This is the accessible text file for GAO report number GAO-03-396 
entitled 'Overseas Presence: Rightsizing Framework Can Be Applied at 
U.S. Diplomatic Posts in Developing Countries' which was released on 
April 07, 2003.



This text file was formatted by the U.S. General Accounting Office 

(GAO) to be accessible to users with visual impairments, as part of a 

longer term project to improve GAO products’ accessibility. Every 

attempt has been made to maintain the structural and data integrity of 

the original printed product. Accessibility features, such as text 

descriptions of tables, consecutively numbered footnotes placed at the 

end of the file, and the text of agency comment letters, are provided 

but may not exactly duplicate the presentation or format of the printed 

version. The portable document format (PDF) file is an exact electronic 

replica of the printed version. We welcome your feedback. Please E-mail 

your comments regarding the contents or accessibility features of this 

document to Webmaster@gao.gov.



Report to the Chairman, Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging 

Threats, and International Relations, Committee on Government Reform, 

House of Representatives:



United States General Accounting Office:



GAO:



April 2003:



Overseas Presence:



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

Developing Countries:



GAO-03-396:



GAO Highlights:



Highlights of GAO-03-396, a report to the Chairman, Subcommittee on 

National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations, House 

Committee on Government Reform



Why GAO Did This Study:



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.



What GAO Found:



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

* physical and technical security deficiencies that needed to be 

weighed against proposed staff increases;

* mission priorities and requirements that are not fully documented or 

justified in the posts’ Mission Performance Plans; 

* cost of operations data that were unavailable, incomplete, or 

fragmented across funding sources; and

* rightsizing actions and other options that post managers should 

consider for adjusting the number of personnel.



What GAO Recommends:



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 fordj@gao.gov.



[End of section]



Contents:



Letter:



Results in Brief:



Background:



Rightsizing Framework Can Be Applied and Used to Highlight Specific 

Issues at Each Embassy:



Conclusions:



Recommendations for Executive Action:



Agency Comments and Our Evaluation:



Scope and Methodology:



Appendix I: Rightsizing Issues at West African Posts:



Dakar: Physical and Technical Security:



Dakar: Mission Priorities and Requirements:



Dakar: Cost of Operations:



Dakar: Consideration of Rightsizing Actions and Options:



Banjul: Physical and Technical Security:



Banjul: Mission Priorities and Requirements:



Banjul: Cost of Operations:



Nouakchott: Physical and Technical Security:



Nouakchott: Mission Priorities and Requirements:



Nouakchott: Cost of Operations:



Appendix II: Rightsizing Framework and Corresponding 

Questions:



Appendix III: Comments from the Office of Management and 

Budget:



Appendix IV: Comments from the Department of State:



GAO’s Comments:



Figures:



Figure 1: Applying the Rightsizing Framework in Dakar, Senegal:



Figure 2: Applying the Rightsizing Framework in Banjul, The Gambia:



Figure 3: Applying the Rightsizing Framework in Nouakchott, Mauritania:



Abbreviations:



ICASS: International Cooperative Administrative Support Services:



MPP: Mission Performance Plan:



NSDD-38: National Security Decision Directive-38:



OMB: Office of Management and Budget:



OPA: POverseas 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.



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.[Footnote 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.[Footnote 2] Each element contains a set of corresponding 

questions for rightsizing the overseas workforce.[Footnote 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 framework also includes questions on rightsizing 

options, including relocating staff to the United States or to regional 

centers, and competitively sourcing[Footnote 4] certain functions. 

[Footnote 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.[Footnote 

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.



Results in Brief:



Our analysis of the three embassies we visited indicates that the 

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.



Background:



In our reviews of embassy staffing issues during the 1990s, we found 

that the Department of State and some other agencies operating overseas 

lacked clear criteria for staffing overseas embassies.[Footnote 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.[Footnote 8] Later that year, the Overseas 

Presence Advisory Panel (OPAP) recommended that rightsizing be a key 

strategy to improve security and reduce operating costs.[Footnote 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. Embassy Banjul is a special embassy program[Footnote 10] 

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.



Rightsizing Framework Can Be Applied and Used to Highlight Specific 

Issues at Each Embassy:



Our work at the three posts in West Africa further demonstrated that 

our framework and corresponding questions can provide a systematic 

approach for assessing overseas workforce size and identifying options 

for rightsizing in developing countries. We identified examples of the 

specific security, mission, and cost issues at each post, which, when 

considered collectively, highlighted staffing issues and rightsizing 

options to consider. (See app. I for more details on our findings at 

each of the embassies.):



Physical and Technical Security of Facilities and Employees:



The ability to protect personnel should be a critical factor in 

determining embassy staffing levels. Recurring security threats to 

embassies and 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.[Footnote 

11] However, 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.[Footnote 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 Requirements:



The placement and composition of staff overseas must reflect the 

highest 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 in staff.[Footnote 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.[Footnote 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.[Footnote 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 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 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.[Footnote 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.[Footnote 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 Rightsizing Actions and Other Options:



Our work demonstrates that responses to our questions could be used to 

identify and exercise rightsizing actions and options, such as 

adjusting staffing requirements, competitively sourcing certain 

commercial goods and services, and streamlining warehousing operations. 

Examples of identifying and exercising rightsizing options include the 

following:



* 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.[Footnote 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.[Footnote 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 world, and the President’s Management Agenda’s emphasis on 

reducing costs of overseas operations.



Framework’s Questions Provide a Systematic Approach to Rightsizing:



The need for a systematic approach to rightsizing the U.S. overseas 

presence has been a recurring theme in developing our framework. We 

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 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.



Conclusions:



Our rightsizing framework and its corresponding questions can be 

applied 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.



Recommendations for Executive Action:



In keeping with the administration’s rightsizing initiative, we are 

recommending 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 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 Comments and Our Evaluation:



OMB and The Department of State provided written comments on a draft of 

this report (see apps. III and IV). OMB said that it agrees 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. 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.



Scope and Methodology:



To determine the extent to which our framework’s questions are 

applicable in developing regions, we visited three West African 

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 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:



Signed by Jess T. Ford:



[End of section]



Appendix I: Rightsizing Issues at West 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.



Dakar: Physical and Technical Security:



Prior to the 1998 embassy bombings in East Africa, U.S. diplomatic 

facilities in Dakar[Footnote 20] had serious physical security 

vulnerabilities, including 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.



Dakar: Mission Priorities and Requirements:



Embassy Dakar increasingly has more regional responsibilities and there 

are significant pressures to assign more personnel to Dakar--a 

situation that has been exacerbated as a result of the recently ordered 

departure status at the U.S. embassy in Abidjan, Cote 

d’Ivoire.[Footnote 21] The Dakar post now 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 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.[Footnote 22]



Dakar: Cost of Operations:



Comprehensive information was not available to identify the total 

annual operating costs for Embassy Dakar or for each agency at the 

post. Cost 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 Services[Footnote 23] 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 

difficult for them to systematically and collectively approach 

rightsizing initiatives and consider the relative cost-effectiveness of 

rightsizing options.



Dakar: Consideration of Rightsizing Actions and Options:



Responses to the framework’s questions regarding rightsizing actions 

and other options at Embassy Dakar highlighted the impact of security 

conditions on anticipated staffing increases and the need to define and 

document the embassy’s growing regional responsibilities as part of the 

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.



Figure 1: Applying the Rightsizing Framework in Dakar, Senegal:



[See PDF for image]



[End of figure]



Banjul: Physical and Technical Security:



Officials at the post in Banjul characterized the compound as having 

good physical security and enough office space to accommodate 

additional 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.[Footnote 24] 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.



Banjul: Mission Priorities and Requirements:



Much of Embassy Banjul’s resources are devoted to supporting internal 

post operations instead of focusing on external goals, such as 

political reporting and public diplomacy. For example, more than 60 

local hires carry out facilities maintenance and other post support 

functions while 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 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: Cost of Operations:



Banjul’s primary post planning document, the MPP, did not include 

comprehensive data on the total cost of operations. The Bureau of 

African 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:



[See PDF for image]



[End of figure]



Nouakchott: Physical and Technical Security:



Embassy Nouakchott officials characterize the post compound as having 

good physical security, which has been upgraded since 1998. However, 

the chancery does not meet security setback requirements, and compound 

facilities have security deficiencies.[Footnote 25] Answering the 

framework’s questions 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.



Nouakchott: Mission Priorities and Requirements:



When asked specific questions regarding mission priorities and 

requirements, Embassy Nouakchott officials told us that the post has an 

adequate number of personnel to meet current mission requirements and 

priorities but that there are generally few bidders for positions at 

the post. 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.



Nouakchott: Cost of Operations:



Operating costs for the Nouakchott post are not fully documented in the 

MPP or used to justify staffing levels. Embassy Nouakchott officials 

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.



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:



[See PDF for image]



[End of figure]



[End of section]



Appendix II: Rightsizing Framework and Corresponding Questions:



Physical/technical security of facilities and employees: * What is the 

threat and security profile of the embassy?



Physical/technical security of facilities and employees: * Has the 

ability to protect personnel been a factor in determining staffing 

levels at the embassy?



Physical/technical security of facilities and employees: * To what 

extent are existing office buildings secure?



Physical/technical security of facilities and employees: * Is existing 

space being optimally utilized?



Physical/technical security of facilities and employees: * Have all 

practical options for improving the security of facilities been 

considered?



Physical/technical security of facilities and employees: * Do issues 

involving facility security put the staff at an unacceptable level of 

risk or limit mission accomplishment?



Physical/technical security of facilities and employees: * What is the 

capacity level of the host country police, military, and intelligence 

services? [A].



Physical/technical security of facilities and employees: * Do security 

vulnerabilities suggest the need to reduce or relocate staff?



Physical/technical security of facilities and employees: * Do health 

conditions in the host country pose personal security concerns that 

limit the number of employees that should be assigned to the post? [B].



Physical/technical security of facilities and employees: * What are the 

staffing levels and mission of each agency?



Physical/technical security of facilities and employees: * How do 

agencies determine embassy staffing levels?



Physical/technical security of facilities and employees: * Is there an 

adequate justification for the number of employees at each agency 

compared with the agency’s mission?



Physical/technical security of facilities and employees: * Is there 

adequate justification for the number of direct hire personnel devoted 

to support and administrative operations?



Physical/technical security of facilities and employees: * What are the 

priorities of the embassy? [C].



Physical/technical security of facilities and employees: * Does each 

agency’s mission reinforce embassy priorities?



Physical/technical security of facilities and employees: * To what 

extent are mission priorities not being sufficiently addressed due to 

staffing limitations or other impediments?



Physical/technical security of facilities and employees: * To what 

extent are workload requirements validated and prioritized and is the 

embassy able to balance them with core functions?



Physical/technical security of facilities and employees: * Do the 

activities of any agencies overlap?



Physical/technical security of facilities and employees: * Given 

embassy priorities and the staffing profile, are increases in the 

number of existing staff or additional agency representation needed?



Physical/technical security of facilities and employees: * 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?



Physical/technical security of facilities and employees: Could an 

agency’s mission be pursued in other ways?



Physical/technical security of facilities and employees: Does an agency 

have regional responsibilities or is its mission entirely focused on 

the host country?



Physical/technical security of facilities and employees: * What is the 

embassy’s total annual operating cost?



Physical/technical security of facilities and employees: * What are the 

operating costs for each agency at the embassy?



Physical/technical security of facilities and employees: * To what 

extent are agencies considering the full cost of operations in making 

staffing decisions?



Physical/technical security of facilities and employees: * To what 

extent are costs commensurate with overall embassy strategic 

importance, with agency programs, and with specific products and 

services?



Physical/technical security of facilities and employees: * 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?



Physical/technical security of facilities and employees: * 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?



Physical/technical security of facilities and employees: * Do new 

technologies and transportation links offer greater opportunities for 

operational support from other locations?



Physical/technical security of facilities and employees: * 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?



Physical/technical security of facilities and employees: * To what 

extent is it practical to purchase embassy services from the private 

sector?



Physical/technical security of facilities and employees: * Does the 

ratio of support staff to program staff at the embassy suggest 

opportunities for streamlining?



Physical/technical security of facilities and employees: * Can 

functions be reengineered to provide greater efficiencies and reduce 

requirements for personnel?



Physical/technical security of facilities and employees: * Are there 

best practices of other bilateral embassies or private corporations 

that could be adapted by the U.S. embassy?



Physical/technical security of facilities and employees: * 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.



[End of table]



[End of section]



Appendix III: Comments from the Office of Management and Budget:



EXECUTIVE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET 

WASHINGTON, D.C. 20503:



March 20, 2003:



Ms. Susan Westin:



Managing Director, International Affairs and Trade United States 

General Accounting Office Washington D.C. 20548:



The Office of Management and Budget appreciates the opportunity to 

provide comments on yodr draft report, “Overseas Presence: Rightsizing 

Framework Can Be Applied at Diplomatic Posts in Developing Countries.” 

We fully support GAO’s efforts to develop a rightsizing framework that 

can be applied to all posts worldwide. The framework developed in this 

and an earlier GAO report on the American Embassy in Paris is a 

valuable contribution to the rightsizing framework.



OMB agrees with the GAO that mission priorities, cost and security are 

key elements to the rightsizing framework. In addition, agencies should 

consider workload requirements, options for information technology, 

regionalization possibilities, and competitive sourcing opportunities 

at each post.



The Administration’s interagency rightsizing initiative is making 

progress. In 2002, OMB compiled baseline worldwide staffing and cost 

data, analyzed specific posts in the State Department’s European 

Bureau, and worked with the State Department to support the development 

of the regional center in Frankfurt, Germany. The FY 2004 budget 

proposes a capital surcharge as one incentive for agencies to review 

their overseas staffing patterns.



We intend to make further progress this year by focusing on full 

accounting for agency overseas costs and defining the parameters of a 

more formal rightsizing methodology. We will also examine overseas 

staffing procedures and authorities.



We greatly appreciate GAO’s valuable contributions to this effort. If 

you have any questions concerning this response, please contact, Ms. 

Alexandra Gianinno of the International Affairs Division at (202) 395-

1483.



Sincerely,



Robin Cleveland

Associate Director National Security Programs:



Signed by Robin Cleveland:



[End of section]



Appendix IV: Comments from the Department of State:



Note: GAO comments supplementing those in the report text appear at the 

end of this appendix.



United States Department of State Washington, D.C.	20520:



Feb 25	2003:



Dear Ms. Westin:



We appreciate the opportunity to review your draft report, “OVERSEAS 

PRESENCE: Pightsizing Framework Can Be Applied at Diplomatic Posts in 

Developing Countries,” GAO-03-396, GAO Job Code 320125.



The enclosed Department of State comments are provided for 

incorporation with this letter as an appendix to the final report.



If you have any questions concerning this response, please contact Jay 

Anania, Office of Management Policy at:



Sincerely,



Christopher B. Burnham

Assistant Secretary and Chief Financial Officer:



Signed by Christopher B. Burnham:



Enclosure:



As stated.



cc: GAO/IAT - John Brummet State/OIG - Mr. Atkins State/M/P - Mr. Jay 

Anania:



Ms. Susan S. Westin, Managing Director, International Affairs and 

Trade, U.S. General Accounting Office.



Department of State Comments on GAO Draft Report OVERSEAS PRESENCE: 

Rightsizing Framework Can Be Applied at Diplomatic Posts in Developing 

Countries (GAO 03-396, GAO Job Code 320125):



This paper has two parts:



1. The Department of State’s comments for insertion in “Agency 

Comments” on page 12 of the GAO report.



2. Requested changes to the report.



Department of State Comments on GAO Draft Report OVERSEAS PRESENCE: 

Rightsizing Framework Can Be Applied at Diplomatic Posts in Developing 

Countries (GAO 03-396, GAO Job Code 320125):



These Department of State comments repeat and expand upon those the 

Department gave to GAO for the previous report OVERSEAS PRESENCE: 

Framework for Assessing Embassy Staff Levels Can Support Ri ghtsizing 

Initiatives (GAO-02-780), July 2002.



The Department of State welcomes GAO’s work on developing a rightsizing 

framework. GAO’s questions lay out a common-sense approach that asks 

the kinds of questions Chiefs of Mission (COMs) and other decision-

makers have always routinely addressed through formal and informal 

processes when considering staffing issues. In the FY 2005 Mission 

Performance Plan process, State has addressed many of the issues raised 

in the GAO rightsizing questions. These reflected MPP policy priorities 

and the management requirements to support them, including assessments 

and justifications for staffing and resource levels. The aim is to 

determine and plan for the necessary staffing and resources to support 

agency international affairs programs and strategic objectives, with 

State’s overseas missions serving as the platform for numerous USG 

agencies with overseas presence.



The GAO rightsizing questions provide a good foundation for State to 

proceed to work with OMB and other agencies to improve the process for 

determining overseas staffing levels. A number of the points raised in 

the report, however, do not adequately reflect the current state of the 

Department’s planning; some suggestions on assessing costs and 

priorities are already being undertaken.



We endorse GAO’s definition of rightsizing:



Rightsizing [is] 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 at a given embassy or consulate.



GAO lists the three elements of its rightsizing framework in an 

unprioritized order of Security - Mission - Cost. We strongly believe 

that the first priority is without question Mission. The first question 

that must be answered before all others is whether the United States 

has a compelling reason to be in a particular location. If the answer 

is “Yes,” then it may be necessary to place personnel there, even in 

the face of serious security concerns or excessive costs (e.g., the 

opening of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan). If the answer is 

“No,” the question of whether personnel can be securely or economically 

located there is irrelevant.



Rationalizing the U.S. Government’s overseas presence - an objective of 

successive Administrations since the 1960s - is no easy task. Past 

efforts to develop an interagency staffing methodology have not 

succeeded. The 1999 Overseas Presence Advisory Panel:



(OPAP), for example, did not develop such a methodology, even though 

its original charter charged it with “preparing a report recommending 

the criteria by which [the USG] might determine the location, size, and 

composition of overseas posts in the coming decade.”:



It has been a long-standing policy of successive Administrations to 

maintain lean overseas staffing for reasons of foreign policy, 

security, and economy. President Bush’s letter of instruction to chiefs 

of mission (COMs) echoes those of his predecessors:



Every executive branch agency under your authority must obtain your 

approval before changing the size, composition, or mandate of its staff 

regardless of the employment category (or where located in your country 

of assignment). I ask that you review programs, personnel, and funding 

levels regularly, and ensure that all agencies attached to your Mission 

do likewise. Functions that can be performed by personnel based in the 

United States or at regional offices overseas should not be performed 

at post.



The Department of State’s diplomatic and consular posts serve as the 

platform for many agencies. They are a critical factor in the success 

of other agencies’ initiatives, both joint and non joint with State. 

The emphasis on security enhancement measures and improvements (rather 

than a reduction in staff) may enable us to reduce security threats 

while at the same time effectively achieving our policy priorities.



GAO posits that there is “the need for the State Department and other 

agencies to establish a systematic process for determining their 

overseas staffing levels.” This implies that there is a problem of 

explosive growth in overseas staffing that needs to be reined in, and 

that agencies assign staffing overseas without carefully considering 

the elements of mission, security, and cost. In fact, the number of 

American direct hire positions under the authority of Chiefs of Mission 

at the end of FY 2002 stood at about 19,000, essentially the same level 

as it did in FY 1995, and smaller than at its 1966 peak of 42,000. 

(Since at least the 1950s, the Department of State has represented a 

third or less of all American staffing in U.S. diplomatic posts.) This 

level staffing is remarkable because it reflects ongoing rightsizing in 

the redirection of resources by traditional foreign affairs agencies 

(e.g., State, Defense, USAID, Commerce) to meet new challenges and a 

growing presence by traditionally domestic agencies (e.g., Justice and 

Treasury) to reflect national priorities such as combating terrorism.



The Department of State cannot speak for other agencies’ processes for 

determining overseas staffing levels. We believe, however, that the GAO 

report would have benefited from a discussion of State’s Overseas 

Staffing Model (OSM), which the Department has used for years to assess 

its own overseas staffing needs. The OSM was completed in 1996 and has 

been run three times since then. It provides an objective, flexible 

tool to measure what resources are needed to meet the President’s and 

the Secretary’s foreign policy priorities and objectives. The OSM 

provides Department management with an analytical tool to rationally 

allocate full-time permanent American personnel resources worldwide in 

line with the Administration’s foreign policy objectives, the 

International Affairs Strategic Goals, and Department priorities.

IT also allows the Department to assess resources needed to meet 

legislated mandates and 

to fulfill our responsibilities to support the full USG presence 

overseas. This model, made up of seven components, identifies the 

staffing requirements at overseas posts, based on specific categories 

and criteria, and provides a comparative assessment of posts. It 

evaluates each post rationally using key workload and host country 

environmental factors.



In addition, current procedures for implementing NSDD 38 require 

agencies proposing changes in the size, composition, or mandate of 

their staffs to consider the policy to maintain lean overseas staffing; 

Mission Performance Plan goals; alternative staffing arrangements; and 

security, cost, and administrative support implications. (The 

Department’s standard NSDD 38 cable is attached for reference.):



With respect to cost of operations, the interagency MPP teams link 

resources to desired service levels. Synchronization with the 

International Cooperative Administrative Services Support (ICASS) 

forward planning process also serves as an additional mechanism for 

assessing operating costs and their distribution for each agency. ICASS 

is the shared administrative support system through which more than 250 

U.S. government entities at our overseas posts obtain essential 

services and share costs of operating facilities and services. ICASS’s 

cost distribution system ensures that a more comprehensive estimate of 

the cost of each agency’s presence overseas is reflected in that 

agency’s budget.



State continues to work toward implementation of appropriate 

rightsizing measures and improved embassy security. State plans to 

incorporate additional elements of the GAO embassy rightsizing 

questions, currently being developed, for the future MPP and BPP 

processes. We look forward to continuing to work with GAO and the 

Office of Management and Budget on rightsizing.



See comment 1.



See comment 2.



See comment 3.



See comment 4.



See comment 5.



The following are GAO’s comments on the Department of State’s letter 

dated February 25, 2003.



GAO’s Comments:



1. We did not set priorities for the elements in the framework that 

appear 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.



[End of section]



FOOTNOTES



[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. 



[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.



[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).



[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.



[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. 



[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] U.S. Department of State, America’s Overseas Presence in the 21ST 

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.



[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. 



[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. 



[20] 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.



[21] 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.



[22] 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). 



[23] 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.







[24] 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.



[25] 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.



GAO’s Mission:



The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of 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.



Obtaining Copies of GAO Reports and Testimony:



The fastest and easiest way to obtain copies of GAO documents at no 

cost is through the Internet. GAO’s Web site ( www.gao.gov ) contains 

abstracts and full-text files of current reports and testimony and an 

expanding archive of older products. The Web site features a search 

engine to help you locate documents using key words and phrases. You 

can print these documents in their entirety, including charts and other 

graphics.



Each day, GAO issues a list of newly released reports, testimony, and 

correspondence. GAO posts this list, known as “Today’s Reports,” on its 

Web site daily. The list contains links to the full-text document 

files. To have GAO e-mail this list to you every afternoon, go to 

www.gao.gov and select “Subscribe to daily E-mail alert for newly 

released products” under the GAO Reports heading.



Order by Mail or Phone:



The first copy of each printed report is free. Additional copies are $2 

each. A check or money order should be made out to the Superintendent 

of Documents. GAO also accepts VISA and Mastercard. Orders for 100 or 

more copies mailed to a single address are discounted 25 percent. 

Orders should be sent to:



U.S. General Accounting Office



441 G Street NW,



Room LM Washington,



D.C. 20548:



To order by Phone: 	



	Voice: (202) 512-6000:



	TDD: (202) 512-2537:



	Fax: (202) 512-6061:



To Report Fraud, Waste, and Abuse in Federal Programs:



Contact:



Web site: www.gao.gov/fraudnet/fraudnet.htm E-mail: fraudnet@gao.gov



Automated answering system: (800) 424-5454 or (202) 512-7470:



Public Affairs:



Jeff Nelligan, managing director, NelliganJ@gao.gov (202) 512-4800 U.S.



General Accounting Office, 441 G Street NW, Room 7149 Washington, D.C.



20548: