State has initiated some efforts to improve its process for identifying future staffing needs; however, it has not made any changes to its process for determining how growth space is allocated in NECs. State has initiated improvements to its position database, developed and refined modeling indices to enhance and refine its rightsizing process, and taken steps to compare actual current staffing at completed NECs with their original five-year projections. However, it has not initiated changes that would affect how growth space is allocated in NECs. Prior to the issuance of our report in July 2010, State modified its growth factor to account for potential growth in both desk spaces as well as shared common spaces (conference rooms, work rooms, storage, etc.). In our response to State’s comments, we acknowledged its intent to provide additional growth space in NECs, but noted that its plan did not address our concern that State had not provided any analytical basis to demonstrate that a growth factor of 10 percent, applied uniformly across all projects, is appropriate. As we noted in the report, some new construction projects had substantially exceeded their projected staffing levels shortly after moving into their new facilities, but others had substantially fewer staff than projected, resulting in excess space. We also noted that State had not provided an analytical basis for using a standard, uniform growth factor across all NECs and that it had not conducted any analysis to determine whether post-specific characteristics, such as overall size, geographic location, or the presence of rapidly-growing agencies or functions, might help forecast growth not explicitly planned for in a post’s rightsizing review. State has made no changes to the NEC growth factor since our report was issued.
State has ensured that it conducts post-occupancy evaluations of completed NECs as planned. During the past 4 years, State has conducted over 30 post-occupancy evaluations of newly-constructed embassy and consulate projects. State has taken actions to clear its backlog of evaluations from earlier projects by conducting post-occupancy evaluations at several posts during each of the post-occupancy evaluation team’s overseas trips. In the past, the post-occupancy evaluation team had generally conducted only an evaluation at one post per trip. State is also conducting a lookback study across post-occupancy evaluations to identify any recurring design and construction issues. As issues are identified, State follows up with focused studies to address the issues, such as providing privacy in open plan offices and improving the applicant flow and signage within consular sections.
State agreed with this recommendation and has taken actions to include developing a recommissioning process and a 5-year work plan, which is updated annually, to recommission NECs constructed before 2008. State uses a three phase recommissioning process which entails (1) assessing building systems to identify any deficiencies, (2) undertaking repairs based on those assessments, and (3) certifying that recommissioning activities are complete. As of 2013, State had conducted assessments at six posts. In 2014, State contracted with outside engineering consultants to conduct assessments for six additional posts. State reported that corrective repairs are underway for some of the posts where assessments had been conducted, including repairs to some building systems, such as power and building automation systems. Building automation systems remotely monitor, adjust, and optimize the performance of building systems, in part, to ensure efficient operations and minimize energy use.
State concurred with our principle findings, conclusion, and recommendation. For example, in its response to our recommendation, State indicated it would work on identifying timeframes for implementing LROMP projects. State officials told us that, starting in fiscal year 2013, State has consolidated the LROMP and LROBP into one plan, the Long Range Plan. That new plan includes a 6-year major rehab program. In general, major rehabs projects include larger, more expensive maintenance projects, which cannot be addressed through routine and preventative maintenance activities, and are directed at rehabilitating or replacing building systems to extend the life-cycle of a building. The new plan identifies time frames for selected posts where major rehab projects are planned within 6 years.
State has not expanded on its Long Range Overseas Maintenance Plan (LROMP), now Long Range Plan (LRP), to include reporting on actual NEC operating costs to allow for a more complete assessment of the full costs to both maintain and to operate NECs. While State’s Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) is responsible for funding the maintenance of NECs, through both State and other agencies’ cost sharing funds, according to officials, OBO is not responsible for capturing and reporting actual NEC operating costs, generally consisting of (a) local maintenance labor costs; (b) local service contract costs, such as custodial and landscaping services; and (c) utility costs (e.g., heating, cooling, and lighting). State reports that it and other overseas agencies are responsible for funding building operations costs through the International Cooperative Administrative Support Services (ICASS) process. State reports it has not included reporting on actual building operating costs in State’s Long Range Plan, in part, because information on building operating costs is resident in multiple data systems, such as its utilities tracking database, and State is reviewing options for efficiently capturing operating costs.
State has taken some actions to address training of local maintenance staff, such as developing on-line training courses to assist locally employed maintenance staff at posts to carry out their maintenance duties. However, State has not developed a comprehensive human resource plan that addresses how the staffing requirements and cost implications for hiring required facilities maintenance personnel will be met. State’s Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) does develop post-specific staffing plans that recommend the number of maintenance staff and type of skills needed when an NEC opens. According to State officials, posts are individually responsible for making decisions on those staffing recommendations and funding those through either the International Cooperative Administrative Support Services (ICASS) funds, or State’s Diplomatic and Consular Program funds for posts where State is the only agency. State officials reported that some posts place a higher priority on hiring needed facilities maintenance staff than other posts. Further, according to State officials, because of budget limitations, staffing needs can go unfulfilled at times when not approved by posts’ ICASS members, who represent State and other agencies at post.