Personnel Management Issues in the Foreign Commercial Service

T-NSIAD-87-12: Published: Mar 11, 1987. Publicly Released: Mar 11, 1987.

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GAO testified on United States and Foreign Commercial Service (USFCS) personnel management issues. GAO found that USFCS: (1) did not adequately document selection decisions involving the use of limited appointees, particularly where it selected non-career individuals in lieu of career individuals; (2) had weaknesses in its selection process for choosing personnel for overseas assignments, particularly regarding assignment of personnel to posts either above or below their ranks, placement of personnel not interested in an assignment on the list of competitors for the position, and assignment of personnel to undesirable posts as a means of punishment; (3) had irregularities in its performance appraisal system and lacked openness in its promotion process; and (4) experienced problems in the management of its time-in-class system. GAO believed that the problems with the USFCS personnel system resulted from the concentration of authority with the Director General and the Director of the Office of Foreign Service Personnel, rather than in the system itself, and from the lack of departmental oversight. GAO noted that USFCS had not established a formal assignment appeal process, as Department of Commerce regulations required, which could increase morale and add credibility to the assignment process. GAO concluded that USFCS should create an in-house management and program review unit to perform audits so that it can: (1) confirm the validity of its statistics; (2) make informed decisions regarding budget cuts; and (3) identify savings to partially offset costs.

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