The Department of State Has Continuing Problems in Managing Real Estate Overseas

ID-78-16: Published: Jul 12, 1978. Publicly Released: Jul 12, 1978.

Additional Materials:


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

The Department of State's Office of Foreign Buildings is responsible for acquiring, constructing, selling, maintaining, and operating about $3 billion worth of government-owned and leased properties in 215 cities and 135 countries.

The overseas construction program is not effective because of a lack of reliable, long-range planning; poor cost estimating; external pressures; and insufficient technical personnel. Management of employee housing is fragmented and lacks adequate criteria, centralized review, and a uniform policy. This results in higher costs because employees are provided with housing that exceeds space standards and living quarters allowances. Properties are not properly maintained and managed because of a lack of qualified personnel to make inspections, weak maintenance criteria, and deficient information used by managers. In spite of plans to establish a real property management information system, the Office had not established a reliable system 8 years after GAO expressed concerns on this subject. It is estimated that it will be least 5 more years before such a system is operational. A recent appointment of a new Office of Foreign Buildings' Director offers the opportunity for improved management.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should: (1) assign to the Office the responsibility for developing real estate plans and criteria for determining whether ownership or leasing arrangements best satisfy requirements; (2) ask Congress for full funding to cover a project site, design, and construction; (3) issue a directive that changes not be made to buildings plans and projects after they have been approved; (4) encourage the establishment of overseas regional offices; (5) centralize funding and control of overseas housing; (6) develop uniform criteria for reviewing leases; (7) review leases to ensure compliance with space criteria and standards; (8) develop training programs; (9) develop cost-benefit analyses to support the Capital Fund concept; (10) establish maintenance criteria and procedures; (11) direct posts to submit required information; (12) ensure adequate Office management staffing; (13) have real estate matters at posts assigned to the General Services Officer; (14) have missions establish a simple cost accounting system until an automated system is operational; and (15) require documentation of architect selection. The Director of the Office should require the use of current data in developing cost estimates.

    Agency Affected:


Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Feb 8, 2018

Feb 6, 2018

Dec 21, 2017

Dec 7, 2017

Nov 20, 2017

Oct 26, 2017

Oct 23, 2017

Jun 22, 2017

May 30, 2017

May 18, 2017

Looking for more? Browse all our products here