Overseas Presence:

Rightsizing Framework Can Be Applied at U.S. Diplomatic Posts in Developing Countries

GAO-03-396: Published: Apr 7, 2003. Publicly Released: Apr 7, 2003.

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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. To support this long-standing need and in support of the President's Management Agenda, GAO developed a framework for assessing overseas workforce size and identified options for rightsizing. Because the framework was largely based on work at the U.S. embassy in Paris, GAO was asked to determine whether the rightsizing framework is applicable at U.S. embassies in developing countries. To accomplish this objective, we visited three U.S. embassies in West Africa--a medium-sized post in Dakar, Senegal; and two small embassies in Banjul, The Gambia; and Nouakchott, Mauritania--and applied the framework and its corresponding questions there.

GAO's rightsizing framework can be applied at U.S. embassies in developing countries. Officials from the Bureau of African Affairs, and U.S. embassy officials in Dakar, Senegal; Banjul, The Gambia; and Nouakchott, Mauritania, said that the framework's questions highlighted specific issues at each post that should be considered in determining staffing levels. Officials in other State bureaus also believed that the security, mission, cost, and option components of the framework provided a logical basis for planning and making rightsizing decisions. At each of the posts GAO visited, application of the framework and corresponding questions generally highlighted (1) physical and technical security deficiencies that needed to be weighed against proposed staff increases; (2) mission priorities and requirements that are not fully documented or justified in the posts' Mission Performance Plans; (3) cost of operations data that were unavailable, incomplete, or fragmented across funding sources; and (4) rightsizing actions and other options that post managers should consider for adjusting the number of personnel.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 2003, we recommended that the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in coordination with the Secretary of State, ensure that the application of GAO's framework on rightsizing "be expanded as a basis for assessing staffing levels at embassies and consulates worldwide. In addition, we recommended that the Secretary of State adopt the framework as part of the embassy Mission Performance Planning process. The fiscal year 2004 appropriations bill (P.L. 108-199) mandated the establishment of the Office of Rightsizing the U.S. Government Overseas Presence (M/R) within the Department of State. M/R is also OMB's principal implementer for the President's Management Agenda initiative of a "rightsized overseas presence." One of M/R's responsibilities is to establish and implement rightsizing procedures for rightsizing reviews to be conducted at overseas posts, including every proposed capital construction project and 20 percent of missions annually. In fiscal year 2005, M/R started conducting rightsizing analysis of post rightsizing reviews based on rightsizing instructions it developed and that were reviewed and approved by OMB. The instructions to posts indicate that "we (M/R) use GAO's definition of rightsizing as our optic"--"rightsizing is aligning the number and location of staff assigned overseas with foreign policy priorities and security and other constraints," [as indicated in GAO-02-780]. In 2005, M/R submitted more than 30 approved rightsizing reports, using GAO's mission, security, and cost framework, to OMB and appropriators for consideration for funding of capital security projects. In addition, GAO's rightsizing framework was the basis for legislative language in the House Report on the fiscal year 2005 appropriations for the Department of State and related agencies (H. Report 108-576). The House report cited GAO's work in the rightsizing. For example, the Committee stated that it "intends to ensure that such a (rightsizing) framework is established and followed" and expects to see evidence of rightsizing analyses in future budget requests for the department. In December 2004 and November 2005, State's Office of Rightsizing the U.S. Government Overseas Presence (M/R), a congressionally mandated office responsible for managing the rightsizing of the U.S. government abroad, issued a cable from the Secretary of State to all overseas posts with specific Mission Performance Plan guidance related to rightsizing. Chiefs of Mission, who are responsible for all executive branch agencies and personnel activities and programs at their post overseas, must certify that in their MPPs they have plans that determine the rightsized staffing of the mission, consider competitive sourcing, and use regionalized services and programs when practicable. The MPP guidance specifically states that "the MPP must include a brief discussion of the rightsizing reviews undertaken by the mission. The discussion should summarize the results, resource implications, and planned efforts to identify additional rightsizing opportunities."

    Recommendation: In keeping with the administration's initiative, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget should, in coordination with the Secretary of State, ensure that application of GAO's framework be expanded as a basis for assessing staffing levels at embassies and consulates worldwide.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 2003, we recommended that the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in coordination with the Secretary of State, ensure that the application of GAO's framework on rightsizing "be expanded as a basis for assessing staffing levels at embassies and consulates worldwide. In addition, we recommended that the Secretary of State adopt the framework should also be adopted as part of the embassy Mission Performance Planning process. The fiscal year 2004 appropriations bill (P.L. 108-199) mandated the establishment of the Office of Rightsizing the U.S. Government Overseas Presence (M/R) within the Department of State. M/R is also OMB's principal implementer for the President's Management Agenda initiative of a "rightsized overseas presence." One of M/R's responsibilities is to establish and implement rightsizing procedures for rightsizing reviews to be conducted at overseas posts, including every proposed capital construction project and 20 percent of missions annually. In fiscal year 2005, M/R started conducting rightsizing analysis of post rightsizing reviews based on rightsizing instructions it developed and that were reviewed and approved by OMB. The instructions to posts indicate that "we (M/R) use GAO's definition of rightsizing as our optic" - "rightsizing is aligning the number and location of staff assigned overseas with foreign policy priorities and security and other constraints," [as indicated in GAO-02-780]. In 2005, M/R submitted more than 30 approved rightsizing reports, using GAO's mission, security, and cost framework, to OMB and appropriators for consideration for funding of capital security projects. In addition, GAO's rightsizing framework was the basis for legislative language in the House Report on the fiscal year 2005 appropriations for the Department of State and related agencies (H. Report 108-576). The House report cited GAO's work in the rightsizing. For example, the Committee stated that it "intends to ensure that such a (rightsizing) framework is established and followed" and expects to see evidence of rightsizing analyses in future budget requests for the department. In December 2004 and November 2005, State's Office of Rightsizing the U.S. Government Overseas Presence (M/R), a congressionally mandated office responsible for managing the rightsizing of the U.S. government abroad, issued a cable from the Secretary of State to all overseas posts with specific Mission Performance Plan guidance related to rightsizing. Chiefs of Mission, who are responsible for all executive branch agencies and personnel activities and programs at their post overseas, must certify that in their MPPs they have plans that determine the rightsized staffing of the mission, consider competitive sourcing, and use regionalized services and programs when practicable. The MPP guidance specifically states that "the MPP must include a brief discussion of the rightsizing reviews undertaken by the mission. The discussion should summarize the results, resource implications, and planned efforts to identify additional rightsizing opportunities."

    Recommendation: In keeping with the administration's rightsizing initiative, the Secretary of State should 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.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

 

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