United States General Accounting Office GAO Report to the Chairman, Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations, Committee on Government Reform, House of Representatives April 2003 OVERSEAS PRESENCE Rightsizing Framework Can Be Applied at U.S. Diplomatic Posts in Developing Countries GAO-03-396 April 2003 OVERSEAS PRESENCE Rightsizing Framework Can Be Applied at Highlights of GAO-03-396, a report to the U.S. Diplomatic Posts in Developing Chairman, Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and Countries International Relations, House Committee on Government Reform Since the mid-1990s, GAO has GAO’s rightsizing framework can be applied at U.S. embassies in developing highlighted the need for the countries. Officials from the Bureau of African Affairs, and U.S. embassy Department of State and other officials in Dakar, Senegal; Banjul, The Gambia; and Nouakchott, Mauritania, agencies to establish a systematic said that the framework’s questions highlighted specific issues at each post process for determining their that should be considered in determining staffing levels. Officials in other overseas staffing levels. To State bureaus also believed that the security, mission, cost, and option support this long-standing need and components of the framework provided a logical basis for planning and in support of the President’s making rightsizing decisions. Management Agenda, GAO developed a framework for assessing overseas workforce size At each of the posts GAO visited, application of the framework and and identified options for corresponding questions generally highlighted rightsizing. Because the framework was largely based on • physical and technical security deficiencies that needed to be work at the U.S. embassy in Paris, weighed against proposed staff increases; GAO was asked to determine • mission priorities and requirements that are not fully documented or whether the rightsizing framework justified in the posts’ Mission Performance Plans; is applicable at U.S. embassies in • cost of operations data that were unavailable, incomplete, or developing countries. To fragmented across funding sources; and accomplish this objective, we • rightsizing actions and other options that post managers should visited three U.S. embassies in consider for adjusting the number of personnel. West Africa—a medium-sized post in Dakar, Senegal; and two small Specific Rightsizing Issues Identified at Each West African Post embassies in Banjul, The Gambia; and Nouakchott, Mauritania—and applied the framework and its corresponding questions there. GAO recommends that the Director of OMB, in coordination with the Secretary of State, ensure that application of our framework be expanded as a basis for assessing staffing levels at embassies and consulates worldwide; and the Secretary of State adopt the framework as part of the Mission Performance Planning process. www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-03-396. To view the full report, including the scope and methodology, click on the link above. For more information, contact Jess T. Ford at (202) 512-4128 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Contents Letter 1 Results in Brief 3 Background 4 Rightsizing Framework Can Be Applied and Used to Highlight Specific Issues at Each Embassy 5 Conclusions 12 Recommendations for Executive Action 12 Agency Comments and Our Evaluation 12 Scope and Methodology 13 Appendix I Rightsizing Issues at West African Posts 15 Dakar: Physical and Technical Security 15 Dakar: Mission Priorities and Requirements 15 Dakar: Cost of Operations 16 Dakar: Consideration of Rightsizing Actions and Options 17 Banjul: Physical and Technical Security 19 Banjul: Mission Priorities and Requirements 19 Banjul: Cost of Operations 20 Nouakchott: Physical and Technical Security 21 Nouakchott: Mission Priorities and Requirements 21 Nouakchott: Cost of Operations 21 Appendix II Rightsizing Framework and Corresponding Questions 23 Appendix III Comments from the Office of Management and Budget 25 Appendix IV Comments from the Department of State 26 GAO’s Comments 31 Figures Figure 1: Applying the Rightsizing Framework in Dakar, Senegal 18 Figure 2: Applying the Rightsizing Framework in Banjul, The Gambia 20 Page i GAO-03-396 Overseas Presence Figure 3: Applying the Rightsizing Framework in Nouakchott, Mauritania 22 Abbreviations ICASS International Cooperative Administrative Support Services MPP Mission Performance Plan NSDD-38 National Security Decision Directive-38 OMB Office of Management and Budget OPAP Overseas Presence Advisory Panel USAID United States Agency for International Development This is a work of the U.S. government and is not subject to copyright protection in the United States. It may be reproduced and distributed in its entirety without further permission from GAO. However, because this work may contain copyrighted images or other material, permission from the copyright holder may be necessary if you wish to reproduce this material separately. Page ii GAO-03-396 Overseas Presence United States General Accounting Office Washington, DC 20548 April 7, 2003 The Honorable Christopher Shays Chairman, Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations, Committee on Government Reform House of Representatives Dear Mr. Chairman: Since the mid-1990s, GAO has highlighted the need for the Department of State and other agencies to establish a systematic process for determining their overseas staffing levels.1 Shortly after the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa, two high level independent groups called for the reassessment of staffing levels at U.S. embassies and consulates. In August 2001, the President’s Management Agenda directed all agencies to “rightsize” their overseas presence to the minimum necessary to meet U.S. foreign policy goals. To support the long-standing need for a successful rightsizing initiative, in 2002 we developed a framework that identifies critical elements of embassy operations—physical security, mission priorities and requirements, and cost—and also includes rightsizing options for consideration.2 Each element contains a set of corresponding questions for rightsizing the overseas workforce.3 The questions provide a basis for decision makers to systematically link the elements of security, mission, and cost to embassy staffing levels and requirements. The 1 U.S. General Accounting Office, Overseas Staffing: U.S. Government Diplomatic Presence Abroad, GAO/T-NSIAD-95-136 (Washington, D.C.: Apr. 6, 1995). U.S. General Accounting Office, State Department: Overseas Staffing Process Not Linked to Policy Priorities, GAO/NSIAD-94-228 (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 20, 1994), and U.S. General Accounting Office, Overseas Presence: Staffing at U.S. Diplomatic Posts, GAO/NSIAD-95-50S (Washington, D.C.: Dec. 28, 1994). 2 We presented our framework in testimony in May 2002 and in a report issued in July 2002. U.S. General Accounting Office, Overseas Presence: Observations on a Rightsizing Framework, GAO-02-659T (Washington, D.C.: May 1, 2002), and Overseas Presence: Framework for Assessing Embassy Staff Levels Can Support Rightsizing Initiatives, GAO-02-780 (Washington, D.C.: July 26, 2002). 3 We defined rightsizing as aligning the number and location of staff assigned overseas with foreign policy priorities and security and other constraints. Rightsizing may result in the addition or reduction of staff, or a change in the mix of staff. The Department of State agreed with this definition. Page 1 GAO-03-396 Overseas Presence framework also includes questions on rightsizing options, including relocating staff to the United States or to regional centers, and competitively sourcing4 certain functions.5 (See app. II for the rightsizing framework and corresponding questions.) After responding to the questions, decision makers should then be in a position to determine whether rightsizing actions are needed to add, reduce, or change the staff mix at an embassy, and to consider rightsizing options. Our July 2002 report recommended that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) use our framework to support the administration’s rightsizing initiatives, starting with its assessments of staffing levels and rightsizing options at posts in Europe and Eurasia.6 OMB said the framework would serve as a valuable starting point for rightsizing embassies. However, because the questions were developed primarily based on our work at the U.S. embassy in Paris, OMB was not confident that the questions could be uniformly applied at all posts worldwide. In response to OMB’s concerns, you requested that we determine whether the questions could be applied at U.S. embassies in developing countries. This report presents the results of our work at three U.S. embassies we visited in West Africa—the medium-sized post in Dakar, Senegal; and two small embassies in Banjul, The Gambia; and Nouakchott, Mauritania. The objective of our work at these embassies was to determine whether our rightsizing framework is applicable at U.S. embassies in developing countries. To accomplish this objective, we applied the questions to each post in West Africa by reviewing embassy planning and requirements documents and by interviewing embassy managers and officials in the Department of State’s Bureau of African Affairs regarding each embassy’s security, mission, cost, and rightsizing options. We also discussed security issues at those posts with officials in State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security. In addition, we met with officials in State’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs and the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs to discuss the potential applicability of the framework at posts in other developing countries. 4 Competitive sourcing involves using competition to determine whether a commercial activity should be performed by government personnel or contractors. 5 GAO encourages decision makers to also formulate additional questions to the framework as needed. 6 GAO-02-780. Page 2 GAO-03-396 Overseas Presence Our analysis of the three embassies we visited indicates that the Results in Brief rightsizing framework can be applied at U.S. embassies in developing countries. Officials at each embassy agreed that answering these questions could systematically help identify the trade-offs and options that should be considered in determining staffing levels. For example, responses to the questions highlighted deficiencies in physical security that need to be weighed against proposed staff increases; identified deficiencies in cost data needed to make sound staffing decisions; and identified potential rightsizing options, such as better defining regional responsibilities and related staffing requirements, streamlining support functions, and assessing the feasibility of competitively sourcing goods and services. Officials in State’s Bureau of African Affairs and other regional bureaus agreed that a broad application of the framework and its corresponding questions would provide a logical and commonsense approach to systematically considering rightsizing issues in developed and developing countries and that it can be adjusted as necessary to address emerging rightsizing conditions. Currently, most agencies operating overseas do not systematically address rightsizing as a policy or management issue. The rightsizing issues related to security, mission, and cost, and options such as competitively sourcing or relocating staff, are addressed only in a fragmented manner, not specifically as part of the embassies’ planning process. As a result of our work, we are recommending that the Director of OMB, in coordination with the Secretary of State, expand the use of our framework in assessing staffing levels at all U.S. embassies and consulates. We are also recommending that the Secretary of State include the framework as part of the Department of State’s mission performance planning process. OMB agreed with our findings and recommendations and stated that our framework may serve as a valuable base for the development of a broader methodology that can be applied worldwide. The Department of State generally agreed with our recommendations and said that they welcome our work on developing a rightsizing framework. The Department of State also said that the framework’s questions provide a good foundation for it to proceed in working with OMB and other agencies to improve the process for determining overseas staffing levels. In addition, the Department of State said that it plans to incorporate elements of our rightsizing framework into future mission performance planning. Page 3 GAO-03-396 Overseas Presence In our reviews of embassy staffing issues during the 1990s, we found that Background the Department of State and some other agencies operating overseas lacked clear criteria for staffing overseas embassies.7 Other reviews reached similar conclusions. In early 1999, the Accountability Review Boards that investigated the bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa concluded that the United States should consider adjusting the size of its embassies and consulates to reduce security vulnerabilities.8 Later that year, the Overseas Presence Advisory Panel (OPAP) recommended that rightsizing be a key strategy to improve security and reduce operating costs.9 In August 2001, President Bush announced that achieving a rightsized overseas presence was one of his 14 management priorities. The September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States added impetus for this initiative. In May 2002, we testified before the Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans Affairs, and International Relations, House Committee on Government Reform, on a proposed framework for determining the appropriate number of staff to be assigned to a U.S. embassy. To further assess the applicability of GAO’s rightsizing framework, we selected the embassies in Dakar, Senegal; Banjul, The Gambia; and Nouakchott, Mauritania. We selected these embassies based on OMB’s questions about whether our framework can be uniformly applied at all posts, and because experts suggest that rightsizing in Africa is a significant challenge. The embassy in Dakar is a medium-sized post that provides regional support to several embassies including Cape Verde, Guinea, The Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, and Sierra Leone. Embassy Dakar has about 90 direct-hire Americans and 350 local hires working in seven U.S. agencies. 7 GAO/T-NSIAD-95-136, GAO/NSIAD-95-50FS, and GAO/NSIAD-94-228. 8 Former Secretary of State Albright appointed the Accountability Review Boards to investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding the 1998 embassy bombings in East Africa. Department of State, Report of the Accountability Review Boards on the Embassy Bombings in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam (Washington, D.C.: January 1999). 9 Former Secretary of State Albright established the panel following the 1998 embassy bombings in Africa to consider the organization of U.S. embassies and consulates. Department of State, America’s Overseas Presence in the 21st Century, The Report of the Overseas Presence Advisory Panel (Washington, D.C.: November 1999). Page 4 GAO-03-396 Overseas Presence Embassy Banjul is a special embassy program10 post with 7 American direct hires and about 65 local hires. Embassy Nouakchott is also a special embassy program post with 14 American direct hires and about 42 local hires. Our work at the three posts in West Africa further demonstrated that our Rightsizing framework and corresponding questions can provide a systematic Framework Can Be approach for assessing overseas workforce size and identifying options for rightsizing in developing countries. We identified examples of the specific Applied and Used to security, mission, and cost issues at each post, which, when considered Highlight Specific collectively, highlighted staffing issues and rightsizing options to consider. (See app. I for more details on our findings at each of the embassies.) Issues at Each Embassy Physical and Technical The ability to protect personnel should be a critical factor in determining Security of Facilities and embassy staffing levels. Recurring security threats to embassies and Employees consulates further highlight the importance of rightsizing as a tool to minimize the number of embassy employees at risk. Our security questions address a broad range of issues, including the security of embassy buildings, the use of existing secure space, and the vulnerabilities of staff to terrorist attack. Officials at the embassies in Dakar, Banjul, and Nouakchott agreed that security vulnerability should be a key concern in determining the size and composition of staffing levels at the posts and should be addressed in conjunction with the other rightsizing elements of mission and cost. Each post has undergone security upgrades since the 1998 embassy bombings to address deficiencies and ensure better security.11 However, 10 The Department of State implemented the special embassy program to preclude growth at posts abroad where U.S. interests are limited, to permit posts with limited resources to concentrate on essential objectives by relieving them of lower priority work and to simplify and streamline operations so that posts can operate more effectively and efficiently. Embassies are designated as special embassy programs if they have 30 or fewer U.S. citizen direct-hire positions or 15 or fewer direct-hire Department of State positions. 11 The Department of State assesses security requirements at each overseas post based on standards in such categories as perimeter walls and fences, facility setback, building material and blast protection, compound accessibility, defense barriers, and other key elements of security. Page 5 GAO-03-396 Overseas Presence until facilities are replaced as part of the long-term construction plan, most will not meet security standards. For example, many buildings at overseas posts do not meet the security setback requirement.12 At the Dakar post, responses to the framework’s security questions identified significant limitations in facility security and office space that likely limit the number of additional staff that could be adequately protected in the embassy compound. This is a significant issue for the embassy in Dakar given its expanding regional role and projected increases in staffing to accommodate visa workload and increasing personnel at non-State agencies, as well as because planned construction of a new secure embassy compound will not be completed until at least 2007. In contrast, Embassy Banjul has unused office space that could accommodate additional staff within the embassy compound. Although U.S. interests are limited in The Gambia, a staff increase could be accommodated if decision makers determine that additional staff are needed as a result of answering the framework’s questions. In Nouakchott, existing space is limited but adequate. However, officials raised concerns about the security risks associated with the expected increase in personnel on the compound. Mission Priorities and Staff The placement and composition of staff overseas must reflect the highest Requirements priority goals of U.S. foreign policy. Questions in this section of our framework include assessing the overall justification of agency staffing levels in relation to embassy priorities and the extent to which it is necessary for each agency to maintain or change its presence in a country, given the scope of its responsibilities and its mission. Related questions include asking if each agency’s mission reinforces embassy priorities and if an agency’s mission could be pursued in other ways. Responses to the questions showed that there are key management systems for controlling and planning staffing levels currently in use at overseas posts, but they are not designed or used to systematically address these staffing, priority, and mission issues. One such management system is the National Security Decision Directive- 38 (NSDD-38). NSDD-38 is a long-standing directive that requires non-State agencies to seek approval by chiefs of missions on any proposed changes 12 Department of State’s security requirement (12 FAH-6 H-111.4) states that existing chanceries or consulates must have a standoff distance of 100 feet between the protected side of the perimeter barrier and the building exterior. Page 6 GAO-03-396 Overseas Presence in staff.13 NSDD-38 does not, however, direct the Chief of Mission to initiate an assessment of an agency’s overall presence. The Overseas Presence Advisory Panel reported that the directive is not designed to enable ambassadors to make decisions on each new agency position in a coordinated, interagency plan for U.S. operations at a post.14 Post officials agreed that the NSDD-38 system has only limited usefulness for controlling staffing levels and achieving rightsizing objectives. Another management system is the Department of State’s Mission Performance Plan (MPP). The MPP is the primary planning document for each overseas post.15 State’s MPP process has been strengthened significantly to require each embassy to set its top priorities and link staffing and workload requirements to those priorities. However, the MPP does not address rightsizing as a management issue or provide full guidance to posts for assessing overall staffing levels, by agency, in relation to a post’s mission. At the three posts we visited, staffing requests were addressed in the MPPs in the context of each post’s mission performance goals; however, these documents did not address the security and cost trade-offs associated with making such staffing changes. In addition, Embassy Dakar has an increasing regional role, which is not sufficiently addressed in the MPP. Finally, the Department of State’s Overseas Staffing Model provides guidance for State in assigning its full-time American direct hire staff to posts, but it does not include comprehensive guidance on linking staffing levels to security, workload requirements, cost, and other elements of rightsizing. It also does not provide guidance on staffing levels for foreign service nationals or for other agencies at a post. Using various methods for addressing staffing and other key resource requirements is not effective in planning for or controlling growth. The 13 The directive requires U.S. government agencies operating under the authority of Chiefs of Mission (usually an ambassador) to seek approval by the post’s Chief of Mission on any proposed changes in the size, composition, or mandate of their staff. 14 st U.S. Department of State, America’s Overseas Presence in the 21 Century: The Report of the Overseas Presence Advisory Panel (Washington, D.C.: November 1999). 15 MPPs are authoritative U.S. government strategy documents prepared annually and covering all agencies at a post on the basis of the goals set forth in the Department of State Strategic Plan and the International Affairs Strategic Plan. The MPP sets priorities and makes requests for staff and other resources, and ensures consistency among agencies in country and with Washington headquarters. Page 7 GAO-03-396 Overseas Presence Deputy Chief of Mission at Embassy Dakar agreed, as this has resulted in growth beyond the post’s capacity. Specifically, The Department of State has added at least seven American direct-hire positions to the post, and non-State agencies operating in Dakar have added another six positions over the last year. In addition, post officials project more increases in personnel by fiscal year 2004 to accommodate other agencies interested in working out of Dakar. Post officials agreed that a more systematic and comprehensive approach might improve the post’s ability to plan for and control growth. Responses to the framework’s questions by Banjul and Dakar consular officers also indicated that they could further explore processing all nonimmigrant visas from the Dakar post, particularly since Dakar has done so in the past on a temporary basis. Neither post’s MPP discussed the possibility of covering these functions on a regional basis from Dakar, yet doing so would relieve Banjul’s consular officer from processing nonimmigrant visas, thereby allowing more time for political and economic reporting. Thus, the post might not need to request a junior officer to handle such reporting. However, Banjul post officials said this arrangement would not be feasible for a variety of reasons. Nevertheless, their assessment illustrates the importance of weighing the benefits and trade-offs of exercising rightsizing options. Officials at both posts also agreed that applying the rightsizing questions, as part of the post’s annual MPP process, would result in an improved and more systematic approach for addressing rightsizing issues. Cost of Operations The cost section of our framework includes questions that involve developing and consolidating cost information from all agencies at a particular embassy to permit cost-based decision-making. Without comprehensive cost data, decision makers cannot determine the correlation between costs and the work being performed, nor can they assess the short- and long-term costs associated with feasible business alternatives. At all of the posts, we found there was no mechanism to provide the ambassador or other decision makers with comprehensive data on State’s and other agencies’ cost of operations. For example, complete budget data that reflect the cost of employee salaries and benefits and certain information management expenses for each agency at post were not Page 8 GAO-03-396 Overseas Presence available. Further, we found that embassy profile reports maintained by State’s Bureau of Administration contained incomplete and inaccurate information for each embassy’s funding levels and sources.16 Officials at each post agreed that it is difficult to discern overall costs because data are incomplete and fragmented across funding sources, thereby making it difficult for decision makers to justify staffing levels in relation to overall post costs.17 In view of Embassy Dakar’s plans to expand its regional responsibilities, embassy officials said it would be beneficial to document and justify the cost effectiveness of providing support to posts in the region. The type of support can be substantial and can have significant implications for planning future staffing and other resource requirements. For example, Embassy Nouakchott relies heavily on Embassy Dakar for budget and fiscal support, security engineering, public affairs, medical/medevac services, and procurement/purchasing, in addition to temporary warehousing for certain goods. OMB and the Department of State recognize that lack of cost-based decision-making is a long-standing problem. As part of the President’s Management Agenda, they are working to better identify the full operating costs at individual posts and improve cost accounting mechanisms for overseas presence. Consideration of Our work demonstrates that responses to our questions could be used to Rightsizing Actions and identify and exercise rightsizing actions and options, such as adjusting Other Options staffing requirements, competitively sourcing certain commercial goods and services, and streamlining warehousing operations. Examples of identifying and exercising rightsizing options include the following: 16 Each post we visited generated a post profile report from State’s intranet Web site. The reports contain staffing and other key data on posts, including Department of State funding and allotments. However, in all three cases, cost data were inaccurate or incomplete. The reports also lacked comprehensive cost data on State’s operations and other agencies’ programs. 17 For the purposes of our work, comprehensive costs include salaries and benefits, travel, allowances, housing, International Cooperative Administrative Support Services, office furnishings and equipment, information management, transportation, diplomatic security, representation, other miscellaneous costs, and total costs of each agency operating at a post. Page 9 GAO-03-396 Overseas Presence • Embassy space and security limitations in Dakar suggest that planned increases in staff levels may not be feasible. If Embassy Dakar used our framework to complete a full and comprehensive analysis of its regional capabilities, in conjunction with analyses of mission priorities and requirements of other embassies in West Africa, then staffing levels could be adjusted at some of the posts in the region. One rightsizing option includes having Embassy Banjul’s visa services handled from Dakar. • The general services officers at the Dakar and Banjul posts agreed that our framework could be used to identify competitive sourcing opportunities in their locations. One rightsizing option includes assessing the feasibility of competitively sourcing the work of currently employed painters, upholsterers, electricians, and others to yield cost savings and reduce staff requirements. This could have a particularly significant impact at the Dakar post, which employs more than 70 staff who are working in these types of positions.18 • The Dakar and Banjul embassies operate substantial warehousing and maintenance complexes. Post officials said that operations and staffing requirements at these government-owned facilities could be potentially streamlined in a number of areas. The Department of State and other agencies maintain separate nonexpendable properties, such as furniture and appliances in Dakar, while the Department of State and Peace Corps maintain their own warehouses in the same compound in Banjul. Department of State logistics managers and post general services personnel agree that pooling such items could potentially reduce overall inventories, costs, and staffing requirements.19 Relocating staff, competitively sourcing goods and services, and other rightsizing options should be based on a full feasibility and cost analysis, and thus we are not recommending them in this report. However, such rightsizing options deserve consideration, particularly in view of Embassy Dakar’s concerns about how to manage anticipated increasing regionalization, the general security threats to embassies around the 18 During our work at the embassy in Paris, we identified as many as 50 positions at the post that are commercial in nature and responsible for providing services or goods that have the potential to be competitively sourced to the private sector or performed at another location. 19 We found similar conditions at the U.S. embassy in Paris, where household appliances and furniture were maintained separately by agency and consolidating inventories could potentially reduce staffing and other resource requirements. Page 10 GAO-03-396 Overseas Presence world, and the President’s Management Agenda’s emphasis on reducing costs of overseas operations. Framework’s Questions The need for a systematic approach to rightsizing the U.S. overseas Provide a Systematic presence has been a recurring theme in developing our framework. We Approach to Rightsizing have noted that the criteria for assigning staff to individual overseas posts vary significantly by agency and that agencies do not fully and collectively consider embassy security, mission priorities, and workload requirements. At the three embassies we visited in West Africa, we found that rightsizing issues have not been systematically assessed as part of the embassy management and planning process. However, The Department of State has taken several steps that help lay the groundwork for such a process by refining its overseas post MPP guidance. That guidance, applicable to posts in all countries, was recently strengthened and now directs each embassy to set five top priorities and link staffing and workload requirements to fulfilling those priorities. Chiefs of Mission also certify that the performance goals in their MPPs accurately reflect the highest priorities of their embassies. This is consistent with questions in our framework addressing program priorities. The guidance does not, however, identify rightsizing as a management goal or explicitly discuss how rightsizing issues of security, mission, cost, and options should be addressed. For example, it does not ask embassies to formally consider the extent to which it is necessary for each agency to maintain its current presence in country, or to consider relocation to the United States or regional centers, given the scope of each embassies’ responsibilities and missions. Officials at the posts in West Africa generally agreed that applying the framework and corresponding questions could result in an improved and more systematic approach to rightsizing. They agreed that the framework can be adjusted to consider emerging rightsizing issues and staffing conditions. For example, at Embassy Dakar, the regional security officer suggested including a question addressing the capacity of the host country police, military, and intelligence services as part of the physical and technical security section. Other officials suggested including a question regarding the extent to which health conditions in the host country might limit the number of employees that should be assigned to a post. Officials in the Department of State’s Bureau of African Affairs generally agreed that applying our questions provides a logical basis for systematically addressing rightsizing issues. They agreed it is important that the Department of State and other agencies consider staffing issues Page 11 GAO-03-396 Overseas Presence based on a common set of criteria, for both existing embassies and future facilities. Officials in the Department of State’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs and the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs also agreed that the security, mission, cost, and option elements of the framework provide a logical basis for planning and making rightsizing decisions. They also believed that rightsizing analyses would be most effective if the framework were adopted as a part of the Department of State’s MPP process. Our rightsizing framework and its corresponding questions can be applied Conclusions to embassies in developing countries and help decision makers collectively focus on security, mission, and cost trade-offs associated with staffing levels and rightsizing options. The rightsizing questions systematically provide embassy and agency decision makers a common set of criteria and a logical approach for coordinating and determining staffing levels at U.S. diplomatic posts. We recognize that the framework and its questions are a starting point and that modification of the questions may be considered in future planning, as appropriate. The Department of State’s MPP process has been strengthened and addresses some of the rightsizing questions in our framework. In particular, it better addresses embassy priorities, a key factor in our rightsizing framework. However, the mission planning process neither specifically addresses embassy rightsizing as a policy or critical management issue nor calls for assessments of related security and cost issues affecting all agencies operating at overseas posts. In keeping with the administration’s rightsizing initiative, we are Recommendations for recommending that Executive Action • the Director of OMB, in coordination with the Secretary of State, ensure that application of our framework be expanded as a basis for assessing staffing levels at embassies and consulates worldwide; and • the Secretary of State adopt the framework as part of the embassy Mission Performance Planning process to ensure participation of all agencies at posts and the use of comparable criteria to address security, mission, cost issues, and rightsizing options. OMB and The Department of State provided written comments on a draft Agency Comments of this report (see apps. III and IV). OMB said that it agrees with our and Our Evaluation findings and recommendations and stated that our framework may serve Page 12 GAO-03-396 Overseas Presence as a valuable base for the development of a broader methodology that can be applied worldwide. OMB agreed that security, mission, and cost are key elements to consider in making rightsizing decisions. In addition, OMB noted that workload requirements, options for information technology, regionalization possibilities, and competitive sourcing opportunities should be considered in order to adapt the methodology to fit each post. The Department of State generally agreed with our recommendations and said that it welcomed GAO’s work on developing a rightsizing framework. The Department of State said that the rightsizing questions provide a good foundation for it to proceed in working with OMB and other agencies to improve the process for determining overseas staffing levels. The Department of State noted that some elements of the framework are already being undertaken and that it plans to incorporate additional elements of our rightsizing questions into its future planning processes, including the MPP. Department of State comments are reprinted in appendix IV. The Department of State also provided technical comments, which we have incorporated into the report where appropriate. To determine the extent to which our framework’s questions are Scope and applicable in developing regions, we visited three West African Methodology embassies—Dakar, Senegal; Banjul, The Gambia; and Nouakchott, Mauritania. At all posts, we spoke with regional security officers, in addition to ambassadors and other post officials, regarding the security status of their embassies and related security concerns. At all locations, we reviewed the applicability of the mission priorities and requirements section of the framework by asking the ambassadors, deputy chiefs of mission, administrative officers, consular officers, and general services officers to answer key questions in that section. To assess the usefulness of the cost section, we spoke with the same officers, in addition to Embassy Dakar’s financial management officer who provides regional support to both Banjul and Nouakchott. We also discussed with key officials whether opportunities exist to exercise certain rightsizing options such as competitively sourcing post goods and services or streamlining embassy functions that are commercial in nature. In addition, we interviewed Bureau of African Affairs executive officers, officials in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security in Washington, D.C., and the heads of key agencies operating in each country. Specifically, in Dakar we interviewed the Director and Deputy Director of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Treasury representative. In Banjul and Nouakchott, we interviewed the Directors of Peace Corps. We also met with officials in the executive offices of the Department of State’s Bureau Page 13 GAO-03-396 Overseas Presence of East Asian and Pacific Affairs and the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs to determine the applicability of the framework in those regions. We conducted our work from October 2002 through January 2003 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. We are sending copies of this report to other interested members of Congress. We are also sending copies of this report to the Director of OMB and the Secretary of State. We also will make copies available to others upon request. In addition, the report will also be available at no charge on the GAO Web site at http://www.gao.gov. If you or your staff have any questions about this report, please contact me on (202) 512-4128 or John Brummet on (202) 512-5260. In addition to the persons named above, Janey Cohen, Lynn Moore, Ann M. Ulrich, and Joseph Zamoyta made key contributions to this report. Sincerely yours, Jess T. Ford Director, International Affairs and Trade Page 14 GAO-03-396 Overseas Presence Appendix I: Rightsizing Issues at West African Appendix I: Rightsizing Issues at West Posts African Posts This appendix provides detailed information on the responses to the rightsizing questions in our framework at the embassies in Dakar, Senegal; Banjul, The Gambia; and Nouakchott, Mauritania. Specific rightsizing issues, actions, and options for consideration are highlighted. Prior to the 1998 embassy bombings in East Africa, U.S. diplomatic Dakar: Physical and facilities in Dakar1 had serious physical security vulnerabilities, including Technical Security insufficient setbacks at most office buildings, including the chancery. Since 1998, many steps have been taken to ensure better security throughout the post. Important steps included (1) the relocation of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to a more secure location, (2) host-country cooperation for embassy-only traffic on the four streets surrounding the embassy’s main building, (3) the renovation and expansion of a more secure “waiting facility” for the consular affairs section, and (4) an increase in surveillance and detection units for the entire compound and employee residences. Although security at the Dakar post is now characterized as “good” for the current number of personnel, embassy officials cautioned that actions by Senegalese authorities to close off streets adjacent to the embassy are temporary measures that could be reversed at any time. In addition, the office space in the chancery can only accommodate a slight increase in personnel. Officials said that adding personnel to the post would aggravate certain security concerns. Embassy Dakar increasingly has more regional responsibilities and there Dakar: Mission are significant pressures to assign more personnel to Dakar—a situation Priorities and that has been exacerbated as a result of the recently ordered departure status at the U.S. embassy in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.2 The Dakar post now Requirements has about 90 American direct-hire personnel and 350 local hires. Staff projections over the next two fiscal years indicate an increase in staffing at 1 The Dakar post includes three main embassy office buildings, separate USAID and Peace Corps compounds, and a separate warehousing compound that includes a repair and maintenance facility. Two U.S. Department of Treasury personnel work in the Central Bank of West African States building. 2 In October 2002, based on the fighting between rebel elements and Ivoirian government forces, the Department of State ordered U.S. government personnel in nonemergency positions and family members of all U.S. government personnel in Cote d’Ivoire to leave the country. Page 15 GAO-03-396 Overseas Presence Appendix I: Rightsizing Issues at West African Posts the embassy for additional agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Departments of Agriculture and Homeland Security, and the possible transfer of Foreign Commercial Service employees from the embassy in Abidjan. In addition, the Dakar consular section will be increasing its consular officers for visa purposes from two to four and may need additional staff in the future. As a result of increasing regional responsibilities and more personnel, Embassy Dakar may require additional Department of State support personnel as well. In spite of Dakar’s increasing regional role and responsibilities, the post has difficulty attracting and retaining experienced foreign service officers. Embassy officials indicated that senior foreign service officers perceive the post as having a relatively high cost of living, a low pay differential, and no available consumables. Hence, many key positions are filled with inexperienced junior staff, placing constraints on some offices in carrying out their mission.3 Comprehensive information was not available to identify the total annual Dakar: Cost of operating costs for Embassy Dakar or for each agency at the post. Cost Operations data were incomplete and fragmented. For example, embassy budget personnel estimated operating costs of at least $7.7 million, not including American employee salaries or allowances. Available Bureau of African Affairs budget data for the post estimated fiscal year 2003 operating costs of at least $6 million, including State’s public diplomacy costs, post administered costs, and International Cooperative Administrative Support Services4 expenses, but these costs did not reflect the salaries and benefits of Department of State and other U.S. agency American employees and the State bureau allotments, such as for diplomatic security. If all costs were included in a comprehensive budget, the total annual operating costs at the post would be significantly higher than both estimates. Post and Bureau officials agreed that fragmented and incomplete cost data make it 3 In June 2002, we reported that diplomatic programs and management controls at hardship posts could be vulnerable due to staffing shortfalls, and posts’ ability to carry out U.S. foreign policy objectives effectively could be weakened. U.S. General Accounting Office, Staffing Shortfalls and Ineffective Assignment System Compromise Diplomatic Readiness at Hardship Posts, GAO-02-626 (Washington, D.C.: June 2002). 4 The International Cooperative Administrative Support Services system is the U.S. government’s system for providing and sharing the cost of common administrative support at its diplomatic and consular posts. Page 16 GAO-03-396 Overseas Presence Appendix I: Rightsizing Issues at West African Posts difficult for them to systematically and collectively approach rightsizing initiatives and consider the relative cost-effectiveness of rightsizing options. Responses to the framework’s questions regarding rightsizing actions and Dakar: Consideration other options at Embassy Dakar highlighted the impact of security of Rightsizing Actions conditions on anticipated staffing increases and the need to define and document the embassy’s growing regional responsibilities as part of the and Options MPP process. They also highlighted potential opportunities for competitively sourcing certain embassy services to the private sector, as well as opportunities for streamlining warehouse operations. Embassy officials are reluctant to purchase commercial goods and services from the local economy due to quality and reliability concerns, and thus they employ a large number of direct-hire personnel to maintain and provide all post goods and services. If goods and services were competitively sourced to the local economy, the number of direct hires and costs could possibly be reduced. Opportunities also exist for streamlining Embassy Dakar’s warehousing operations, which could yield cost savings. The left box of figure 1 summarizes the main rightsizing issues that were raised at Embassy Dakar in response to the framework’s questions. The box on the right side identifies possible corresponding rightsizing actions and other options post decision makers could consider when collectively assessing their rightsizing issues. Page 17 GAO-03-396 Overseas Presence Appendix I: Rightsizing Issues at West African Posts Figure 1: Applying the Rightsizing Framework in Dakar, Senegal Rightsizing elements Rightsizing actions and other options to consider Physical and technical security of facilities and employees: Security of embassy office buildings Limit staff growth on the basis of existing upgraded, but buildings still do not meet security and space issues until a new office standards. building is complete and/or accelerate plans Security limitations of office buildings could for a new building. limit growth in numbers of staff and expansion Define and document regional of post responsibilities. responsibilities and performance indicators as part of the MPP process. Mission priorities and requirements: Assign more experienced officers to post. MPP defines bilateral responsibilities and Assess feasibility of competitively sourcing performance indicators, but not growth and key support operations that are commercial regional responsibilities. in nature, such as warehousing and Post has large number of direct hire personnel maintenance. devoted to support operations that are Determine total cost of operations by commercial in nature. agency, and document as part of post's Key positions are becoming hard to fill with MPP, and relate total costs to bilateral and sufficiently experienced staff. regional responsibilities and for justifying staffing levels. Cost of operations: Estimate is at least $7.7 million, but incomplete, not fully developed in post MPP, and not useful for decision-making. Source: GAO. Page 18 GAO-03-396 Overseas Presence Appendix I: Rightsizing Issues at West African Posts Officials at the post in Banjul characterized the compound as having good Banjul: Physical and physical security and enough office space to accommodate additional Technical Security staff. The post chancery compound is a “lock-and-leave” facility, as it does not have the 24-hour presence of U.S. government personnel. There are two leased vacant residential houses located directly behind the chancery building but separated from the chancery by a dividing wall. Embassy officials in Banjul have proposed buying the houses but explained that it is difficult to justify the cost because the purchase would put the embassy over its allotted number of homes (i.e., giving it nine homes for seven personnel). Some officials have suggested that the houses could be used for temporary duty personnel working at the post. During our work, visiting officials from the Immigration and Naturalization Service were using one of the houses to conduct political asylum visa interviews. Usually, however, the houses are vacant. According to the ambassador and the regional security officer, if the vacant houses were to be leased by nonembassy tenants, the chancery’s physical security would be seriously compromised.5 In addition, the regional security officer expressed concerns regarding the training and quality of the security contractor, particularly because the post does not have a Marine detachment to back up the security guards. Much of Embassy Banjul’s resources are devoted to supporting internal Banjul: Mission post operations instead of focusing on external goals, such as political Priorities and reporting and public diplomacy. For example, more than 60 local hires carry out facilities maintenance and other post support functions while Requirements only 3 of the 7 American direct-hire personnel address the post’s 3 main program goals in The Gambia—namely, reinforcing democracy, increasing economic prosperity, and improving the population’s health. Since the consular officer is also responsible for political and economic reporting, the post recently requested one junior officer rotational position to help balance the duties in all three areas. Over the past 2 years the number of nonimmigrant visa applications in Banjul more than doubled—from 1,712 applications in March 2000 to 4,635 applications in September 2002—while the percentage of refused applications decreased from a high of 65 percent in September 2000 to a low of 38 percent in September 2002. Post officials said that the lack of a full-time consular officer may impede the post’s 5 The chancery has a 78-foot setback in front and a more than 100-foot setback on the side with the vacant houses. Without the buffer of the vacant houses, the chancery would have a less than 20-foot setback. Page 19 GAO-03-396 Overseas Presence Appendix I: Rightsizing Issues at West African Posts ability to focus on preventing fraudulent visa applications. The post has also requested one dual-purpose local employee to back up its growing public diplomacy and security assistance portfolios. Banjul’s primary post planning document, the MPP, did not include Banjul: Cost of comprehensive data on the total cost of operations. The Bureau of African Operations Affairs’ budget for the post estimated total costs of at least $1.7 million for fiscal year 2003. However, these estimates did not include American salaries and other expenses, such as State Bureau allotments. The left box of figure 2 summarizes the main rightsizing issues that were raised at Embassy Banjul in response to the framework’s questions. The box on the right identifies corresponding rightsizing actions and other options post decision makers could consider when collectively assessing their rightsizing issues. Figure 2: Applying the Rightsizing Framework in Banjul, The Gambia Page 20 GAO-03-396 Overseas Presence Appendix I: Rightsizing Issues at West African Posts Embassy Nouakchott officials characterize the post compound as having Nouakchott: Physical good physical security, which has been upgraded since 1998. However, the and Technical chancery does not meet security setback requirements, and compound facilities have security deficiencies.6 Answering the framework’s questions Security regarding physical security did not indicate a need to change the number of staff based on existing security conditions at the embassy office buildings. However, embassy officials said that the questions helped highlight the need to consider the security risks and trade-offs associated with expected increases in the number of personnel at post. When asked specific questions regarding mission priorities and Nouakchott: Mission requirements, Embassy Nouakchott officials told us that the post has an Priorities and adequate number of personnel to meet current mission requirements and priorities but that there are generally few bidders for positions at the post. Requirements The Ambassador and Deputy Chief of Mission emphasized that an increase or decrease of one employee greatly affects how the post accomplishes its mission—more so than at a larger post, such as Dakar. For example, the Regional Security Officer position is vacant and is being covered on a temporary duty basis by Dakar’s Assistant Regional Security Officer. Also, the post currently has no positions for political and public diplomacy officers. One officer may be assigned to multiple positions owing to limited demand for certain services. For example, the Consular Officer at Embassy Nouakchott is also responsible for the duties of a commercial/economic officer. However, the post hopes to add one full- time officer for political and human rights reporting, according to the post’s MPP. Operating costs for the Nouakchott post are not fully documented in the Nouakchott: Cost of MPP or used to justify staffing levels. Embassy Nouakchott officials Operations roughly estimated total operating costs of about $4 million for fiscal year 2003. The Bureau of African Affairs’ budget for the post estimated partial operating costs of only $2.1 million annually, but the estimate did not include American salaries, diplomatic security, and other costs. 6 The Nouakchott post compound includes administrative buildings, residences, and the American school. The main security concerns for the Nouakchott post include older buildings and inadequate defense barriers. There are plans to assign a Marine detachment to the post for additional security. Page 21 GAO-03-396 Overseas Presence Appendix I: Rightsizing Issues at West African Posts The left box of figure 3 summarizes the main rightsizing issues that were raised at Embassy Nouakchott in response to the framework’s questions. The box on the right side identifies corresponding rightsizing actions and other options post decision makers could consider when collectively assessing their rightsizing issues. Figure 3: Applying the Rightsizing Framework in Nouakchott, Mauritania Page 22 GAO-03-396 Overseas Presence Appendix II: Rightsizing Framework and Appendix II: Rightsizing Framework and Corresponding Questions Corresponding Questions Physical/technical security of facilities and employees • What is the threat and security profile of the embassy? • Has the ability to protect personnel been a factor in determining staffing levels at the embassy? • To what extent are existing office buildings secure? • Is existing space being optimally utilized? • Have all practical options for improving the security of facilities been considered? • Do issues involving facility security put the staff at an unacceptable level of risk or limit mission accomplishment? a • What is the capacity level of the host country police, military, and intelligence services? • Do security vulnerabilities suggest the need to reduce or relocate staff? • Do health conditions in the host country pose personal security concerns that limit the number of employees that should be b assigned to the post? Mission priorities and requirements • What are the staffing levels and mission of each agency? • How do agencies determine embassy staffing levels? • Is there an adequate justification for the number of employees at each agency compared with the agency’s mission? • Is there adequate justification for the number of direct hire personnel devoted to support and administrative operations? c • What are the priorities of the embassy? • Does each agency’s mission reinforce embassy priorities? • To what extent are mission priorities not being sufficiently addressed due to staffing limitations or other impediments? • To what extent are workload requirements validated and prioritized and is the embassy able to balance them with core functions? • Do the activities of any agencies overlap? • Given embassy priorities and the staffing profile, are increases in the number of existing staff or additional agency representation needed? • To what extent is it necessary for each agency to maintain its current presence in country, given the scope of its responsibilities and its mission? Could an agency’s mission be pursued in other ways? Does an agency have regional responsibilities or is its mission entirely focused on the host country? Cost of operations • What is the embassy’s total annual operating cost? • What are the operating costs for each agency at the embassy? • To what extent are agencies considering the full cost of operations in making staffing decisions? • To what extent are costs commensurate with overall embassy strategic importance, with agency programs, and with specific products and services? Consideration of rightsizing options • What are the security, mission, and cost implications of relocating certain functions to the United States, regional centers, or to other locations, such as commercial space or host country counterpart agencies? • To what extent could agency program and/or routine administrative functions (procurement, logistics, and financial management functions) be handled from a regional center or other locations? • Do new technologies and transportation links offer greater opportunities for operational support from other locations? • Do the host country and regional environments suggest there are options for doing business differently, that is, are there adequate transportation and communications links and a vibrant private sector? • To what extent is it practical to purchase embassy services from the private sector? • Does the ratio of support staff to program staff at the embassy suggest opportunities for streamlining? • Can functions be reengineered to provide greater efficiencies and reduce requirements for personnel? Page 23 GAO-03-396 Overseas Presence Appendix II: Rightsizing Framework and Corresponding Questions • Are there best practices of other bilateral embassies or private corporations that could be adapted by the U.S. embassy? • To what extent are there U.S. or host country legal, policy, or procedural obstacles that may impact the feasibility of rightsizing options? Source: GAO. a We added this question based on the suggestion of Embassy Dakar’s regional security officer. b We added this question based on the suggestion of officials at the Office of Management and Budget. c Embassy priorities are the U.S. government priorities in that country. Page 24 GAO-03-396 Overseas Presence Appendix III: Comments from the Office of Appendix III: Comments from the Office of Management and Budget Management and Budget Page 25 GAO-03-396 Overseas Presence Appendix IV: Comments from the Department Appendix IV: Comments from the of State Department of State Note: GAO comments supplementing those in the report text appear at the end of this appendix. Page 26 GAO-03-396 Overseas Presence Appendix IV: Comments from the Department of State Page 27 GAO-03-396 Overseas Presence Appendix IV: Comments from the Department of State See comment 1. Page 28 GAO-03-396 Overseas Presence Appendix IV: Comments from the Department of State See comment 2. See comment 3. Page 29 GAO-03-396 Overseas Presence Appendix IV: Comments from the Department of State See comment 4. See comment 5. Page 30 GAO-03-396 Overseas Presence Appendix IV: Comments from the Department of State The following are GAO’s comments on the Department of State’s letter dated February 25, 2003. 1. We did not set priorities for the elements in the framework that appear GAO’s Comments in this report. Moreover, we believe that decision makers need to consider security, mission, and cost collectively in order to weigh the trade-offs associated with staffing levels and rightsizing options. 2. We did not imply that there is a problem of exploding growth in overseas staffing levels that needs to be reined in. Our statement that there is a need for a systematic process to determine overseas staffing levels (i.e., rightsizing) was made on the basis that the elements of security, mission, cost, and other rightsizing options are not collectively addressed in a formal process to determine staffing levels at overseas posts. On page 1 of the report, we state that rightsizing may result in the addition, reduction, or change in the mix of staff. 3. We modified our report on page 7 to discuss the Overseas Staffing Model. 4. We modified our report on pages 6-7 to more accurately describe the National Security Decision Directive-38. 5. International Cooperative Administrative Support Services (ICASS) is only one component of a post’s total overseas costs and include the costs of common administrative support, such as motor pool operations, vehicle maintenance, travel services, mail and messenger services, building operations, information management, and other administrative services. However, this component does not cover all employee salaries and benefits, all housing, office furnishings and equipment, diplomatic security, representation, miscellaneous expenses, and other costs for all agencies operating at a post. Total costs associated with each post need to be considered when overseas staffing decisions are made. (320125) Page 31 GAO-03-396 Overseas Presence The General Accounting Office, the audit, evaluation and investigative arm of GAO’s Mission Congress, exists to support Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities and to help improve the performance and accountability of the federal government for the American people. GAO examines the use of public funds; evaluates federal programs and policies; and provides analyses, recommendations, and other assistance to help Congress make informed oversight, policy, and funding decisions. GAO’s commitment to good government is reflected in its core values of accountability, integrity, and reliability. The fastest and easiest way to obtain copies of GAO documents at no cost is Obtaining Copies of through the Internet. 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Overseas Presence: Rightsizing Framework Can Be Applied at U.S. Diplomatic Posts in Developing Countries
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2003-04-07.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)