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Department of State: Additional Steps Are Needed to Improve Strategic Planning and Evaluation of Training for State Personnel

GAO-11-438T Published: Mar 08, 2011. Publicly Released: Mar 08, 2011.
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This testimony discusses the U.S. Department of State's (State) efforts to train its personnel. It is based on our report, which is being released today. Because State is the lead U.S. foreign affairs agency, its personnel require certain knowledge, skills, and abilities to equip them to address the global security threats and challenges facing the United States--including the threat of Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations, HIV/AIDS and other pandemics, environmental degradation, nuclear proliferation, and failed states. In fiscal years 2006 through 2010, State's funding for training personnel grew by about 62 percent, and the department requested more than $266 million in fiscal year 2011 for programs providing training in professional skills such as foreign language proficiency, area studies, information technology, consular duties, and others needed for the conduct of foreign relations. State's Foreign Service Institute (FSI) is the primary training provider for the department's more than 66,000 Foreign Service, civil service, and locally employed staff worldwide. Our prior work has identified staffing and foreign language shortfalls at State, including challenges the department has faced in filling positions at the mid-level in particular, and in attracting qualified personnel for some hardship posts. The department is currently in the midst of what it has called the most challenging military-to-civilian transition in U.S. history in Iraq, one of the posts of greatest hardship where State personnel serve. Recent departmental initiatives--in particular, "Diplomacy 3.0," a multiyear effort launched in March 2009 with a primary aim of increasing the size of State's Foreign Service by 25 percent and the civil service by 13 percent--have underscored the importance of training to equip personnel to fulfill State's leadership role in world affairs and to advance and defend U.S. interests abroad. Today's testimony will discuss State's purpose and structure for training personnel, including leadership, management, professional, and area studies training, contributing to diplomatic readiness of State's Foreign Service and civil service personnel and locally employed staff overseas. It will also discuss the extent to which State's personnel training incorporates elements of effective federal training programs.

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Agency missionsCivil serviceCost analysisData collectionEducation program evaluationEmployee trainingEvaluationForeign languagesGovernment employeesHuman capitalHuman capital managementHuman capital planningInformation accessInformation disclosureInternational relationsKnowledge, skills and abilitiesMonitoringNeeds assessmentPerformance appraisalPerformance measuresPolicy evaluationProgram evaluationStrategic planningTraining utilizationProgram implementation