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 You are in: Under Secretary for Management > From the Under Secretary > Remarks

The U.S. Presence Overseas

Grant S. Green, Jr., Under Secretary of State for Management
Testimony Before the House Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans Affairs, and International Relations
Washington, DC
May 1, 2002

Good morning, Mr. Chairman. I would like to thank the Subcommittee for holding a hearing on this very important issue. Historically, the State Department has been one of many U.S. Government agencies operating overseas, and in many posts we are in fact outnumbered by our colleagues from other agencies. With increasing responsibilities overseas, not only for our own employees - who are dealing with increasingly complex issues and relationships - but for the entire government, the issue of overseas staffing is particularly timely.

OPAP and Rightsizing Thus Far
Rationalizing the U.S. Governmentís overseas presence is no easy task. Past efforts to develop an interagency staffing methodology have not succeeded. The Overseas Presence Advisory Panel (OPAP), for example, did not develop such a methodology, even though doing so was part of its original charter. The follow-up interagency rightsizing effort in 2000 also could not reach agreement on one.

Rightsizing does not necessarily imply staffing reductions. In some locations rightsizing may lead to a reduction in staff. True rightsizing, however, will require new staffing and new resources at posts that are currently lacking both.

We welcome the Office of Management and Budget's (OMBís) decision to include rightsizing as one of the initiatives in the Presidentís Management Agenda. We are working with OMB on a number of rightsizing issues, including data collection, establishment of a regional center in Frankfurt, an examination of the European and Eurasian Bureau overseas posts, and development of an embassy construction financing mechanism. In addition, OMB has been working with us on rightsizing issues we have been addressing, including revising the Mission Performance Plan process.

The General Accounting Office (GAO) has kept us informed of its Paris staffing review and has briefed us on the conceptual framework it is developing. The Department is committed to working with OMB and the GAO in the development and implementation of a successful rightsizing initiative.

In 2000 an interagency committee considered how best to implement the OPAP rightsizing recommendations. The committee visited six U.S. pilot missions: Amman, Jordan; Bangkok, Thailand; Mexico City, Mexico; New Delhi, India; Paris, France; and Tbilisi, Georgia. The committee found that there have been significant redeployments of staff from some areas of the world to others in response to new mission priorities, such as the need to staff the posts opened in the republics of the former Soviet Union. Some agencies have increased the number of their personnel overseas, notably those from the law enforcement community. These staffing increases Ė which flow from the importance the United States assigns to security, law enforcement, narcotics control, and counter-terrorism Ė have been offset by staffing reductions taken by other agencies.

There still is no substitute for face-to-face interaction with host governments and publics. State continues to support the principle of universality, under which the U.S. Government maintains an on-the-ground presence in virtually all nations with which we have diplomatic relations. We agree with OPAPís conclusion that "a universal, on-the-ground overseas presence is more critical than ever to the nationís well-being."

There is a common perception that the U.S. Government presence at our embassies and consulates has grown substantially from a nucleus of five major "foreign affairs agencies" in the aftermath of World War II to today, where almost all Executive Branch Departments as well as other entities such as the Library of Congress are represented. This perception is wrong. A range of U.S. Government agencies has traditionally staffed U.S. embassies and consulates. The current number of U.S. direct hire positions under the authority of Chiefs of Mission stands at about 18,000, smaller now than at its 1966 peak of 42,000. The current level is essentially the same as in 1990, and reflects a 4.5% decline since 1995. Since at least the 1950s, the Department of State has represented a third or less of all overseas staffing.

Chiefs of Mission (COMs) have the primary responsibility for deciding U.S. Government staffing and are in the best position to make the decisions. There is a perception on the part of COMs that their authority to make staffing decisions is circumscribed in practice by the manner in which they receive many of the requests. Agencies often approach COMs at the end of the process, after OMB consultation, budget allocations, and congressional action have all concluded. As a first step, President Bush instructed all COMs overseas to review closely staffing at their individual post to ensure that staffing levels are neither excessive nor inadequate to meet mission goals.

Diplomatic Platform
Even though we have limited direct authority over other agenciesí personnel, the Department of State is responsible for maintaining the Diplomatic Platform for the U.S. Governmentís overseas operations.

International Cooperative Administrative Support Services (ICASS) was implemented in FY 1998. ICASS is a shared administrative support system through which more than 250 U.S. Government entities at our overseas posts obtain essential services and share costs of operating facilities and services. ICASSís cost distribution system ensures that a more comprehensive estimate of the cost of each agencyís presence overseas is reflected in that agencyís budget. ICASS services are currently provided at more than 160 U.S. missions around the world.

The Department of State is the primary service provider in ICASS, and also the largest consumer of services. ICASS is governed by a 14-member executive board composed of assistant-secretary level representatives of the largest customer agencies. At our embassies throughout the world, interagency ICASS Councils determine which services will be provided, by which agency, and at what cost.

ICASS facilitates rightsizing in several ways.

  • First, it helps identify the true support costs for each agencyís overseas presence. Agencies must take these costs into account when making decisions about creating and maintaining positions overseas.
  • Second, ICASS provides information to the Chief of Mission on the impact agency requests for new positions will have on the missionís support structure, and the amount of additional support resources that will be required.
  • Third, ICASS facilitates outsourcing of services where appropriate, which helps reduce staffing requirements. For example, Embassy Rabat received the ICASS Best Practices Award in April, 2001 for improving service quality while saving an estimated $700,000 over five years by outsourcing certain support services.
  • Fourth, ICASS helps eliminate duplication of effort among agencies overseas through shared services. For example, USAID now acts as a service provider in several posts where they are better suited than State to do so.

ICASS does not, however, provide a mechanism for sharing costs of new construction. The Department of State has always borne the full cost of new construction. After the Africa embassy bombings, the Department launched a massive, multi-year security construction program. The Department is working with OMB on a proposal for capital cost sharing that would spread the costs of construction of new secure facilities. This truer reflection of the costs of maintaining employees overseas would also contribute to agenciesí abilities to fully evaluate their overseas presence. Disciplined human resources planning by all agencies will contribute to successful construction planning, as staff size is one of the most significant factors in estimating needed facility size.

There are other security considerations beyond just the buildings. Most security elements and costs are integral to the safe operation of the post and are not directly linked to staffing. Therefore, modest rightsizing initiatives will not result in a proportionate decrease or increase in security costs. For example, local guards, surveillance detection, access control and physical/technical security programs are driven by threat more than by post staffing levels. Therefore staffing changes, absent a measurable change in the threat would not result in security staffing changes.

Collocating personnel increases the ability to provide protection. However, some agencies are purposefully located outside the chancery to be more accessible to the customers they serve. Typically, these facilities are more difficult to secure, and may involve waivers for some security standards. An increase or decrease in collocating may impact costs associated with providing security for those Posts.

Department of State Staffing Overseas
Now let me turn to what the Department is ultimately responsible for - our own staffing overseas - and how we manage our overseas presence.

We are in the first year of our Diplomatic Readiness Hiring initiative, which is one of the Secretaryís top priorities. We thank the Congress for its support. The increased hiring under the Diplomatic Readiness Initiative addresses fundamental staffing needs in order to reverse the trend of the early 1990s when we hired under attrition, resulting in a serious staffing gap. This initiative seeks to strengthen our diplomatic corps with over 1100 new hires beyond those required to replace attrition.

We need these new positions to fill unmet needs overseas and to provide for enough personnel to respond to crises and go to training without leaving staffing gaps. Without adequate staffing, we will not be able to carry out the foreign policy priorities of the President.

The overseas requirements were determined in part by the Overseas Staffing Model, our workforce planning tool that assists management in allocation of resources, including those needed to support the U.S. diplomatic platform.

To determine specific allocation of those new resources by bureau and post, we assessed their human resource requests during our planning and budgeting process. We made decisions about where we need new positions based on recommendations from our budget and human resource offices and based on the priorities identified in our planning process.

Finally, we will allocate new positions based on our decisions about policy initiatives. These can change, as you well know, and we have a dynamic system to respond to those changes. This Diplomatic Readiness Initiative is therefore part of our efforts to have the right staff overseas to meet our mission. Let me say a little more about that strategic planning and human resource allocation process and how it works.

First, our overseas missions submit Mission Performance Plans (MPPs). The MPPs are reviewed each spring. Summaries of resource requirements are provided to Department principals. Then the regional bureaus develop their Bureau Program Plans (BPPs) which "roll-up" mission requests with the requirement that needs must be linked to one of the Department's strategic goals. These are presented to the Deputy Secretary and me in formal resource briefings early in the financial plan development process.

The Bureau of Human Resources and the Bureau of Resource Management make secondary recommendations based on emerging priorities, funding potential, Overseas Staffing Model projections as well as senior BPP review decisions. The Deputy Secretary and I make final resource decisions in terms of positions to be allocated and supporting funding.

The Bureau of Human Resources allocates positions to coincide with resource decisions. Bureaus have the flexibility to make decisions across region as to where to place personnel (e.g., move positions from Paris to Moscow if needed) however, most allocated resources are provided for specific priorities and bureaus cannot reprogram without central management approval.

Through this process, we link resources with our strategic priorities and ensure that our overseas staffing meets our mission needs.

One of the considerations in making staffing decisions is whether the work must be done by Americans or whether we can use local hires. Our Foreign Service National (FSN) colleagues are a vital part of our team. The management of FSNs is a decentralized process run by managers at posts where they take into account available local talent pool, cost, and need for training opportunities for Junior Officers. Centrally, the budget process is where management ensures that in allocating resources for new American personnel or for FSNs that post management has taken into account the options for arranging their workforce to meet their needs. We do have tools in the consular work area to manage the FSN requirements and we use ICASS to manage FSNís doing administrative work in support of other agencies.

Another important consideration is security. Security and threat issues can affect how much staff we need to provide security, facility requirements, whether we can rely on local hires or require cleared American staff, and even if we will have a presence at all. Maintaining a safe environment is difficult, and the Secretary does not want to put anyone in harmís way unnecessarily, so we do look for ways to ensure that we are not doing functions overseas that would be better done here.

All of these considerations are part of our decisions on State Department staffing overseas. We believe that the strong linkage between strategic priorities and resource decisions - with senior management involvement - ensure that we are able to meet our mission.

Ongoing Initiatives
The need for more people overseas in many functions has not stopped us from undertaking several initiatives to streamline.

While we believe strongly in the need to maintain an on-the-ground presence in virtually all nations with which we have diplomatic relations, the Department of State pursues regionalization initiatives when appropriate. We rely heavily on centralizing a variety of administrative, consular, and some policy functions (e.g., labor attaches, science hubs), either overseas or in the United States. We have four U.S. regional centers:

  • The Fort Lauderdale Regional Center provides support services to U.S. posts throughout the Western Hemisphere.
  • The National Visa Center in Portsmouth, NH and the Kentucky Consular Center in Williamsburg, KY perform various consular tasks traditionally carried out at individual posts.
  • The Charleston Financial Service Center is in the process of assuming functions for European and African posts formerly carried out at the Embassy in Paris.

The Department has also begun to shift routine passport production from overseas posts to U.S. domestic passport agencies in order to take advantage of the high security passport photodigitization process installed here in the United States.

When relocation to the United States is not feasible, U.S. agencies (including State) use many embassies and consulates such as Frankfurt and Hong Kong as regional platforms for their activities.

We have signed a letter of intent with the German Government to purchase the 23-acre "Creekbed" site in Frankfurt. It housed the Department of Defense's 469th Hospital and was scheduled to be returned to the Germans this year. Creekbed will not only become the new site for Consulate Frankfurt, but also the location for a Regional Support Center and home to numerous personnel from other agencies with regional responsibilities in Europe and Eurasia, Africa, and the Middle East. We are asking COMs to consider whether there are staff positions with regional responsibilities in their missions who could be relocated to the Creekbed facility.

This regionalization is consistent with both our rightsizing efforts and the principle of universality. While we maintain universality of embassies, many functions can be managed regionally. In addition to the service centers, a large number of embassy staff will have regional responsibilities. For example, many medical and security functions are managed by employees on a regional basis. While we can gain economies (usually in the management field) by regionalizing some functions, this does not eliminate the need more people at some of our posts.

American Presence Posts
American Presence Posts (APPs) are a creative and cost effective way to give the United States more visibility in places we would otherwise not be represented. Under former Ambassador Felix Rohatynís leadership, five APPs were opened in France. The experience of those APPs shows what can be accomplished with a determined Chief of Mission (COM) and committed staff using a creative and modern approach to doing business and mission resources. Obviously such posts pose significant security concerns. We will continue to consider proposals from COMs for additional APPs as they arise.

We are working with the Office of Management and Budget on its rightsizing effort as part of the Presidentís Management Agenda. We believe that is the appropriate mechanism for further study of this issue.

Thank you for your interest in this issue and support of our overseas presence. I welcome your questions.

Released on July 10, 2002

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