Overseas Presence:

Observations on a Rightsizing Framework

GAO-02-659T: Published: May 1, 2002. Publicly Released: May 1, 2002.

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Jess T. Ford
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Rightsizing is the aligning of the number and location of staff assigned to U.S. embassies with foreign policy priorities, security, and other constraints. GAO is developing a framework to enable the executive branch to assess the number and mix of embassy staff. The framework will link staffing levels to the following three critical elements of overseas operations: (1) physical security and real estate, (2) mission priorities and requirements, and (3) operational costs. GAO reviewed policies and practices at the U.S. Embassy in Paris because of its large size and history of rightsizing decisions. GAO found that about 700 employees from 11 agencies work in main buildings at the Paris Embassy. Serious security concerns in at least one embassy building in Paris suggest the need to consider staff reductions unless building security can be improved. Staffing levels are hard to determine because agencies use different criteria and priorities to place staff. The lack of comprehensive cost data on all agencies' operations, which is estimated at more than $100 million annually in France, and the lack of an embassywide budget eliminate the possibility of cost-based decisionmaking on staffing. The number of staff could be reduced, particularly those in support positions, which constitute about one-third of the total. Options include relocating functions to the United States or to regional centers and outsourcing commercial activities.

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