Management Challenges - State

Bureau of Resource Management
February 24, 2012

In FY 2011, the Department of State's Office of Inspector General (OIG) identified challenges in the areas of contracting and procurement, coordinating and overseeing foreign assistance, diplomacy with fewer resources, effective leadership, financial management, information security and information management, military to civilian-led presence transitions, protection of people and facilities, protecting American citizens and American borders, and public diplomacy. The Department promptly takes corrective actions in response to OIG findings and recommendations. Highlights are summarized below. See the FY 2011 Department of State Agency Financial Report (pg.139-146) for the OIG's full statement.

Challenge Staffing. As the Department's primary acquisition organization, the Bureau of Administration's Office of Acquisitions (AQM) has experienced an increase in the number of procurement transactions processed and an increase in the dollar value of procurement actions issued without a corresponding increase in contracting personnel to handle the workload.
Actions Taken AQM hired over 59 employees and 44 contract staff since 2008 in contract officer/procurement-related positions.
Actions Remaining AQM will continue to assess its workforce. Through internal funding mechanisms (a 1 percent fee charged on all contracting services) and direct-hire authority through 9/30/2012, AQM will continue to adjust staffing to meet the Department's procurement needs.
Challenge Administration and Oversight. The Department's administration and oversight of some contracts is inadequate, especially for accountability in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Tajikistan. Additionally, the Department must ensure contractors are properly chosen and work is properly conducted and monitored to help contain costs.
Actions Taken The Department revised Contracting Officer Representative (COR) training to include more skills based, real world examples. Certification of CORs ensures that only trained personnel are assigned COR duties. Contract administration resources must now be planned for at the time of requisitioning on major services programs (over $25 million per year). Personnel fulfilling COR roles must be evaluated on COR duties by management and the contracting officer. Exceptional CORs are rewarded with an annual award for excellence. Procurement data quality has been significantly improved.
Actions Remaining The Department will continue to focus on balancing its workforce and rebuilding core capabilities. Contracting Officer Representative training will be augmented with annual COR workshops to bring the community together. Past performance information must be improved and used to manage contractor performance. Past performance reporting will be centralized in the Office of Acquisition Management for more effective management.
Challenge Monitoring of Grants. The Department needs to improve monitoring of grantee performance in the area of refugee and humanitarian programs and democracy building activities.
Actions Taken The Department implemented a Grants Management Review process to assess bureau and post grant management operations. Grantee site visits have been increased with Department oversight organizations partnering with bureau grants officers on grantee reviews. Program evaluation guidelines have been issued by the Office of U.S. Foreign Assistance Resources (F) to assess program effectiveness.
Actions Remaining The Department will continue to improve grants management training by developing online training options to assist grants operations overseas.
Challenge Integrated Budget Planning. In preparation for collaborating on the development of the FY 2014 Foreign Assistance budget, agreed upon roles and responsibilities for the Department and USAID should be developed and disseminated to avoid redundant or conflicting requirements for agency bureaus.
Actions Taken The Department and USAID have engaged to determine the FY 2014 budget process and the respective roles of each agency and their offices, including a multi-year budgeting initiative as part of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) implementation and an initiative to streamline and integrate the FY 2014 budget planning process. An after-action review of the FY 2013 budget process was also conducted to inform and improve the FY 2014 process.
Actions Remaining The FY 2014 budget process for Foreign Assistance programs will begin in the first quarter of FY 2012. It is expected that initiatives undertaken will have a substantial impact on rationalizing and streamlining the preparation of the budget, will result in detailed definitions of respective agency and office roles, and will inform the FY 2014 budget formulation process.
Challenge Consolidating State-USAID Management Platforms. The goal of fully consolidating State-USAID management platforms remains an unaccomplished goal, despite some progress toward consolidation.
Actions Taken A new Joint Management Board (JMB) was established to facilitate the consolidation of management support services between State and USAID and to address specific issues. As successor to the previous steering group, the Joint Management Council, the JMB is intended to be more streamlined and provide a strong single voice to both headquarters and field.
Actions Remaining The consolidation of management support services has been successful at posts where State and USAID are located in the same building or Embassy compound and where they are not collocated. The JMB will re-evaluate unresolved unconsolidated services across all posts and formally or informally contact posts to move forward with full consolidation by an agreed-upon deadline of September 30, 2012.
Challenge Rightsizing. The Department is working closely through the Office of Rightsizing and regional bureaus to ensure that staffing at overseas missions and domestic bureaus is appropriate, given the high cost of maintaining U.S. staff overseas.
Actions Taken The Department takes seriously the mandate to rightsize the U.S. Government presence overseas. Even as the Department expands to meet global challenges, the Department and USAID reprogram positions, adding and decreasing staff to meet changing needs.
Actions Remaining Chiefs of Missions, who have clear authority via National Security Decision Directive 38 (NSDD-38) to control staffing levels at posts overseas, will continue to consult with the Department's regional bureaus and the agencies comprising their missions in making decisions about staffing levels.
Challenge Regionalization of Administrative Services. The Department should expand regionalization of administrative services to achieve economies of scale in administrative support and reduce the average operating costs for posts.
Actions Taken There are regional hubs in Charleston, South Carolina; Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; Frankfurt, Germany; Bangkok, Thailand; Cairo, Egypt; and Manila, Philippines. Regional support centers provide training and employee development, such as a LE supervisory course that includes cultural components.
Actions Remaining Geography and transportation links have made the establishment of a single regional support platform in the East Asia Pacific region impractical. However, the Department continues to capitalize on opportunities to consolidate administrative support services to better serve medium and small-sized posts.
Challenge Effective Leadership. The Department needs to ensure leaders and managers have the right mix of skills to meet the needs of Department missions.
Actions Taken The Department developed and implemented new training for first-time supervisors, and regional mentors for some of these supervisors have been deployed. Mandatory leadership training is more effectively tracked and enforced with a compliance reporting tool. The Foreign Affairs Manual has been revised to clarify the responsibility of regional assistant secretaries for the performance of chiefs of mission (COM). Identified qualities for success of COMs, Deputy Chiefs of Mission (DCMs) and Principal Officers (who lead consulates) have been incorporated into the selection process during the most recent cycle. State has also developed and implemented new training for Deputy Assistant Secretaries.
Actions Remaining The Department will continue to monitor and enforce mandatory leadership training and continue to hold nominating bureaus and officials to the highest leadership standards and records of success for nominees for COMs, DCMs, and Principal Officers.
Challenge Financial Reporting. The Department needs to continue to improve internal controls over financial management and reporting.
Actions Taken The Department improved its control over reporting the liability for International Organizations and estimates of the accounts payable accruals. As a result, the auditor agrees both areas are no longer significant deficiencies.
Actions Remaining The Department will work to strengthen the internal controls over financial reporting, including the reporting for after-employment benefits for locally employed staff overseas.
Challenge FISMA. The Department needs to put in place an action plan to improve implementation of the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) of 2002 and OMB requirements.
Actions Taken On an ongoing basis, the Department strives towards an effective and cost efficient risk management-based information security program and appropriately re-evaluates all findings and adjusts priorities to remediate those findings.
Actions Remaining The Department continues to observe and implement the guidance of the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) and has begun the process of developing a formal strategy and framework that will be implemented to address the deficiencies noted by the OIG. With specific reference to Plan of Actions and Milestones (POA&Ms), the Department's Chief Information Security Officer will document how State's POA&M process accounts for weaknesses identified by all sources (scans, assessments, and OIG findings) and will show that corrective actions are addressed in accordance with the Department's Cyber Security Architecture, applicable NIST guidance, and OMB requirements.
Challenge Application of SDLC. The Department needs to ensure consistent application of standard systems development life cycle (SDLC) management.
Actions Taken Through the Project One Voice (POV) initiative, the Department is developing an overarching governance to ensure the consistent application of the standard system development. In addition, the POV is updating the Department's current SDLC framework (i.e., Managing State Projects) to ensure it is aligned with leading IT project management standards.
Actions Remaining A formal strategy and framework will be developed and implemented to ensure the methodology is continually supported across the Department.
Challenge Assumption of DoD Security Duties. In the coming years as the U.S. military withdraws from Afghanistan, the Department faces the challenge of increased costs associated with State assumption of Department of Defense (DoD) security duties.
Actions Taken Future State operations at Embassy Kabul will have a much smaller footprint than present DoD supported configurations. The Department is establishing only essential diplomatic operations and facilities in Afghanistan to minimize costs. The Department has done extensive planning, and will collocate with other agencies and leverage existing contractual services.
Actions Remaining Costs associated with security of U.S. diplomats have been included in the Department's FY 2013-2015 transition budget estimates. Resources will be applied pending approval of budget requests.
Challenge New Consulates & Support Services for Civilian Presence. The Department faces increased costs as well with the opening of two new consulates in Afghanistan, and the need for additional housing and office space for the increased civilian presence.
Actions Taken State bureaus and missions are coordinating on requirements to support two new consulates in Mazar-e Sharif and Herat; estimated operations costs have been built into the Department's budget requests. To address the need for housing and office space, the Department has acquired additional adjacent sites and several residential properties near the Kabul compound and leased facilities in Herat and Mazar-e Sharif to house new consulates.
Actions Remaining As specific requirements continue to evolve in these two areas, the Department will coordinate with appropriate offices to assess and evaluate options to meet operational and facilities requirements.
Challenge Standardize Pay. With the transition to a civilian presence in Afghanistan, the Department and partner agencies need to address the proposal to standardize pay and benefits for civilian uplift personnel from all agencies involved.
Actions Taken A Zone of Armed Conflict (ZOAC) proposal is being considered by Congress in the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act. If passed, it would require all agencies operating in Afghanistan to standardize pay and incentive policies. The proposal would not increase the costs of supporting State employees in Afghanistan but could raise costs of other U.S. agencies that receive State funds transfers.
Actions Remaining Implementation of the ZOAC provisions, if passed by Congress.
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 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.
Challenge Protection in Areas of Armed Conflict. Protecting people, facilities, and information continues to be one of the Department's highest priorities. Of greatest concern are areas in armed conflict and areas rated critical in terrorist threat. These include long-standing hot spots such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan, but also new areas of concern, including Mexico and Yemen. The Diplomatic Security Training Center provides priority in classes to Department personnel assigned to those locations, and personnel may not depart for those assignments until they have completed mandatory high-threat personal protection courses.
Actions Taken In FY 2011, over 2300 government officials deploying to Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan (AIP), Republic of South Sudan, Sudan, Yemen, and Mexico, among others, attended the five-day Foreign Affairs Counter Threat (FACT) course with the AIP posts representing about 80 percent of that number.
Actions Remaining In FY 2012, the DS Training Center plans to conduct 96 FACT courses for a projected 2592 students. However, we cannot sufficiently meet the additional training recommendations outlined in the Secretary's QDDR. Therefore, DS is aggressively pursuing on-line alternatives, e.g., distance learning of FACT lessons minus the hard skills (i.e., weapons familiarization and driver's training) to increase training capabilities.
Challenge Increased staffing in Embassies Baghdad and Kabul, coupled with the transition to a post-combat, Department-led U.S. Government presence, has led the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) to deploy various high-tech countermeasures. Recently adopted countermeasures include use of the counter rocket, artillery and mortar (C-RAM) system to provide advance warning of incoming munitions. Managing security programs in areas of armed conflict and critical threat posts, which are substantially different from traditional overseas security programs, is an ongoing Department challenge.
Actions Taken Diplomatic Security Countermeasures (DS/C) has been very successful in managing security programs in areas of armed conflict and at critical threat posts. DS/C is also expanding the Sense and Warn System in Iraq and Afghanistan, and using new technologies such as Mobile Video, Electronic Countermeasures, Tactical Radios, Personnel Tracker and Locater, and forward-looking infrared imaging cameras.
Actions Remaining DS will continue to use countermeasures as long as the Department operates in Iraq and Afghanistan, to ensure that U.S. Government personnel receive optimal protection, until the host country nations can provide sufficient security. If new consulates open in Afghanistan, DS will deploy countermeasures to them.
Challenge The increasing number of non-Department personnel assigned to sensitive positions overseas has resulted in an expansion of secure office space at U.S. overseas missions. Worldwide, controlled access areas (CAA) and core areas are being added and expanded. Department security requirements specify the construction and operation of such areas, and require that they be inspected by DS technicians on varying schedules to ensure that national security information is not being compromised. According to DS, there is a backlog of such DS inspections due to a shortage of technicians to conduct them. The challenge to the Department is balancing the need for new CAA space and core areas at U.S. overseas missions against its ability to protect the sensitive information contained in these areas.
Actions Taken For any new CAA space including cores areas, DS will do an accreditation of the space. DS acknowledges a backlog of Technical Security Countermeasures (TSCM) inspections; however, DS tries to perform an annual Technical Security Assessment inspection at each post to ensure there are no major vulnerabilities. DS has completed 12 TSCM inspections this fiscal year. DS's methodology for conducting inspections is to prioritize such inspections according to the threat ratings at post.
Actions Remaining DS has additional TSCM inspections planned this fiscal year to meet the requirements in 12 FAH-6 H-600. DS is, however, challenged to complete all inspections in an optimal timeframe. To increase its efficiency, DS is working to share inspection responsibility with its regional Engineering Service Centers (ESCs) to conduct these inspections. This also reduces travel costs and time and should have a definite impact on reducing any inspection deficit.
Challenge Using New Technologies. The Department needs to follow industry-wide standards for developing new technologies that support the management of increasingly complex operations, such as the provision and adjudication of travel documents.
Actions Taken In FY 2011, the Department initiated its Integrated Service Lifecycle Framework to apply best-practice methods and standard across the areas of Change Management, Contract Management, Project Management, and New Systems Development.
Actions Remaining Through FY 2012, the Department will continue its alignment to Federal mandates and implementation of related initiatives, such as compliance with TechStat requirements and development of Cross-Divisional Integrated Program Teams.
Challenge Strategic Framework for Public Diplomacy. With tighter budgets, the Department needs to think more strategically about how best to use resources to engage, inform and influence foreign publics in support of U.S. strategic objectives.
Actions Taken The Strategic Framework for Public Diplomacy, now an integral component of the QDDR, provides the foundation for strategic policy and resource management (both human and monetary), which continues to be a primary focus. During FY 2011, significant shifts of base resources have occurred to ensure that public diplomacy resources are directly tied to the most important foreign policy priorities.
Actions Remaining The Public Diplomacy Training Division will continue to emphasize and expand strategic planning courses, including the recent launch of an online course which will allow a baseline level of knowledge across the public diplomacy spectrum.
Challenge Security Issues. Security considerations have increasingly restricted public access to U.S. embassies and consulates. Finding the right balance between legitimate security concerns and the need to proactively engage foreign publics is a challenge in the execution of effective public diplomacy.
Actions Taken The Department created a specific office under the Bureau of International Information Programs to oversee planning, standards, management and evaluation of American spaces. Clear standards have been developed, which will ensure that the appropriate public diplomacy platform is used to each environment and that sustainability, as well as evaluation metrics, are an integral component. In addition, a pilot program that will allow a public diplomacy section to "go on the road" with their outreach, is being deployed to the field.
Actions Remaining The Department continues to explore innovative ways to ensure public diplomacy is engaging critical audiences where they are, rather than relying on the audience to seek out U.S. personnel.
Challenge Use of Social Media. Posts are making very effective use of social media at posts, including Twitter and Facebook. Given the level of effort needed to maintain these outreach platforms, especially those intended to be interactive, posts must balance the demands of the official mission Web site and its social media sites and determine how best to reach the audiences important to them.
Actions Taken Following a thorough assessment on the level of use of social media and the amount of staff resources engaged in the effort, a plan for targeted training and implementation is being developed to assist posts, in particular high priority posts, to better incorporate social media engagement as a cross-cutting function across the public diplomacy section.
Actions Remaining The Department's Bureau of International Information Programs will continue to roll out an on-the-ground approach for critical posts in the effort to strengthen performance of public diplomacy initiatives.