Overseas Presence:

Staffing at U.S. Diplomatic Posts

NSIAD-95-50FS: Published: Dec 28, 1994. Publicly Released: Jan 13, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed staffing at U.S. diplomatic posts in about 170 foreign countries, focusing on the size, location, and costs of the U.S. diplomatic presence.

GAO found that staffing data maintained by the State Department show that: (1) the U.S. government employs approximately 37,800 personnel overseas, including about 18,900 U.S. direct-hire and 18,870 foreign national direct-hire personnel; (2) this total does not include large numbers of personnel who are paid directly or indirectly by the U.S. government and involved in U.S. government activities overseas; (3) State and many other agencies contract with U.S. and foreign national personnel for a variety of services; (4) State and other agencies do not have accurate data on the number of contract hires; (5) the size of the U.S. presence in countries varies greatly; (6) the median staffing level for a country is about 100 personnel, 50 U.S. direct hires and 50 foreign service national employees; (7) there are multiple posts in 35 countries; (8) overall, U.S. direct-hire staffing levels have increased by 19 percent over the past 10 years, although the pace of growth has generally slowed in the 1990s; (9) State officials indicated that the data probably understated the number of Defense personnel assigned to diplomatic posts in the mid-1980s and that using this data to depict the overall staffing trend may not accurately portray the growth rate; (10) the staffing growth experienced by nonforeign affairs agencies, which include the Departments of Justice, Treasury, and Transportation, reflects the increasingly global character of their missions; and (11) State's U.S. direct-hire staffing levels have increased slightly but not as much as some other agencies it supports overseas. GAO also found that cost information GAO obtained showed that: (1) in fiscal year 1993, the 10 agencies GAO surveyed spent approximately $1.3 billion for salaries, benefits, and allowances for staff and spent nearly an additional $1.3 billion in associated overseas operating costs; (2) the costs of stationing U.S. government personnel overseas are high; (3) some agencies estimate that it costs roughly two to three times more to keep a person abroad than in Washington; (4) much of the difference is due to compensatory and incentive allowances and benefits, such as the costs for post travel, educational allowance, hardship pay, cost-of-living adjustment, language incentive, rest and recuperation travel, rent, and other expenses; (5) for internal budgeting purposes, the State Department has estimated the cost of allowances and benefits for a new American position overseas at roughly $93,000 in the first year; and (6) adding an average of $60,000 for salary and $75,000 for other operating expenses such as household and office furnishings and security, State has used $228,000 as the estimated cost in the first year to add a new American position overseas.

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