The United States Embassy in London

The United States Embassy in London Lefteris Pitarakis/AP

State Department, others should consolidate overseas maintenance costs, GAO finds

Report recommends agencies use same service program.

Federal agencies are neglecting opportunities to cut costs when it comes to overseas posts, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office.

The report, dated Jan. 31 and released Monday, determined that agencies with international postings should be making more of an effort to use International Cooperative Administrative Support Services to cut back on maintenance costs and vehicle operations. Currently, ICASS participation is voluntary, and in 2011, one-third of agencies given the option to opt out of ICASS did so.

The U.S. government employs more than 23,500 Americans overseas at more than 250 separate posts, according to GAO. Departments with international positions include the State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development and others.

“Significant economies of scale can be achieved through greater participation in ICASS,” GAO said in its report, adding results from ICASS and GAO surveys show overall customer satisfaction with the service.

GAO recommended Congress consider requiring all agencies to participate in ICASS unless they could provide a business case demonstrating they could obtain equal services otherwise without incurring additional costs. The watchdog also recommended the secretary of State develop additional performance measures to ensure ICASS properly addresses concerns of customer dissatisfaction.

State and USAID generally concurred with GAO’s recommendations, though State said it already had been striving to improve cost-effectiveness overseas. GAO said these efforts were negligible and not of the same scope State promised in 2004.

The Agriculture, Commerce and Homeland Security departments took issue with GAO’s finding that not participating in ICASS implies duplication of overseas administrative costs, saying some agencies have valid reasons for opting out.

The GAO report was requested by Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, chairman of the subcommittee on oversight of government management.