GAO: A Robust, Capable Workforce at State, USAID “Critical” to Advancing US Foreign Policy

The Ronald Reagan Building houses the U.S. Agency for International Development. Photo by: Cliff / CC BY

Efforts by the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development to build and support “a workforce that is well-matched to the foreign affairs challenges of the twenty-first century” are “critical” to advancing U.S. foreign policy objectives, according to the Government Accountability Office.

In her March 3 written testimony for the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on State, foreign operations and related programs, Jacquelyn Williams-Bridgers, GAO’s managing director for international affairs and trade, said those efforts, as prescribed by the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, are “critical given that our work has consistently found limitations in the ability of State and USAID to ensure that they are deploying the right people to the right places at the right time.”

Williams-Bridgers noted that State has had problems hiring and training staff to run and maintain its new, more sophisticated embassy compounds. To address this, the department last year launched a pilot program to increase Chinese speakers in its ranks and announced plans to recruit facilities managers at embassies and consulates, she said.

At USAID, the workforce plan lacks a comprehensive analysis of the agency’s deficits in critical skills and competencies, as well as specific steps that it intends to take to address these gaps, Williams-Bridgers said.

“As we reported in 2010, until USAID improves its workforce planning, the agency will remain at risk of not deploying the workforce it needs to meet current and future foreign assistance goals,” she added.

The GAO official said USAID agreed with its recommendation to address the limitations of its workforce plan.

Read more about U.S. development aid.

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    Eliza Villarino

    Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.