U.S. Department of Agriculture:

Foreign Agriculture Service Could Benefit from Better Strategic Planning

GGD-95-225: Published: Sep 28, 1995. Publicly Released: Sep 28, 1995.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Benjamin F. Nelson
(202) 512-4128
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) to determine if FAS uses its resources in the most effective manner to accomplish its mission.

GAO found that: (1) FAS long-term agricultural trade strategy (LATS) and country marketing plans lack the specificity and measurable goals that are necessary to establish priorities and allocate resources efficiently and effectively; (2) FAS decisions concerning its overseas offices and its overall workforce could be done on a more systematic basis and thus enhance the probability of meeting FAS priority objectives; (3) FAS lack of strategic planning has hindered its ability to consider other options that may produce more favorable outcomes in meeting its strategic objectives; (4) FAS foreign service officers devote a considerable portion of their time to commodity reporting without the benefit of clear strategic priorities to guide their efforts; and (5) FAS should pursue potential opportunities to reduce and eliminate reporting that does not efficiently contribute to its strategic priorities.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On October 25, 1995, USDA/FAS updated and revised its Long Term Agricultural Trade Strategy in a manner generally responsive to the thrust of GAO's recommendation. It plans to make additional revisions in the strategic plan consistent with GAO's report recommendations.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FAS, to ensure that the strategic plan under development as well as the revised LATS and country marketing plans better reflect the criteria discussed in this report, including differentiation among priorities and appropriate measures for gauging progress and ensuring accountability.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On October 25, 1995, USDA/FAS issued a revised Long-Term Agricultural Trade Strategy that is generally responsive to GAO's recommendation. Further revisions responsive to GAO's recommendation are anticipated.

    Recommendation: To more effectively and efficiently use resources to help increase U.S. agricultural exports, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FAS, to devise and implement a strategy to better ensure that decisions on locations of overseas offices involve consideration of options derived from a systemic as well as a local circumstance perspective. An element of such a strategy would be an assessment of the cost effectiveness of the locations of overseas offices.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: An FAS Task Force on FAS Personnel Systems has made a number of recommendations responsive to GAO's report recommendation, including a revision of its 50-percent overseas rotation policy for foreign agricultural attaches. FAS has begun to implement these recommendations, the majority of which are consistent with GAO's recommendation.

    Recommendation: To more effectively and efficiently use resources to help increase U.S. agricultural exports, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FAS, to reevaluate FAS workforce capacity needs for both the foreign service cadre and other workforce components. An essential part of this reevaluation would be a reassessment of the 50-percent rotation policy with a view toward increasing the amount of time that foreign service officers serve overseas.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FAS completed an internal review of its commodity reporting systems, which has resulted in a number of management decisions consistent with the thrust of GAO's recommendation. Additional commodity reporting reforms are anticipated.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FAS, to ensure that its commodity reporting system contributes to FAS strategic priorities. In doing so, the Administrator should ensure that commodity reports meet the needs of external and internal users and do not unnecessarily duplicate information available from other sources.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Oct 29, 2014

Oct 20, 2014

Sep 8, 2014

Aug 7, 2014

Jul 29, 2014

Apr 30, 2014

Mar 26, 2014

Mar 5, 2014

Oct 17, 2013

Sep 4, 2013

Looking for more? Browse all our products here