The 1998 terrorist attacks on two U.S. embassies in Africa highlighted security deficiencies in diplomatic facilities, leading the Department of State to embark on an estimated $16 billion embassy construction program. The program's key objective is to provide safe, secure, and cost-effective buildings for employees overseas. Given that the size and cost of new facilities are directly related to agencies' anticipated staffing needs, it is imperative that future requirements be projected as accurately as possible. GAO was asked to (1) assess whether State and other federal agencies have adopted a disciplined process for determining future staffing requirements and (2) review cost-sharing proposals for agencies with overseas staff.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of State||1. To ensure that U.S. agencies are conducting systematic staffing projection exercises, the Secretary of State should provide embassies with formal, standard, and comprehensive guidance on developing staffing projections for new embassy compounds. This guidance should address factors to consider when developing projections, encourage embassywide discussions, present potential options for rightsizing and identify important deadlines in the projection process, including planning, funding, and construction time lines.|
|Department of State||2. To ensure continuity in the process, the Secretary of State should require that chiefs of mission maintain documentation on the decision-making process including justifications for these staffing projections.|
|Department of State||3. Finally, the Secretary of State should require all chiefs of mission and geographic bureaus to certify that the projections have been reviewed and vetted before they are submitted to the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations.|