State Department:

Proposed Overseas Housing Standards Not Justified

NSIAD-90-17: Published: Dec 18, 1989. Publicly Released: Jan 26, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the State Department's proposal for revising housing space standards for overseas employees, focusing on the: (1) proposal methodology and data; and (2) proposal's financial impact.

GAO found that: (1) the methodology did not justify using employee rank as a factor in authorizing housing size increases; (2) the housing policy was intended to provide housing comparable to employee residences in the District of Columbia metropolitan area, but revision data did not reflect the District's current housing market, construction standards, or average employee housing size; (3) since State compared proposed space standards with overseas housing which already exceeded current standards, it underestimated the financial impact of the proposed revision; and (4) the proposed standards would increase State housing costs by about $10.9 million, representing a 22-percent increase in overseas living space.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State has completed a survey of State employees living in the Washington, D.C. area, and has drafted proposed standards based partially on the survey.

    Recommendation: If the overseas housing standards are to be based on an employee's grade or rank, the Secretary of State should have a survey done to determine the average size housing that federal employees of different grade levels and family size have in the metropolitan Washington area and ensure that any proposed revision in the overseas standards is derived from this information.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State has instructed all missions to continue the current policy until new standards are adopted. Chiefs of mission are now required to certify annually that housing has been leased in accordance with regulations.

    Recommendation: Until the Department of State can adequately justify a revision in the housing standards, the Secretary of State should direct the responsible officials to enforce the current standards. This means that, when assigning new quarters, those employees who are not entitled to representational or over-standard housing should no longer be granted these residences. The existing standards have sufficient flexibility to accommodate unusual situations on a case-by-case basis.

    Agency Affected: Department of State


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