Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) today released a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study titled “Embassy Management: State Department and Other Agencies Should Further Explore Opportunities to Save Administrative Costs Overseas.”
“I requested this review to show how U.S. agencies operating abroad can effectively save resources by ending the duplication of administrative services," said Senator Akaka. "The report highlighted the efficiencies USAID achieved by making use of the State Department's International Cooperative Administrative Support Services system, but noted that too many agencies are still not taking advantage of it. I urge the Department to work closely with its federal partners to implement GAO’s recommendations.”
The International Cooperative Administrative Support Services (ICASS) system provides shared administrative services for U.S. Government agencies at posts abroad, however agencies are not required to participate in most ICASS services.
The GAO study revealed that:
- the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has reduced duplicative administrative operations by increasing its participation in ICASS and consolidating services;
- overall federal agencies’ participation has not increased significantly and there may be areas of duplication;
- administrative costs could be reduced through increased participation in ICASS; and
- the State Department may be missing opportunities to make ICASS more efficient and effective.
GAO recommended that the Secretary of State, in coordination with USAID and ICASS customer agencies:
- continue to reengineer administrative processes and seek innovative managerial approaches;
- allow other agencies at posts to provide administrative services through ICASS; and
- develop additional service standards and performance measures to track progress in resolving customer dissatisfaction.
State and USAID generally agreed with the recommendations.
GAO also asked Congress to consider requiring agencies to participate in ICASS, unless they provide a business case showing that services can be obtained outside of ICASS without increasing overall federal government costs or that agencies are unable to meet their missions using these services.
In 2004, GAO found that ICASS had not resulted in more efficient delivery of administrative support services because it had neither eliminated duplication nor led to efforts to contain costs. Senator Akaka requested that GAO conduct this review in 2010 following the release of a report by the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) finding that ICASS had put at risk USAID’s ability to support its staff and carry out its mission overseas. GAO found that USAID personnel have concerns about ICASS, but identified limitations with AFSA’s findings.
Senator Akaka is Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
A copy of the GAO report is available HERE.