International 1

International affairs: Overseas Administrative Services (2012-20)

U.S. government agencies could lower the administrative cost of their operations overseas by increasing participation in the International Cooperative Administrative Support Services system and by reducing reliance on American officials overseas to provide these services.

Year Identified: 2012
Area Number: 20
Area Type: Fragmentation, Overlap & Duplication

Actions

Action 1
Not Addressed

To contain costs and reduce duplication of administrative support services overseas, Congress may wish to consider requiring agencies to participate in International Cooperative Administrative Support Services (ICASS) unless they provide a business case to show that they can obtain these services outside of ICASS without increasing overall costs to the U.S. government or that their mission cannot be achieved within ICASS.

Type
Congressional
Last Updated
March 31, 2020
Progress:

As of March 2020, no legislative action has been identified. Congress has not required agencies to participate in ICASS absent a business case that shows that they can obtain services outside ICASS without additional cost to the U.S. government, as GAO suggested in January 2012. In January 2014, the joint explanatory statement regarding the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014, included a direction that the Secretary of State develop, in coordination with the ICASS Service Center and participating agencies, an efficient process by which an agency participating in the ICASS program provides a cost analysis and justification for the agency's decision to opt out of any ICASS services. However, this direction does not require agencies to participate in ICASS absent such a justification. Action on this matter is important because continued duplication of administrative services limits ICASS's ability to achieve economies of scale and deliver services more efficiently.

Implementing Entity:
Congress
Action 2
Addressed

To contain costs and reduce duplication of administrative support services overseas, the Secretary of State should increase the cost-effectiveness of International Cooperative Administrative Support Services (ICASS) by continuing to reengineer administrative processes and seek innovative managerial approaches, including those that would reduce the reliance on American officials overseas to provide these services.

Type
Executive Branch
Last Updated
March 6, 2014
Progress:

The Department of State (State) has taken several steps to increase the cost-effectiveness of ICASS services, as GAO suggested in January 2012. For example, State adopted a common furniture pool policy in 2012, which allowed for greater consolidation, reducing or eliminating warehouse facilities at six posts abroad, according to State officials. In addition, State officials indicated that State has contained the number of American and locally employed service providers at high-threat posts in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan—where services are more expensive than at other posts within the region—by expanding regional support models to provide administrative services from less expensive posts in the region or in the United States. Specific examples include a unit created to provide administrative services for personnel in Iraq from Amman, Jordan, and providing some information technology support services to the U.S. Mission to Afghanistan remotely from the U.S. Mission in New Delhi, India. Finally, State continues to improve its processes through an ongoing initiative that involves reviewing the levels of transactions and customer feedback for services, according to State officials. To date, State has recalibrated 10 service standards—or criteria for effectively delivering services—for the four service areas that represent the most highly requested services in the field based on data collected over the last 4 years. State officials indicated that these efforts are intended to ensure maximum transparency to users regarding ICASS services, increasing customer satisfaction and cost-effectiveness.

Implementing Entity:
Department of State
Action 3
Addressed

Where agencies are able to demonstrate, through a compelling business case, that they can provide a service more efficiently than the existing Department of State (State) International Cooperative Administrative Support Services (ICASS) provider without adverse effects on the overall government budget, the Secretary of State and the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) should allow the creation of new ICASS service providers, in lieu of State, that could provide administrative services to the other agencies at individual posts.

Type
Executive Branch
Last Updated
March 31, 2020
Progress:

In February 2012, State and USAID released guidance providing direction to posts considering establishing alternate service providers for administrative services, as GAO recommended in January 2012. According to this guidance, USAID may provide administrative services in place of State where the model can be demonstrated to achieve savings to the U.S. government and provide superior levels of customer satisfaction. Furthermore, in April 2012, State issued a cable to all posts endorsing the creation of alternate service providers where appropriate, consistent with GAO's recommendation. By formally allowing alternate service providers, agencies can more easily capitalize on opportunities to achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness in providing administrative services that can benefit all agencies operating overseas.

Implementing Entity:
Department of State
U.S. Agency for International Development
GAO Contacts