State Department:

Progress and Challenges in Managing for Results

T-NSIAD/AIMD-00-254: Published: Jul 19, 2000. Publicly Released: Jul 19, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the Department of State's progress in addressing the challenges it faces in its efforts to achieve a more secure, efficient, and effective network of operations.

GAO noted that: (1) GAO's evaluations showed that although State's strategic and performance plans had their strong points, they only partially met the requirements of the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act; (2) State's strategic plan defined U.S. interests and clarified U.S. foreign policy goals, and its annual performance plan for fiscal year 2000 showed improvement over the prior year's plan in linking strategies and measures to its goals; (3) in light of the potential for terrorism by groups opposed to U.S. interests, enhancing the security of embassies and consulates might well be the most significant challenge facing State; (4) however, State faces many challenges to its goals in this area; (5) State has made progress in implementing certain security upgrades, such as surveillance detection programs and providing armored vehicles, but because of the scope of the program, many facilities are awaiting enhancements, including barriers, walls, and other safeguards; (6) another key challenge for State is to rightsize its overseas presence; (7) GAO has suggested that State explore the potential for regionalizing certain functions and making greater use of technology and outsourcing to achieve efficiencies and improve performance; (8) State's Overseas Presence Advisory Panel issued a report calling for changes in the size, composition, and management of the U.S. overseas presence; (9) in addition to rightsizing, State is considering options identified by the panel to improve information technology and management of capital facilities; (10) State has made many improvements in its information and financial management systems but faces continuing challenges in working with U.S. agencies operating overseas to standardize information technology capabilities and to correct weaknesses in its information security and financial management systems; (11) State was able to successfully meet year 2000 challenges and has received unqualified opinions on its financial management statements for fiscal years 1997, 1998, and 1999; (12) however, devising a common technology solution that would permit electronic communication between agencies overseas and improve the productivity and effectiveness of overseas staff remains a formidable task; and (13) GAO's evaluations of State's computer networks and assessments by State's Inspector General also point to the continued need for State to assess its controls over sensitive information.

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