State Department:

Using Best Practices to Relocate Employees Could Reduce Costs and Improve Service

NSIAD-98-19: Published: Oct 17, 1997. Publicly Released: Oct 17, 1997.

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Benjamin F. Nelson
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GAO discussed: (1) the Department of State's process for transferring employees and their household effects overseas; and (2) opportunities for State to apply the best practices that private-sector and other government organizations use to complete overseas transfers.

GAO noted that: (1) GAO's comparison of State's process for transferring employees and their household goods overseas to the processes of other public- and private-sector organizations suggests that State's procedures are overly cumbersome and inefficient; (2) State's employee transfer process has remained essentially unchanged for years and involves at least 12 agency bureaus and offices, over 150 support staff, and numerous administrative forms; (3) State employees transferring overseas are confronted with a myriad of steps and handoffs requiring individual transactions with multiple offices; (4) no single office within the Department is held accountable for ensuring the timely and successful transfer of employees and their families; (5) similarly, employees' household shipments are typically channeled through a maze of offices and contractors, resulting in unnecessary costs; (6) the Department of State has an opportunity to significantly streamline its employee transfer process, enabling it to provide better services to its employees and to reduce costs; (7) leading U.S. companies and other organizations have achieved these benefits by implementing a number of best practices, such as: (a) providing one point of contact for assistance to the employee, a method known as one-stop shopping; (b) centralizing the administration of transfers under one organizational unit and integrating various functions into that unit; (c) developing an integrated information system for tracking and coordinating transfers; (d) contracting with one freight forwarder to ship an employee's household effects, rather than using multiple vendors for the various segments of the same move; and (e) outsourcing various parts of the transfer process; (8) although GAO was unable to develop precise cost reduction estimates for implementing these best practices, several organizations indicated that they were able to achieve substantial cost savings by doing so; (9) in addition, GAO analyses of certain cost data and other information available at State, including some of State's own studies, indicate the potential for achieving similar cost reductions for the Department; and (10) for these and other reasons, GAO believes that the potential cost reductions could total millions of dollars annually.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Matter for Congressional Consideration

    Matter: Because the Department of State has not indicated support for GAO's recommendations intended to improve the quality and efficiency of its transfer and shipping process, Congress may wish to consider directing State to implement them.

    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should direct the Transportation Division to substantially expand the use of door-to-door shipments of household effects.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should establish a special team under the direction of the Under Secretary for Management to design an implementation strategy for improving management of the Department's employee transfer process. The strategy should take into account the transfer activities of ACDA, AID, and USIA. The team should be composed of staff from each of the key bureaus and offices currently involved in the process. Its mandate should include developing costs, time, and quality performance measures for managing the process and measuring the impact of reengineering efforts.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should establish a special team under the direction of the Under Secretary for Management to design an implementation strategy for improving management of the Department's employee transfer process. The strategy should take into account the transfer activities of ACDA, AID, and USIA. The team should be composed of staff from each of the key bureaus and offices currently involved in the process. Its mandate should include developing a plan for outsourcing those parts of the transfer process where analyses show that outsourcing would provide better, more cost-effective service than performing the functions in-house. Key parts of the process that should be examined include medical and move management services.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should establish a special team under the direction of the Under Secretary for Management to design an implementation strategy for improving management of the Department's employee transfer process. The strategy should take into account the transfer activities of ACDA, AID, and USIA. The team should be composed of staff from each of the key bureaus and offices currently involved in the process. Its mandate should include developing an integrated information management system to handle the reengineered transfer process, based on off-the-shelf technologies or information resource management initiatives already under way in the Department, if possible.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should establish a special team under the direction of the Under Secretary for Management to design an implementation strategy for improving management of the Department's employee transfer process. The strategy should take into account the transfer activities of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), the U. S. Agency for International Development (AID), and the United States Information Agency (USIA). The team should be composed of staff from each of the key bureaus and offices currently involved in the process. Its mandate should include identifying the most appropriate organizational structure, location, and staffing arrangements for centralizing management of the transfer function, ensuring accountability and control over the entire process, and providing one-stop shopping for the employee.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

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