Priority Open Recommendations: Department of State

GAO-19-420SP Published: Apr 05, 2019. Publicly Released: Apr 12, 2019.
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Fast Facts

Each year, we make more than 1,000 recommendations to help improve the federal government. We alert department heads to the recommendations where they can save the most money, address issues on our High Risk List, or significantly improve government operations.

This report outlines our 18 priority open recommendations for the Department of State as of April 2019.

For example, in September 2017, we recommended that State take steps to improve its administration of hardship pay and its ability to identify and recover payments made in error.

Since our previous letter in February 2018, State implemented 10 of our priority recommendations.


Graphic showing that this report discusses GAO's 2019 priority recommendations for the Department of State

Graphic showing that this report discusses GAO's 2019 priority recommendations for the Department of State

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What GAO Found

In February 2018, GAO identified 20 priority recommendations for the Department of State (State). Since then, State has implemented 10 of those recommendations, which we believe have enhanced the security and safety of diplomatic personnel and facilities overseas, improved State’s ability to track Antiterrorism Assistance trainees’ outcomes, and mitigated the risk of staff fraud by employees of refugee resettlement support centers, among other things. 

In April 2019, GAO identified 8 additional priority recommendations for State, bringing the total number to 18. These recommendations involve the following areas:

  • improving security of overseas personnel and facilities;  
  • assuring proper vetting for security assistance programs;
  • modernizing outdated information technology systems;
  • ensuring quality of foreign and democracy assistance data and reporting;
  • improving administration of hardship pay and recovery of improper payments; and
  • addressing embassy construction budgetary and planning issues.

State’s continued attention to these areas could lead to significant improvements in government operations.

Why GAO Did This Study

Priority recommendations are open GAO recommendations that warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because their implementation couldsave large amounts of money; improve congressional and/or executive branch decision-making on major issues; eliminate mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or ensure that programs comply with laws and that funds are legally spent, among other benefits. Since 2015 GAO has sent letters to selected agencies to highlight the importance of implementing such recommendations.

For more information, contact Jason Bair at (202) 512-6881 or

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