Interview
Patrick F. Kennedy
Under Secretary, Under Secretary for Management
Washington, DC
January 15, 2009


Listen to this interview

Narrator:
With over 250 diplomatic posts, the U.S. State department represents American interests to foreign countries and international organizations. In addition to maintaining diplomatic relations, the State Department supports commerce and development-related activities of other U.S. government agencies. Plus, American consulates provide important services to U.S. citizens and to foreigners seeking to visit or immigrate to the U.S.

Keeping such a diverse range of activities functioning smoothly requires excellence in management and a framework for accountability. Today we’re joined by the State Department’s Under Secretary for Management Pat Kennedy. We’ll discuss the release of State’s Department’s Citizen’s Report, and how America’s diplomats use the latest management practices to ensure diplomacy is working for American citizens.

All foreign affairs activities - including communicating U.S. policies, foreign assistance programs, fighting international crime, and others are administered through the office of the State department.

The resources required to maintain a professional diplomatic service are coordinated by the Bureau of Resource Management. The Bureau prepares budget frameworks for top officials, so they can present to Congress and the American people a detailed plan on what America’s foreign policy goals are, and what we need to achieve them.

In 2009, the State Department will take a new step to increase the transparency of this administrative part of its operations. In January, it will release the Citizen’s Report, an updated version of its annual report. The new format aims to set a new standard in accountability by making financial and performance information more accessible than ever to the public, Congress, and other key groups.

Pat Kennedy is the State Department’s Under Secretary for Management. We asked him how the idea of performance management is being applied to American diplomacy.

Under Secretary Kennedy: Performance measures, performance reviews, the President’s management agenda are at the forefront of our efforts, but we still have a long way to go. But thinking about what I have seen in recent years, I would comment on several activities. Each post, each one of our 160 embassies around the world, is called upon every year to develop a strategic plan for that mission outlining the goals that they’re going to implement against the requirements laid on them by the President and the Secretary of State and the Congress and what resources they need to achieve those goals. And then in Washington, the bureaus pull together all the reports that have come in from the embassies in their regions of the world, prioritize them, and then that forms the basis of that bureau’s request for resources and it forms the basis of what we then present to the Office of Management and Budget, the President and the Congress. This has injected a rigor and a discipline and so I think that represents an incredible sea change in the way the department does business.

Outside perspectives are incredibly important in giving us valid measures as well. The Office of Management and Budget has put together something they call PART – P-A-R-T: Program Assessment Rating Tool, which allows us to measure our efforts against standards, and since it involves dialogue with the Office of Management and Budget, we have as we should, someone looking over our shoulder to make sure that we’re not cheating. That is a good way of making sure that we’re not fooling ourselves and that our use of the taxpayers’ resources are the best they possibly can be.

Narrator: The Citizen’s report seeks not only to provide financial and performance information to the public, but to present a clear picture of how the State Department carries out our diplomatic mission.

Today, the importance of efficiency and deriving maximum value from resources is more important than ever. Global issues such as terrorism, climate change, and poverty reduction mean that maintaining good relations with foreign countries is more important than ever. At the same time, countries around the world are encountering strong economic challenges, the United States included. As a result, federal, state and local governments here in America are seeking to provide the same level of services with fewer resources.

Under Secretary Kennedy: I would track back to the beginning of the 1990’s. You’ll recall that that was the period in which the Soviet Union broke up and Yugoslavia broke up. The State Department opened 24 new embassies and consulates from the Baltics down through the Balkans through the former so-called Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and then down into Southeast Asia. We opened those 24 new posts without any new resources and so that was kind of the first “mega-shift” in reprioritization of State Department resources.

And then, in the mid-90’s, the State Department slowed down its hiring significantly. But our work load was not going down so what we were having to do and, we did it I believe, was to redirect and reprioritize our resources, then, move into the new century, we had launched an effort called the Global Repositioning Initiative and we examined our use of resources throughout the world and shifted about ten percent of our substantive – the people who do political and economic reporting and analysis from one country to another country to make sure that we were in balance. Every year, for example, we look at the workload in our consular service. If we see that workload is down one place and up in another, we then shift those resources from one location to another. We do the same with our administrative and the same with our security resources – where are the threats? We do this rebalancing every day. At the same time, the workload continues to go up. We need to be able to call upon the Congress in many cases for additional resources simply because of the demand.

Narrator: Despite the current state of economies worldwide, management improvement at the State Department continues, and is a key part of the Resource Management Bureau’s ongoing work. On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama will be sworn in as the President, and a new administration will take office. A successful administrative transition is facilitated by focusing on management performance.

America’s diplomatic activities change as the world changes. A key role of the Resource Management Bureau is to ensure the most efficient use of resources. As the Citizen’s Report reflects, as the number and variety of diplomatic activities increases, so does the importance of effective cost controls.

Under Secretary Kennedy: Over 40 different U.S. Government agencies operate overseas. The State Department is the largest U.S. Government agency overseas, but in fact, overall, we’re only about 25 to 30 percent of the total number of personnel working at a U.S. embassy. We have personnel from the Department of Defense, personnel from the Agency for International Development, personnel from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. And so we have been looking at further ways to collaborate – the term we have been using is a Collaborative Management Initiative – to look at our operations at an embassy to see can we streamline; can we take advantage of economies of scale. So we’ve been working particularly with the Agency for International Development which has a large overseas presence in many areas of the world. There is no reason in many countries to operate two U.S. Government warehouses or two U.S. Government maintenance facilities. We’re working with our partners at AID as we’re already working with our partners in Defense, and the Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security to pull our operating environment together, to streamline it and make sure that we can achieve the greatest economies of scale.

We’ve also done other things. We have moved a number of our backroom functions back from overseas to the United States. Literally almost all the checks that the State Department must write for its bills are written in one city in the United States, in Charleston, South Carolina. So it’s a combination of always looking for opportunities to streamline, by reducing overhead, by looking for opportunities to do things in the United States which don’t have to be done overseas.

Narrator: One area where efficiencies can be achieved relates to the buildings used by American diplomats overseas. As diplomatic posts are identified and built, the foreign affairs representatives of U.S. agencies such as the Commerce, Agriculture, and Treasury departments are located in the same buildings as State Department personnel.

Under Secretary Kennedy: Over the last 10 years or so, the State Department, with the assistance of the Office of Management of Budget and great support from the Congress has constructed over 50 new embassy and consular compounds around the world. When we can bring all U.S. Government agencies into one location, we save on computer hardware, we save on computer wiring, telephone costs, of people’s time because when they’re having to go from one compound to another, they’re in a shuttle bus, or they’re driving, expending energy. So by centralizing our personnel into one location, we believe that we’re creating incredible opportunities to increase human productivity by affording people the opportunity to literally walk down the corridor and solve a problem.

Narrator: The State Department’s Citizen’s Report is designed to give the public a detailed look into how American diplomacy operates. It is an ongoing process of improvement, adjustment, and applying the lessons learned as we confront new challenges around the world. Kennedy notes two particular State Department achievements in 2008.

Under Secretary Kennedy: The first is an effort that we call the Collaborative Management Initiative. We have operations in over 160 countries around the world. What we don’t want to have is 160 different ways to do things. It’s obvious that the way you do something is going to have to be different between a U.S. Government operation in Latin America and a U.S. Government operation in East Asia. Different cultural situations, different distances from the United States, different stages of development but it is not efficient and it does not enable us to measure our successes, to measure our efficiencies if you end up with 160 different patterns. The purpose of the Collaborative Management Initiative is to set certain, baseline, standard operating procedures so while we could not necessarily compare what we do in Brazil to what we do in Japan, we could certainly make a comparison between how we do things in Belgium and how we do things in the Netherlands which is just next door.

The second thing that I think that we’ve done which has been of great support to the American people overall is beefed up our capability to issue American passports. We have opened new production facilities. We’ve developed a new passport card – it’s about the size of a driver’s license but is a proof of your American citizenship. Starting on the 1st of July of 2009, anyone traveling across the land borders of the United States to Canada or Mexico must have a passport or a passport card. These are efforts to be wise stewards of the taxpayers’ money and to make sure that our efforts enable the American people to the traveling that they wish to do.

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Narrator: The State Department’s Citizen’s Report for Fiscal Year 2008 is available online at the Bureau of Resource Management web site. For more information, visit www.state.gov and click on budget and performance at the bottom of the page.

Narrator: This podcast is produced by the U.S. Department of State. Links to other Internet sites or opinions expressed should not be considered an endorsement of other content and views.

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