Fundamental Changes Needed To Achieve Shared Support Services for Federal Agencies Overseas

ID-81-37: Published: Apr 29, 1981. Publicly Released: May 29, 1981.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

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

The State Department offers support services, such as security, housing, and motor pools to most Federal agencies overseas on a reimbursable basis. At some posts, service organizations are jointly staffed by the State Department and other agencies. In 1976, the State Department established the Foreign Affairs Administrative Support System (FAAS) which provides for charging other agencies only for the incremental support costs incurred because of their presence overseas.

While the State Department provided some services on a reimbursable basis at the posts GAO visited, many agencies had developed extensive duplicate capabilities. Requiring all agencies to combine administrative capabilities could reduce duplication. However, no requirement exists for agencies to consolidate and, as a result, sharing remains largely voluntary and varies from post to post. The lack of independence of the administrative support function is perceived as a problem by the agencies because the State Department both provides and uses these services. The most commonly duplicated services are motor pools and personnel management systems. At posts located within reasonable proximity of Department of Defense (DOD) activities, GAO found potential for some consolidation of similar administrative functions. The State Department's approach to establishing charges to agencies for administrative support is unacceptable, because it bases charges on estimated rather than actual costs. The problems identified should be considered in the Department's current redesign of its accounting system. The FAAS is complicated and not adequately documented, allocation principles are applied inconsistently from post to post.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should task the Secretaries of State and Defense to identify those posts which are located within reasonable proximity of DOD activities and to determine which administrative support activities should be shared.

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should establish a policy of mandatory consolidation of most administrative support for those agencies under the jurisdiction of an ambassador abroad.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should establish department and post level training programs to achieve a consistent, accurate, and adequate understanding of the overseas administrative support program and the FAAS system by State Department and other agency personnel.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should ensure that charges for administrative support are established on actual rather than estimated costs as the redesign of the State Department's accounting system continues.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  3. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should include the development of documentation describing the FAAS system in the redesign of the accounting system.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  4. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should submit the accounting system, which includes the FAAS system, to GAO for formal approval as required.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  5. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should develop and implement a program to enhance the selection, development, and placement of personnel within the administrative function. Such a program should include as a minimum the identification of (1) administration as an area of expertise which requires special skills; (2) appropriate selection criteria which reflect a need for the identified skills; (3) internal and external training programs which will aid in developing and maintaining the ability to satisfactorily provide administrative services; (4) critical experience and training requirements for placement in the various administrative positions at overseas posts.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Sep 20, 2016

Sep 6, 2016

Aug 19, 2016

Aug 12, 2016

Jul 29, 2016

Jul 28, 2016

Jul 13, 2016

Jul 11, 2016

Jun 13, 2016

Looking for more? Browse all our products here