Priority Open Recommendations: Department of State

GAO-21-457PR Published: May 19, 2021. Publicly Released: May 26, 2021.
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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 11 priority open recommendations for the Department of State as of April 2021.

For example, in January 2020, we recommended that State take additional steps to identify diversity issues that could indicate potential barriers to equal opportunity in its workforce.

Since our previous letter in April 2020, State has implemented 3 of our priority recommendations.

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What GAO Found

In April 2020, GAO identified 12 priority recommendations for the Department of State. Since then, State has implemented 3 of those recommendations by, among other things, taking actions to improve embassy construction planning and agency reform efforts.

In May 2021, GAO identified 2 additional priority recommendations for State, bringing the total number to 11. These recommendations involve the following areas:

  • improving the security assistance vetting process;
  • improving data quality;
  • improving workforce management;
  • improving embassy construction planning;
  • improving cybersecurity; 
  • complying with congressional reporting requirements.

State’s continued attention to these issues could lead to significant improvements in its operations.

Why GAO Did This Study

Priority open recommendations are the GAO recommendations that warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because their implementation could save 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 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 Thomas Melito at (202) 512-9601 or

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