State Department:

Management Weaknesses in the Security Construction Program

NSIAD-92-2: Published: Nov 29, 1991. Publicly Released: Jan 7, 1992.

Additional Materials:


Joseph E. Kelley
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the factors that have contributed to the delays and cost increases in the Diplomatic Security Construction Program, focusing on the: (1) extent of the delays and cost increases and the reasons for them; and (2) adequacy of the State Department's management of the program.

GAO found that: (1) although State reorganized its Office of Foreign Buildings Operations (FBO), contracted for construction support services, and authorized FBO to add 133 new staff positions at the beginning of the Diplomatic Security Construction Program, it made only limited progress in implementing the program and did not have reasonable assurance that its security construction program objectives were being met; (2) as of September 1991, of 57 projects planned, only 7 had been completed, 8 were under construction, 14 were in site acquisition, under design, or out for architectural and engineering selection, and 28 were on hold, deferred, or cancelled; (3) such factors as difficulties in filling authorized FBO staff positions, the division of responsibility between FBO and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security for construction security management, poor program planning, difficulties in site acquisition, changes in security requirements, and inadequate contractor performance have contributed to program delays and cost increases; (4) although funding limitations have also contributed to State's inability to implement as many projects as it originally planned, the scope and magnitude of project delays and cost increases indicate systemic weaknesses in program management; and (5) to help improve security construction, State has given FBO full responsibility for implementing security policy and standards during construction, requested additional staff positions for FBO, and initiated other actions to improve construction programs.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FBO now requires periodic evaluations to be included in contract files. FBO also requires that a contractor's past performance be included in a written responsibility determination to be prepared before award of contracts in excess of $25,000.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should develop a system that: (1) documents the extent contractor performance appraisals are conducted by FBO consistent with its current policy; and (2) ensures performance appraisals are considered as a part of contractor responsibility determinations.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State agreed that corrective actions are needed. FBO has revised its 5-year operations plan. In 1991, State standardized criteria for judging new construction projects to focus on security, affordability, life safety, operational adequacy, foreign policy, and success potential. Using this criteria, State reassessed each project of the 5-year plan. State also revised post security standards.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should revise the FBO 5-year operations plan to identify: (1) the criteria used for establishing construction project priorities; (2) how security threats affect priorities; and (3) any adjustments in capital construction budget requirements that may result from the adoption of security standards based on threat.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State agreed in principle with the recommendation, but due to limited resources, did not develop master facility plans for each post. State said it will prepare full facility plans for those posts which need them. However, State did not identify the criteria for determining which posts would require full facility plans.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should accelerate the FBO post-master planning process to ensure that the most cost-effective options for meeting post needs are considered as part of State's long-range plans.

    Agency Affected: Department of State


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