Problems Hamper Foreign Commercial Service's Progress

ID-83-10: Published: Oct 18, 1982. Publicly Released: Oct 18, 1982.

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GAO reported on problems resulting from the transfer of authority for commercial work from the Department of State to the Department of Commerce, which created the Foreign Commercial Service (FCS).

GAO reviewed FCS operations in Washington, D.C., and overseas and found that numerous resource and policy problems have caused uneven progress toward the revitalization of commercial work overseas. Because of prolonged negotiations with State on the budget transfer and the perceived unreliability of State's budget figures, FCS began operations with serious monetary and staffing problems. GAO found deficiencies in FCS headquarters staff management, recruitment, training, and placement programs. Commercial staffs either lack the necessary independence from the embassies' economic sections to control their work assignments or, where there is sufficient independence, poor coordination between the commercial and economic sections resulted in inadequate reporting. GAO also found that the overseas staffs continue to concentrate on planning and administrative work and to neglect the active promotion of exports.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

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

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of State and Commerce should direct Ambassadors at FCS posts to: (1) fully abide by pertinent provisions of the State-Commerce Memorandum of Understanding and accompanying codicil, so that supervision or authority over commercial activities overseas is not delegated below the Deputy Chief of Mission level; and (2) require regular staff meetings, at all levels, between the economic sections and FCS and joint distribution of economic and commercially related cable traffic. This will ensure FCS the necessary level of independence and provide for an adequate interchange of information between FCS and the economic sections.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

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

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of State and Commerce should direct Ambassadors at FCS posts to: (1) fully abide by pertinent provisions of the State-Commerce Memorandum of Understanding and accompanying codicil, so that supervision or authority over commercial activities overseas is not delegated below the Deputy Chief of Mission level; and (2) require regular staff meetings, at all levels, between the economic sections and FCS and joint distribution of economic and commercially related cable traffic. This will ensure FCS the necessary level of independence and provide for an adequate interchange of information between FCS and the economic sections.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

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

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should direct the Under Secretary for International Trade to reduce the level of detail required in the Post Commercial Action Plans in order to improve the post commercial planning process and decrease the administrative burden placed on the officers overseas.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

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

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should direct the Assistant Secretary for Trade Development, in conjunction with the Director General of the Commercial Services, to drop the World Traders Data Report program in those countries for which there are suitable alternatives.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

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

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should direct the Assistant Secretary for Trade Development, in conjunction with the Director General of the Commercial Services, to change the Agent/Distributor Service routing system to route requests directly between the district offices and overseas posts, with an information copy of all such correspondence being sent to Commerce headquarters.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

 

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