State Department will not privatize foreign buildings office

The State Department has decided not to privatize its foreign buildings office, the nominee for State's top management slot said Wednesday. Grant Green, President Bush's nominee to be undersecretary of State for management, said at his Senate confirmation hearing that the department had ruled out turning the foreign buildings office into a federally chartered government corporation. Instead, State will make the office a stand-alone organization that reports directly to Green. The Foreign Buildings Operation administers the government's approximately 12,000 overseas properties. Numerous groups including the Overseas Presence Advisory Panel and the Council on Foreign Relations have recommended moving the office out of State and making it a government corporation. "We support the Overseas Presence Advisory Panel recommendations short of establishing a separate overseas office," said Green in testimony before the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs. He added that the office, headed by retired Army Corps Maj. Gen. Chuck Williams, is developing a five-year capital program to streamline planned building projects. Green provided a few new details on Secretary of State Colin Powell's efforts to overhaul management at the department. Powell has eliminated 23 of 55 special envoys and has directed chiefs of mission to review federal personnel needs at overseas posts, Green said. While Powell has ruled out a complete reorganization of the department, he wants to revamp the budget process to better match funding with programs. "The purpose is to bring together planning and programs so that dollars follow strategy," said Green. Green did not address the Bush administration's plan to cut middle management at the department. The State Department is moving to improve its relations with Congress, said Green. State has applied to open a liaison office on Capitol Hill and would like to include departmental personnel on congressional trips abroad, he said. "I hope you will see a drastic change in the way the State Department relates to the Hill in the future," Green told the committee. Green also commented on State's much-chronicled information technology woes. While a majority of State employees lack desktop access to the Internet, 251 of 258 department sites do have access to the Internet and e-mail, he said. A $273 million earmark in the fiscal 2002 budget would enable all personnel to access State's classified intranet within two years, according to Green.
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