Major Management Challenges and Program Risks:
Department of State
GAO-03-107, Jan 1, 2003
In its 2001 performance and accountability report on the Department of State, GAO identified important issues concerning the security of U.S. facilities and personnel overseas, visa issuance, illicit drugs entering the United States, information security, and other issues facing the department. The information GAO presents in this report is intended to sustain congressional attention and a departmental focus on continuing to make progress in addressing these challenges and ultimately overcoming them. This report is part of a special series of reports on governmentwide and agency-specific issues.
In carrying out its mission of forming, representing, and implementing U.S. foreign policy, the State Department faces complex challenges, some of which have intensified since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. State has made progress in addressing its management challenges over the last 2 years, but further improvements are needed in the following areas: Improving the security and maintenance of U.S. facilities overseas: State has enhanced security at existing facilities but needs to continue to replace many embassies and consulates that are not set back far enough from busy city streets and/or are not sufficiently blast resistant. Strengthening the visa process as an antiterrorism tool: Visa policy and procedures are inconsistent among overseas consular posts, and staff at many posts are inadequately trained. Eliminating the Visa Waiver Program could require increased overseas staffing and facilities. Continuing to rightsize embassy staffing levels: Assessing staffing needs is essential for State to ensure the security and effectiveness of overseas missions and determine the appropriate size and cost of new facilities. To help achieve a rightsized overseas presence, State and the Office of Management and Budget are using a framework proposed by GAO that addresses the mission, security, and costs of overseas posts as well as staffing alternatives. Better managing human capital: Although State has made progress in recruiting new hires, providing leadership and management skills training, planning its workforce needs, correcting foreign language shortfalls, and staffing hardship posts, further improvements are needed. Help to reduce illegal drugs entering the United States: Despite arrests of drug traffickers and seizures of large amounts of drugs, the availability of illicit drugs in the United States has not been materially reduced. Addressing additional challenges to building a high-performing organization: State has worked to enhance information technology and security, strengthen financial management, and improve performance planning. However, challenges remain.
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