State Department Advised to Improve Performance Measures on Embassy Design

For six years, the State Department has been designing overseas embassies under an “Excellence in Diplomatic Facilities” program aimed at building more innovative, functional and sustainably secure facilities.

But after spending $21 billion since 1999, its Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations lacks “project-level performance measures specific to the goals” and priorities, the Government Accountability Office reported.

State also has not set up a “reliable system to monitor operating performance, such as building energy usage, and a centralized database to broadly manage the Excellence program, to include effectively reporting on projects’ design and construction costs and schedules,” auditors said.

» Get the best federal news and ideas delivered right to your inbox. Sign up here.

In a report to leaders on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the Senate Homeland Security Governmental Affairs Committee, GAO warned that while “a greater upfront investment in design may yield embassy improvements, it carries with it increased risk to project costs and schedule” because that bureau cannot fully assess its merits.

The construction program, which dates back to the 1990s following terrorist bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa, more recently has been challenged on Capitol Hill as wasteful. In 2011, State recast the program to give it a more direct design control than was common under the standard embassy design to improve aesthetics, quality, location, and functionality.

State’s “new approach poses cost and schedule trade-offs,” GAO noted, saying the bureau “now has greater design control but may also be responsible if design problems are identified during construction.” A survey found that State staff are divided on the value of the Excellence approach.

GAO recommended that State’s bureau determine the practicality of its goal of moving 1,500 employee annually into safe, secure and functional facilities; establish updated performance measures; and finalize methods for tracking progress as well as a centralized management mechanism for the program.

State managers agreed.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.