The State Department represents U.S. interests abroad and implements U.S. foreign policy. For example, it provides passport and visa services, and provides emergency assistance to U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents abroad (such as emergency evacuation to the United States). It also maintains overseas buildings and other properties used to house U.S. Embassy and Consular missions, and manages billions of dollars in foreign assistance.
However, State could face challenges in keeping up with these services and activities.
According to the State Department, natural hazards—including those intensified by climate change, such as flooding or extreme wind—threaten more than 290 of its overseas posts, including embassies and consulates. State is analyzing risks and working to make its facilities more resilient to natural hazards. But officials said they don't have the staff to carry out all of their planned efforts.
Flooding of the US. Embassy Compound in Manila, Philippines in August 2022
The State Department provides passport and visa services to millions of Americans and foreign nationals. From FY 2013-19, passport and visa user fees fully funded these consular operations. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, revenues dropped and State officials said that fee revenue may not return to pre-pandemic levels for several years. State has some options to address the decline in consular fee revenue, including increasing fees and reducing spending.
The State Department brought home more than 100,000 U.S. citizens and permanent residents from 137 countries during the first 6 months of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, despite acting quickly to assist Americans abroad, State didn't follow some of its own policies nor did it have the guidance it needed for certain aspects of the effort. For example, State couldn't show that the prices it charged passengers for some chartered flights complied with its fare policy.
More than a quarter of the State Department's overseas buildings and other properties are in need of maintenance, including almost 400 buildings and other assets that State considers critical to its mission. However, it has a $3 billion deferred maintenance backlog that would take 30-40 years to complete at current funding levels.
State helps manage tens of billions of dollars in foreign assistance annually, and is required to submit reports to Congress detailing how these funds are spent. However, the State Department’s reports were chronically late between FYs 2015-2018.