Report to the Committees on Appropriations: Trends in Overseas Staffing and Support for Chiefs of Mission
Overseas Staffing Trends
The Office of Rightsizing the U.S. Government Overseas Presence (M/R) is pleased to report to the Congress on the progress M/R has made in advancing this important initiative of the President's Management Agenda, as well as in highlighting the rightsizing imperative for other offices in the Department and Executive Branch agencies. Attached are the two most recent M/R quarterly reports, required by the Office of Management and Budget, which detail the most recent rightsizing actions being implemented by the Department.
Although our goal remains to limit the overseas presence to the minimum footprint necessary to accomplish the U.S. Government's mission, overseas staffing is increasing. Growth is driven by U.S. national interests, above all the Global War on Terror. The requirement for consular services and border security activities, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, combating drug trafficking and support for democratization are also important factors in increased overseas staffing. The quarterly reports reflect the efforts the Department has begun implementing to effectively manage growth in those regions where requirements are increasing.
In October 2004 M/R began conducting rightsizing studies of all overseas missions scheduled to receive a New Embassy Compound (NEC), and will expand this process to all embassies over a five-year period, beginning in FY-2006. M/R, in its staffing reviews, questions projected growth, looks for offsets, and suggests strategies for consolidation, outsourcing, and regionalization. In all cases we have moderated or significantly curtailed mission projections; some new embassies will actually have fewer employees than the facilities they are replacing, reflecting, for example, economies of scale achieved through shared services.
Embassies are clearly cognizant of rightsizing considerations. Chiefs of Mission are required annually to acknowledge their responsibility to rightsize their missions. Rightsizing elements are now a required component of annual Mission Performance Plans (MPPs). One challenge they face continually is to balance the overall goals they have set for their missions with the individual imperatives of their constituent agencies' Washington headquarters. We continue to support Chief of Mission authority, as outlined in the President's Letter of Instructions, as the principal vehicle to shape a cohesive but flexible mission agenda, capable of responding to new priorities as necessary.
M/R is working closely with other Department offices to obtain better statistics on the total U.S. Government presence overseas. The Bureau of Human Resources has made great strides, working with overseas posts and other agencies, to capture more fully data on all personnel in all categories overseas. Our goal is to establish a comprehensive, unified, and accurate database of all overseas personnel under Chief of Mission authority that can be used for the various staffing accounting needs of the Department and the interagency and reporting expectations of our stakeholders, such as OMB and Congress. We are making progress. The Post Personnel application is now mandatory for use by all posts, and all agencies' personnel must be entered. Improvements in global data collection have been made possible in part by the investments the Department has made over the last several years in IT infrastructure at posts abroad. Improvement in accuracy, however, has rendered the data from previous years discontinuous, and so specific growth numbers or percentages are difficult to provide.
Support for Chiefs of Mission
M/R, as the office that advises Chiefs of Mission on the National Security Decision Directive 38 process, now provides more detailed guidance to Chiefs of Mission on the decision-making considerations they should make to reflect rightsizing imperatives. We often provide specific advice to Chiefs of Mission, especially when the proposed positions appear to duplicate functions already conducted at the post, such as administrative support. Our goal is to maximize the utilization of shared administrative support services at individual posts (under ICASS) and at regional or global service centers, thereby limiting the overseas footprint, reducing costs, and increasing efficiency. At the same time, as the principal service provider for the delivery of support services overseas through ICASS, the Department has committed through the Administration's Performance Assessment Rating Tool (PART) process to rightsizing goals on lowering the ratio of U.S. direct-hire service providers to U.S. direct-hire customers and systematically conducting outsourcing assessments at overseas posts.
With respect to the programmatic positions requested by agencies, we have taken a very proactive stance when these positions are expressly regional in nature. In particular, in Europe, and to a lesser extent in Africa and the Middle East, we require that agencies locate their regional positions in the new Frankfurt Consulate General facility. We identify regional positions as the requests come through the Department, and ask Chiefs of Mission not to approve any positions that are more appropriately handled from regional platforms. Chiefs of Mission have been responsive. The Department is also working on broader regionalization architecture plans through its Office of Global Support Services and Innovation (A/GSSI) to systematically regionalize or centralize support functions, first at danger posts, and then in phases to other posts.
In sum, M/R reports that recognition of the importance of rightsizing is beginning to inform every phase of the State Department's decision-making on overseas staffing. The last several years have demanded responsiveness to key national security imperatives, including the reestablishment of diplomatic representation in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. These imperatives have required increased staffing to enable the vigorous pursuit of focused U.S. national interests. These increases in staffing, including the Department's implementation of the Diplomatic Readiness Initiative, have enhanced the U.S. Government's readiness to plan for and respond to new national security priorities.