Overseas Presence:

Framework for Assessing Embassy Staff Levels Can Support Rightsizing Initiatives

GAO-02-780: Published: Jul 26, 2002. Publicly Released: Jul 26, 2002.

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There have been recurring calls to evaluate and realign, or "rightsize," the number and location of staff at U.S. embassies and consulates and to consider staff reductions to reduce security vulnerabilities. The Office of Management and Budget is implementing this rightsizing initiative by analyzing the U.S. overseas presence and reviewing the staffing allocation process. This report uses a systematic approach to assess overseas workforce size and identifying options for rightsizing, both at the embassy level and for making related decisions worldwide. GAO's framework links staffing levels to the following three critical elements of overseas diplomatic operations: (1) physical/technical security of facilities and employees, (2) mission priorities and requirements, and (3) cost of operations. Unlike an analysis that considers the elements in isolation, GAO's rightsizing framework encourages consideration of a full range of options, along with the security, mission, and cost trade-offs. Policy makers could use this information to decide whether to add, reduce, or change the staff mix at an embassy.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: 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 the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) 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" where "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 20 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.

    Recommendation: To facilitate the use of a common set of criteria for making staff assessments and adjustments at overseas posts and encourage decision makers to consider security, mission priorities and requirements, and costs, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget should ensure that GAO's framework is used as a basis for assessing staffing levels in the administration's rightsizing initiative, starting with its assessment of staffing levels and rightsizing options at U.S. embassies in Europe and Eurasia.

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

 

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