December 3, 2021

News

News Network

Department of State: Foreign Service Midlevel Staffing Gaps Persist Despite Significant Increases in Hiring

10 min read
<div>What GAO FoundThe Department of State (State) faces persistent experience gaps in overseas Foreign Service positions, particularly at the midlevels, and these gaps have not diminished since 2008. In fiscal years 2009 and 2010, State increased the size of the Foreign Service by 17 percent. However, these new hires will not have the experience to reach midlevels until fiscal years 2014 and 2015. GAO found that 28 percent of overseas Foreign Service positions were either vacant or filled by upstretch candidates—officers serving in positions above their grade—as of October 2011, a percentage that has not changed since 2008. Midlevel positions represent the largest share of these gaps. According to State officials, the gaps have not diminished because State increased the total number of overseas positions in response to increased needs and emerging priorities. State officials noted the department takes special measures to fill high-priority positions, including those in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan.State has taken steps to increase its reliance on Civil Service employees and retirees, as well as expand mentoring, to help address midlevel experience gaps overseas; however, State lacks a strategy to guide these efforts. State is currently implementing a pilot program to expand overseas assignments for Civil Service employees. Efforts to expand the limited number of these assignments must overcome some key challenges, such as addressing new gaps when Civil Service employees leave their headquarters positions and identifying qualified Civil Service applicants to fill overseas vacancies. State also hires retirees on a limited basis for both full-time and short-term positions. For example, State used limited congressional authority to offer dual compensation waivers to hire 57 retirees in 2011. As a step toward mitigating experience gaps overseas, State began a pilot program offering workshops that include mentoring for first-time supervisors. State acknowledges the need to close midlevel Foreign Service gaps, but it has not developed a strategy to help ensure that the department is taking full advantage of available human capital flexibilities and evaluating the success of its efforts to address these gaps.Why GAO Did This StudyIn 2009, GAO reported on challenges that State faced in filling its increasing overseas staffing needs with sufficiently experienced personnel and noted that persistent Foreign Service staffing and experience gaps put diplomatic readiness at risk. State is currently undertaking a new hiring plan, known as “Diplomacy 3.0,” to increase the size of the Foreign Service by 25 percent to close staffing gaps and respond to new diplomatic priorities. However, fiscal constraints are likely to delay the plan’s full implementation well beyond its intended target for completion in 2013. In addition, State’s first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review highlighted the need to find ways to close overseas gaps. GAO was asked to assess (1) the extent to which State’s overseas midlevel experience gaps in the Foreign Service have changed since 2008 and (2) State’s efforts to address these gaps. GAO analyzed State’s personnel data; reviewed key planning documents, including the Five Year Workforce Plan; and interviewed State officials in Washington, D.C., and at selected posts.</div>

What GAO Found

The Department of State (State) faces persistent experience gaps in overseas Foreign Service positions, particularly at the midlevels, and these gaps have not diminished since 2008. In fiscal years 2009 and 2010, State increased the size of the Foreign Service by 17 percent. However, these new hires will not have the experience to reach midlevels until fiscal years 2014 and 2015. GAO found that 28 percent of overseas Foreign Service positions were either vacant or filled by upstretch candidates—officers serving in positions above their grade—as of October 2011, a percentage that has not changed since 2008. Midlevel positions represent the largest share of these gaps. According to State officials, the gaps have not diminished because State increased the total number of overseas positions in response to increased needs and emerging priorities. State officials noted the department takes special measures to fill high-priority positions, including those in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan.

State has taken steps to increase its reliance on Civil Service employees and retirees, as well as expand mentoring, to help address midlevel experience gaps overseas; however, State lacks a strategy to guide these efforts. State is currently implementing a pilot program to expand overseas assignments for Civil Service employees. Efforts to expand the limited number of these assignments must overcome some key challenges, such as addressing new gaps when Civil Service employees leave their headquarters positions and identifying qualified Civil Service applicants to fill overseas vacancies. State also hires retirees on a limited basis for both full-time and short-term positions. For example, State used limited congressional authority to offer dual compensation waivers to hire 57 retirees in 2011. As a step toward mitigating experience gaps overseas, State began a pilot program offering workshops that include mentoring for first-time supervisors. State acknowledges the need to close midlevel Foreign Service gaps, but it has not developed a strategy to help ensure that the department is taking full advantage of available human capital flexibilities and evaluating the success of its efforts to address these gaps.

Why GAO Did This Study

In 2009, GAO reported on challenges that State faced in filling its increasing overseas staffing needs with sufficiently experienced personnel and noted that persistent Foreign Service staffing and experience gaps put diplomatic readiness at risk. State is currently undertaking a new hiring plan, known as “Diplomacy 3.0,” to increase the size of the Foreign Service by 25 percent to close staffing gaps and respond to new diplomatic priorities. However, fiscal constraints are likely to delay the plan’s full implementation well beyond its intended target for completion in 2013. In addition, State’s first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review highlighted the need to find ways to close overseas gaps. GAO was asked to assess (1) the extent to which State’s overseas midlevel experience gaps in the Foreign Service have changed since 2008 and (2) State’s efforts to address these gaps. GAO analyzed State’s personnel data; reviewed key planning documents, including the Five Year Workforce Plan; and interviewed State officials in Washington, D.C., and at selected posts.

More from:

News Network

  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken With Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC Andrea Mitchell Reports
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale Addresses the International Coalition for the Sahel Ministerial
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • California Man Charged with COVID-Relief Fraud Scheme
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury in Los Angeles, California, returned an indictment on April 13, charging a California man with stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
    [Read More…]
  • Statement of Attorney General Merrick B. Garland on the Investigation into the January 6th Attack on the Capitol
    In Crime News
    U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland’s statement on the investigation into the January 6th Attack on the Capitol:
    [Read More…]
  • The United States Supports the Voices of the Venezuelan People
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Oman National Day
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Protests in Russia
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Ned Price, Department [Read More…]
  • Advancing the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Persons Around the World
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Puerto Rico Mayor Pleads Guilty to Accepting Bribes in Exchange for Millions in Municipal Contracts
    In Crime News
    A mayor pleaded guilty yesterday in Puerto Rico to engaging in a bribery scheme in which he received cash payments in exchange for awarding municipal contracts to a particular company (Company A). Relatedly, a Puerto Rico contractor was arrested today for allegedly paying bribes and kickbacks to the mayor.
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Blinken’s Call with Republic of Cyprus Foreign Minister Christodoulides
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Secretary Pompeo’s Call with Japanese Foreign Minister Motegi
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Florida Man Sentenced to Three Years in Prison for Obstructing the IRS
    In Crime News
    A Florida man was sentenced to 36 months in prison today for corruptly obstructing the due administration of the internal revenue laws, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez for the Middle District of Florida.
    [Read More…]
  • Chief Justice Roberts Issues 2020 Year-End Report
    In U.S Courts
    Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., has issued his 2020 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary.
    [Read More…]
  • Department of Justice Begins Third Distribution of Forfeited Funds to Compensate Victims of Fraud Scheme Facilitated by Western Union
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice announced today that the Western Union Remission Fund began its third distribution of approximately $66 million in funds forfeited to the United States from the Western Union Company (Western Union) to approximately 6,000 victims located in the United States and abroad. These victims, many of whom were elderly victims of consumer fraud, will be recovering the full amount of their losses.
    [Read More…]
  • COVID-19: Lessons Learned from Interior and Treasury’s Administration of CARES Act Funds Could Improve Federal Emergency Relief to Tribes
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of the Interior distributed the CARES Act Operation of Indian Programs (OIP) appropriation through existing programs while the Department of the Treasury had to set up a new program to distribute the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) Tribal Government Set-Aside. This resulted in tribes taking fewer steps to access and use Interior's OIP appropriation than Treasury's program. Interior. The CARES Act required that Interior make at least $400 million of the OIP appropriation available to meet the direct needs of tribes. Interior disbursed these funds through two existing programs based on tribal enrollment. As a result, tribes needed to take few administrative steps to access and use funds. Treasury. The CARES Act created the CRF as a new program. The CRF appropriation included an $8 billion Tribal Set-Aside. Treasury did not have a preexisting allocation methodology or mechanisms for disbursing this funding to tribes, so it had to develop them before it could make payments. Treasury distributed the CRF Tribal Set-Aside in two tranches, using multiple allocation methodologies. Treasury asked tribes to take several administrative steps to access and use CRF payments. For example, tribes had to submit two rounds of data to receive both tranches of CRF payments. Agencies and selected tribes faced various challenges regarding the CARES Act OIP appropriation and CRF Tribal Set-Aside. Treasury faced greater challenges than Interior, and was delayed distributing CRF payments to tribes. For example: Treasury officials said the work needed to develop distribution formulas consistent with the CARES Act contributed to delays in CRF disbursements to tribes. Selected tribes told GAO that Treasury used certain data in one of its allocation methodologies without consulting with tribes about the data and their limitations. Such consultation could have allowed the agency to make changes or address tribes' concerns prior to making payments using the data. Consequently, certain tribes did not receive emergency relief in a timely manner to address pandemic needs. Selected tribal organizations, academic researchers, and tribes said that adjusting to Treasury's changing guidance on allowable uses of funds further delayed tribes' implementation of projects and increased their administrative burden. Treasury has applied some lessons learned to its administration of a subsequent relief program established by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. For example, Treasury improved its communication to tribes on allowable use of funds. However, Treasury has not formalized other lessons learned into its tribal consultation policy. Specifically, Treasury's tribal consultation policy does not call for the agency to consult with tribes on data it is considering using to make policy decisions with tribal implications. Until Treasury updates its policy, it risks using data without a meaningful dialogue with tribes about any limitations of the data. This deprives Treasury of information that tribes could provide about how to address data limitations and may increase the risk that programs might not be as effective at meeting tribes' needs in a timely manner. Why GAO Did This Study GAO has previously found that COVID-19 disproportionately harmed the public health and economies of tribal nations in the U.S. In March 2020, the CARES Act appropriated over $9 billion for federal programs for tribes and their members—this amount included $8 billion for Treasury's CRF Tribal Set-Aside and $453 million for Interior's OIP (CARES Act funds). The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to report on its ongoing monitoring and oversight efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report is part of that body of work. It examines (1) approaches Interior and Treasury took to distribute CARES Act funds to tribes and steps necessary for tribes to access and use these funds, and (2) challenges the agencies and selected tribes faced and lessons learned that could improve future federal emergency relief to tribes. To do this work, GAO reviewed agency documents and interviewed federal agency officials, representatives of three tribal organizations and two academic research centers—selected for their work related to CARES Act funds—and officials from seven selected tribes that accessed CARES Act funds from the agencies.
    [Read More…]
  • Man Sentenced for His Role in COVID-19 Relief Fraud Scheme
    In Crime News
    A Wisconsin man was sentenced today to 36 months in prison for fraudulently seeking over $600,000 in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
    [Read More…]
  • Iraqi-U.S. Cost-Sharing: Iraq Has a Cumulative Budget Surplus, Offering the Potential for Further Cost-Sharing
    In U.S GAO News
    Since 2003, the United States has reported obligating $642 billion for U.S. military operations in Iraq and provided about $24 billion for training, equipment, and other services for Iraqi security forces. To assist Congress in overseeing efforts to encourage the Iraqi government to contribute more toward the cost of securing and stabilizing Iraq, this report provides information on (1) the amount and availability of Iraq's budget surplus or deficit, (2) the amount of Iraq's financial deposit balances, and (3) the extent to which Iraq has spent its financial resources on security costs. To conduct this audit, GAO analyzed Iraqi financial data, reviewed U.S. and Iraqi documents, and interviewed U.S. and Iraqi officials.GAO analysis of Iraqi government data showed that Iraq generated an estimated cumulative budget surplus of $52.1 billion through the end of 2009. This estimate is consistent with the method that Iraq uses to calculate its fiscal position. Adjusting for $40.3 billion in estimated outstanding advances as of September 2009 reduces the amount of available surplus funds to $11.8 billion. In April 2010, a senior Ministry of Finance official stated that advances should be deducted from the budget surplus because they are committed for future expenditures or have been paid out. According to this official and Board of Supreme Audit reports on Iraq's financial statements, advances include funds for letters of credit, advance payments on domestic contracts, and other advances. However, Iraq's Board of Supreme Audit has raised concerns that weaknesses in accounting for advances could result in the misappropriation of government funds and inaccurate reporting of expenditures. Furthermore, the composition of some of these advances is unclear; about 40 percent of the outstanding advances through 2008 are defined as "other temporary advances." Under the terms of a February 2010 International Monetary Fund (IMF) arrangement, Iraq agreed to prepare a report on its outstanding advances, which will identify those advances that are recoverable and could be used for future spending, and set a time schedule for their recovery. This Iraqi report is to be completed by September 30, 2010. Another means of assessing Iraq's fiscal position is to examine its financial deposit balances. Iraqi government data and an independent audit report show that, through the end of 2009, Iraq had accumulated between $15.3 billion and $32.2 billion in financial deposit balances held at the Central Bank of Iraq, the Development Fund for Iraq in New York, and state-owned banks in Iraq. This range reflects a discrepancy between the amount of government-sector deposits reported by the Central Bank of Iraq to the IMF and the amount that the Ministry of Finance asserts is available for government spending. In November 2009, the Ministry of Finance reclassified $16.9 billion in state-owned banks as belonging to state-owned enterprises and trusts, leaving $15.3 billion of $32.2 billion available to the Iraqi government for other spending. The IMF is seeking clarification on the amount of financial deposits that is available for government spending. Under the terms of Iraq's 2010 arrangement with the IMF, the Ministry of Finance is required to complete a review of all central government accounts and return any idle balances received from the budget to the central Iraqi Treasury by March 31, 2010. As of August 2010, according to the IMF, this review was still under way. Iraqi government data show that Iraq's security ministries--the Ministries of Defense and Interior--increased their spending from 2005 through 2009 and set aside about $5.5 billion for purchases through the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program. However, over this 5-year period, these ministries did not use between $2.5 billion and $5.2 billion of their budgeted funds that could have been used to address security needs. The administration is requesting $2 billion in additional U.S. funding in its fiscal year 2011 budget request to support the training and equipping of Iraq's military and police. GAO believes that Congress should consider Iraq's available financial resources when reviewing the administration's fiscal year 2011 budget request and any future funding requests for securing and stabilizing Iraq. Also, GAO recommends that the Departments of State and the Treasury work with the Iraqi government to further identify available resources.
    [Read More…]
  • Two Owners of New York Pharmacies Charged in a $30 Million COVID-19 Health Care Fraud and Money Laundering Case
    In Crime News
    The owners of over a dozen New York-area pharmacies were charged in an indictment unsealed today for their roles in a $30 million health care fraud and money laundering scheme, in which they exploited emergency codes and edits in the Medicare system that went into effect due to the COVID-19 pandemic in order to submit fraudulent claims for expensive cancer drugs that were never provided, ordered, or authorized by medical professionals.
    [Read More…]
  • Former Tennessee Correctional Officer Sentenced Following Staff Assault of Inmate
    In Crime News
    A former Tennessee correctional officer was sentenced Friday to two years in prison and two years of supervised release for his involvement in a staff assault of an inmate.
    [Read More…]
  • United States – Iceland Memorandum for Economic Cooperation
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]

Crime

Network News © 2005 Area.Control.Network™ All rights reserved.