Despite a 17 percent increase in State Department hiring in fiscal years 2009 and 2010, the department “faces persistent experience gaps in overseas Foreign Service positions,” according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

In a report released Monday, GAO said 28 percent of overseas slots were either vacant or filled by employees working above their grade level.

The experience gaps, which are a particular problem at midlevel positions, place the department’s “diplomatic readiness at risk,” the report says. Foreign Service officers hired in recent years will not be eligible for promotion to midlevel until at least fiscal year 2014.

“The State Department continues to struggle with staffing, experience, and foreign language gaps, which undermine our diplomatic readiness,” said Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), chairman of the Senate’s federal workforce subcommittee. “State must continue to develop effective workforce strategies and address staffing gaps to effectively respond to quickly evolving diplomatic challenges.”

In response to GAO, State said it agreed that its workforce planning should be updated to include a strategy to address staffing gaps and a plan to evaluate the strategy.


Twitter: @JoeDavidsonWP

Previous columns by Joe Davidson are available at wapo.st/JoeDavidson.