The State Department and USAID rely on effective workforces, management, and budgetary processes to implement U.S. foreign policy.
Both the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) help implement U.S. foreign policy. Their global workforces (comprised of Foreign Service workers, Civil Service workers, contractors, and local staff) manage tens of billions of dollars in foreign assistance and operations funding annually.
However, both agencies have struggled to ensure that they have highly skilled and diverse workforces that are supported by effective agency reform efforts and budget processes. For example, the State Department has had trouble since 2008 filling Foreign Service staff positions around the world, notably in information management and security. Chronic vacancies increase Foreign Service staff workloads, raise stress, and lower morale.
- Though State and USAID’s workforces have grown more diverse, both agencies continue to face challenges recruiting, retaining, and promoting diverse workers. For instance, racial or ethnic minorities in State’s Civil Service were 4% to 29% less likely to be promoted than their white coworkers with similar education, occupation, or years of federal service. Similarly, racial or ethnic minorities in USAID’s Civil Service were 31% to 41% less likely to be promoted than whites with similar jobs or years of service.
White and Racial/Ethnic Minorities in the State Department’s Civil and Foreign Services
- USAID has undertaken a number of projects to reform its organizational structure, workforce, and programs—with the ultimate goal of helping partner countries become more self-reliant. USAID has generally addressed 9 of the 11 key practices necessary for successful agency reforms, but only partially addressed 2 others. For example, it hasn’t identified outcome-oriented performance measures for all its projects or completed a strategic workforce plan to ensure that it can meet future staffing needs.
- State and USAID manage tens of billions of dollars in foreign assistance annually, and are required to submit reports to Congress detailing how these funds are to be allocated. However, the State Department’s reports were chronically late between FYs 2015-2018.
- USAID obligated $185 billion in FY 2009-2019 appropriations to spend on various projects. Under its policies, USAID tries to spend its money before the end of the next fiscal year following the obligation—spending after that is considered delayed. However, during FYs 2009-2017, as much as $23 billion was delayed. Analyzing delayed spending could help USAID identify excess funds, which could be used for other projects.