State Department:

Management of Overseas Real Property Needs Improvement

NSIAD-89-116: Published: Apr 13, 1989. Publicly Released: May 17, 1989.

Additional Materials:


Joseph E. Kelley
(202) 512-4128


Office of Public Affairs
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In response to a congressional request, GAO examined the Department of State's management of U.S.-owned and leased overseas properties, focusing on State's: (1) implementation of its housing standards; (2) building maintenance program; (3) development of a management information system; and (4) procedure for acquiring and disposing of overseas government properties.

GAO found that State: (1) failed to follow its own housing standards when leasing housing units for its overseas personnel; (2) acquired above-standard housing in seven countries it reviewed, which resulted in excess costs; (3) could not justify its use of above-standard housing or its authorization of such housing standards; (4) estimated that it needed about $1 billion to repair neglected and deteriorating overseas housing units; (5) technical personnel had limited experience in real estate activities, and did not give high priority to controlling or enforcing space standards; (6) has not fully implemented its Real Estate Management System (REMS) at most overseas posts, and REMS data were inaccurate and incomplete; and (7) did not develop plans for acquiring and disposing of government-owned properties overseas due to a lack of funds and continuity of assignments.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In conjunction with post budget submissions, each Chief of Mission is now required to certify annually that housing for all agencies has been leased and assigned in accordance with existing regulations and procedures. In addition, the real property manager at each post is required to certify, in writing, that new leases comply with FBO policies.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should vigorously enforce compliance with the procedures concerning space standards for overseas housing.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Because of limited resources, State has not developed long- and short-range asset management plans for each post. In 1991, State contracted for asset management studies at critical posts where there were opportunities to acquire new facilities that met State needs and dispose of assets that did not.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should require the development of long- and short-range plans for the systematic acquisition and disposition of overseas properties.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State designed a standard data reporting format and provided it to all nonautomated posts. These posts are to report on a property-by-property basis. Currently, 37 posts are operating the REMS upgrade, which automated property information on 65 percent of the world-wide inventory. State hopes to have REMS installed at 76 posts by 1996.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should expend the requisite effort to ensure that State has an effective real estate management system that includes current and reliable information for each post on a property-by-property basis. This effort should include: (1) training and follow-up assistance to the over 100 posts that do not have automated REMS; (2) better supervision at all posts to ensure accuracy of the data; and (3) obtaining feedback from posts on how to make the system more useful to them.

    Agency Affected: Department of State


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