Federal Manager's Daily Report

GAO: Multiple transitions in State’s leadership and changing priorities have hampered reform projects.

In a report whose findings could apply to internal agency reform efforts in general, the GAO has said that lack of leadership focus has “led to several projects being scaled back, slowed down, or both” at the State Department.

The department in early 2018 outlined a list of 17 planned reforms, but only one—involving streamlining policy formulation—is considered complete, progress on two related to overseas presence are “stalled,” one involving consolidation of real property has been discontinued and the rest—involving HR, IT and data analytics, among others—are in a mix of statuses, a report said.

“State has not addressed certain key practices related to leadership focus and attention in implementing its reform efforts. Multiple transitions in State’s leadership and changing priorities contributed to uncertainty about leadership support for reform projects,” it said.

Just after the reform plans were announced, it noted, the Secretary of State was changed, leaving officials uncertain whether those projects remain a priority as new priorities were launched. The department soon afterward disbanded the dedicated teams overseeing the reform efforts and shifted the responsibility to various bureaus and offices, some of which “reported receiving little or no direction from department leadership” and most of which report to one or more officials serving only in an acting capacity.