By Mark Van Scyoc / Shutterstock.com

State Department Reforms Have Been Hindered by Changes in Staff and Priorities, Watchdog Finds

One initiative is complete, 13 are ongoing, two were stalled and one was terminated, GAO says. 

The State Department is implementing most of the 17 reforms it reported to Congress last year, but leadership transitions and changes in priorities have created uncertainty about support for the efforts, a new watchdog report found. 

Shortly after the State Department entered the implementation phase of the reforms in early 2018, there were several leadership changes that put reforms in question, the Government Accountability Office found in a report Thursday. The reforms came in response to President Trump’s 2017 executive order to improve efficiency and reorganize the federal government

The firing of then-Secretary Rex Tillerson and replacement with then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo in March 2018 was, “Obviously, the biggest most notable [leadership transition], to most people,” Jason Bair, acting director of International Affairs and Trade at GAO, told Government Executive

Then in April 2018 the department disbanded the teams in charge of overseeing the reforms and delegated responsibilities to bureaus and offices for implementation. Some department officials reported to GAO that they received little to no guidance on their programs. “Although implementing officials said that they have managed to incorporate reform-related work into their daily responsibilities, they noted that there were multiple benefits from having had dedicated planning teams,” the report said. 

GAO explained that the leadership transitions at the department and lack of communication led to “uncertainty among implementing officials about the future of individual reform projects” and the shift of responsibility from “teams to bureau-level implementing officials resulted in fewer resources and a lack of senior leadership involvement and attention for some projects.”

The watchdog agency recommended that the secretary of State determine which of the incomplete reforms should be implemented and communicate this to Congress. Secondly, the secretary should establish one team dedicated to managing the implementation of all reform efforts, GAO said. 

State officials concurred with the recommendation to prioritize projects, but disagreed with the need to create one team for all reforms. The determination of where projects should be assigned should be made on a case-by-case basis, State argued.  

Leadership and staffing shortages at the State Department have been well-documented through the Trump administration. Government Executive reported that in the first eight months of the administration, the civil workforce decreased about 6.3% and foreign affairs specialists decreased about 11.9%. There was also a hiring freeze for the department from February 2017 to May 2018. 

When Pompeo took office, the report noted, “His top priority was ending the hiring freeze and restarting a concerted recruitment effort because vacancies in key positions and a general staffing shortfall would otherwise have led to what one senior official described as a ‘cataclysmic failure.’” In addition to the reforms, Pompeo wanted to pursue cybersecurity, data analytics and merge existing bureaus to create a Global Public Affairs Bureau. However, agency officials did not formally communicate this to Congress. 

GAO’s report studied State reorganization efforts as of April 2019. One of the 17 reforms was completed: a plan to improve efficiency of internal policy and decision-making processes. Thirteen were ongoing and for 12 of these, for the first two years of implementation, the bureaus and offices in charge reported to one or more officials serving on an acting basis. Two reforms were stalled that dealt with U.S. deployment and coordination of resources and staffing abroad. Lastly, one was terminated: a plan to combine the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations and the Bureau of Administration into a unified real property organization.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.