, improved IT, and locations required by transformational diplomacy.
- Global Diplomatic Repositioning and Security Preparedness Training: Provide security training and resources to address the challenges involved in moving hundreds of personnel to critical, often high risk locations in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Training requirements will address issues in the most restrictive security environments in the world, and include greater emphasis on safe haven and emergency medical usage, surveillance detection, defensive driving, improvised explosive device (IED) awareness, and firearms familiarization.
Facilities: The Department and USAID goal is to provide secure, safe, and functional facilities at domestic and overseas posts. Domestically, the Department employs a long-range asset management plan to guide and improve its use of real estate. A master plan to modernize the Foggy Bottom campus in Washington, D.C., currently in progress, incorporates: a multi-phased renovation of the aging Harry S Truman building; co-location of bureaus; and relocation of organizations requiring proximity to headquarters. Construction of a new building for the U.S. Mission to the UN will consolidate several New York offices, reducing lease and security costs. This will be the Department's first domestic building designed according to Interagency Security Criteria. Other projects will similarly incorporate office consolidation, modernization, security improvements, energy conservation, and environmental stewardship.
Overseas, we are engaged in the most comprehensive overseas capital construction program in the history of the Department to replace 195 security-deficient embassies and consulates and co-locate all U.S. Government personnel. In the past five years, 54 embassies and consulates have been replaced or are under construction. As of the end of November 2006, we have relocated 11,189 personnel. The Fiscal Year (FY) 2007 - 2012 Long-Range Overseas Building Plan projects replacing another 61 embassies and consulates. The Department is a leader in the Federal Government-wide Real Property Initiative by incorporating best practices such as "lean" management, ensuring that new facilities are "green" with energy-efficient designs, encouraging innovative design/build contracts, partnering with industry, and maintaining transparency with stakeholders. USAID is a partner in this effort, as the Department includes USAID in new offices on all new embassy compounds.
Planning and Accountability: To improve our accountability to the American taxpayers, the Department and USAID will improve financial performance and integrate budgeting with strategic and performance planning. This includes:
- Integrating financial systems: In FY 2006, the Department and USAID implemented a joint financial management platform, to which USAID has migrated all of its financial system users. As we move forward, the Department and USAID will: evaluate a new joint link to Treasury that will ensure common data transfer from both organizations; implement a common interface with our OMB approved e-Travel provider; and explore new joint development and testing opportunities.
- Joint Assistance Management System: USAID and the Department are developing a Joint Assistance Management System (JAMS) to manage grants, cooperative agreements, and other forms of Federal financial assistance. This requires standardization of business processes throughout and between both organizations. JAMS will manage the life-cycle of assistance activities, from solicitation to award, through post-award monitoring and closeout. The system will be integrated with the Department's and USAID's financial systems and, through them, to the Department of Health and Human Services' Payment Management System. Together, the Department and USAID award over $10 billion in assistance per year.
- Strategic and performance planning: Planning is critical to achieve our foreign policy goals and to ensure accountability to Congress and the American people. The Department and USAID are re-engineering planning processes to align more closely our diplomatic and assistance priorities. Mission Strategic Plans (MSPs) will provide the overarching foreign policy basis for U.S. embassy and consulate activities for the budget year and beyond. Country Operational Plans will detail the use of foreign assistance funds for the implementation year. We will also look to integrate further the MSP and Country Operational Plan processes and underlying systems. The goals set forth in this joint Strategic Plan will serve as the basis for these annual plans.
- World-Class Financial Services: The Department will implement a single, integrated financial system to provide world-class financial services on a global scale utilizing a single integrated financial system. This system will enhance the timeliness of financial information to facilitate analysis and decision-making by offering Direct Connect, online, real-time access to users with reliable and practical network connections. Where network connections are insufficient, the Department will replace the existing overseas feeder systems with an enhanced feeder system that has the same look and feel of Direct Connect, provides more features, and will readily support future enhancements.
Administrative Services: The Department and USAID will provide premier administrative and information support services to further U.S. Government foreign policy and foreign assistance goals by continually improving customer assistance and satisfaction.
Overseas, the Department and USAID intend to merge selected administrative support functions. Domestically, the Department has begun to re-engineer and consolidate administrative functions into service centers that will each provide specialized support to several bureaus, thus improving service delivery and making better use of resources. We will rely on performance metrics, adoption of best practices, competitive sourcing, and transparency to ensure the success of these customer-oriented service centers. The Department and USAID are developing joint systems that will improve various administrative functions, including assistance grants. In addition, the Department and USAID will continue to provide opportunities for small businesses, including minority-owned institutions, to increase their participation in competitively sourced activities.
We will also participate in developing policies and practices to implement the "Information Sharing Environment," a government-wide effort to share terrorism information across U.S. federal, state, local, tribal, and foreign governments.
Rightsizing/Regionalization: The Department's Office of Rightsizing the United States Government Overseas Presence is a Congressionally-mandated office responsible for implementing the President's Management Agenda (PMA) initiative on Overseas Rightsizing. This office is responsible for conducting rightsizing studies on all U.S. missions worldwide on a rolling five-year basis, and reviewing and approving the staffing projections for all capital construction projects. The rightsizing process includes: analyzing all mission activities to identify duplicative functions; analyzing competitive sourcing to determine whether it is in the U.S. Government interest to retain support services in house or to outsource them; examining the feasibility of converting U.S. direct-hire positions to locally employed staff; and regionalizing functions that need not be performed at post. Through the Joint Management Council, the Department and USAID have agreed to consolidate those administrative support functions at posts where the two agencies are or will be co-located when cost analyses demonstrate that consolidation to a single service provider is more cost effective to the respective agencies and the U.S. Government, and where quality services can be maintained. These efforts will result in the significant elimination of duplicative activity and redundant staff—particularly U.S. direct-hire staff, and strengthen both agencies' regionalization efforts. This process, which is intended to result in the consolidation of some administrative functions at approximately half the posts where both the Department and USAID are present by the end of FY 2007, is planned to continue as new embassy compounds come online in subsequent fiscal years. It is also projected to save both agencies scarce resources by avoiding construction costs for separate annexes as well as ongoing personnel and related costs, and will simultaneously improve customer service. An important part of this effort is focused on consolidating regional administrative platforms—both those in the United States that support overseas functions and those in the field that service a number of posts from a regional center.
Office of Inspector General: The Offices of the Inspector General at the Department of State and USAID promote effective management, accountability, and positive change in their respective organizations. The State OIG advances the missions of the Department, the BBG, and the foreign affairs community by conducting independent audits, inspections, and investigations. USAID's OIG conducts independent audits and investigations of USAID, the MCC, the African Development Foundation (ADF), and the Inter-American Foundation (IAF). The OIGs provide leadership and offer expert assistance to promote integrity, efficiency, effectiveness, and economy; to prevent and detect waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement; and to identify vulnerabilities and recommend constructive solutions that improve Department, USAID, BBG, MCC, ADF, and IAF operations.