Report: State should better track response time to Congress queries

Members of Congress send the State Department more than 2,000 letters a year, but the agency does an incomplete job of tracking how quickly it responds.

The Government Accountability Office reviewed 4,804 cases of congressional correspondence to determine whether State was getting back to lawmakers in 21 business days, as they aspire to.

More than half the time they are. But the other half? Who knows.

 


About one-third of correspondence was related to consular services, like getting passports for constituents. In those cases, the agency responds directly to the member of Congress’s constituent, and there’s no telling how swiftly it did so. Other questions, like what happened in Benghazi, would make up the other types of congressional inquiries.

“Without accurate and complete data, State is not in a position to identify elements of the process that may be most prone to delays and develop strategies to improve the timeliness of its response letters,” GAO concluded.

UPDATED: For what it’s worth, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who requested the GAO report released Tuesday, received a response within three weeks of her request for more information about the agency hiring outside contractors to teach classes on testifying before Congress. (An earlier version of this post said she was still waiting to hear back.)

“Today’s GAO report provides additional evidence of the State Department’s serious mismanagement of congressional correspondence,” said Sarah Feldman, spokesperson for McCaskill. “Senator McCaskill requested this study after State’s numerous failures to respond to routine requests—which are a regular and ongoing part of congressional oversight—and hopes GAO’s recommendations will spur State to make real reforms and increase its responsiveness to Congress.”

Well, it’s nice to know we’re not the only ones being ignored.

Colby Itkowitz is a national reporter for In The Loop.

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