During the 1990s, the State Department lost more people than it hired. The resultant shortfalls in the number and skills of Foreign Service officers have endangered U.S. diplomatic readiness. Furthermore, recent studies, including several by GAO, have questioned whether State's recruitment system identifies people with the appropriate skills and whether State is assigning officers with specialized skills, such as the ability to speak a difficult language, to positions where they can be utilized. GAO was asked to review State's processes for determining the number and skills of junior officers the department needs and to determine whether it is hiring and assigning officers with the general skills to carry out foreign policy overseas. GAO was also asked to examine the challenges State still needs to address, especially regarding officers' foreign language skills.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of State||1. The Secretary of State should collect and maintain data on the effectiveness of State's efforts to address language gaps. State should use these data to, among other things, report on filling such gaps through its outreach efforts to recruit more junior officers with hard language skills and its pilot programs to increase training in hard-to-learn languages for junior officers.|
|Department of State||2. State should also explore additional opportunities to maximize assignment of junior officers who have skills in these languages to overseas posts where they can use these languages.|