• The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ (ECA) prestigious exchange programs enhance mutual understanding and are increasingly aligned with foreign policy priorities. However, long-standing institutional weaknesses undermine ECA’s effectiveness.
• Some ECA employees resist adopting processes fundamental to operating efficiently within the Department of State (Department).
• The ECA/Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP) executive office should be restructured to improve management oversight and increase efficiency, particularly with respect to human resources operations and support services.
• Significant increases in annual exchange visitor visa issuance have left ECA struggling to oversee the more than 1,200 sponsor organizations responsible for ensuring positive cultural exchange experiences for participants, many of whom are youth.
• ECA …
• Grants officer representatives do not adequately perform monitoring and evaluation responsibilities, creating vulnerabilities in program implementation and oversight of funds. ECA has more than 100 outstanding grants awaiting closeout; once that step is complete, the bureau will be able to deobligate an estimated $4 million.
• ECA …
• Embassies use their own funds for exchange activities without informing ECA, raising issues of coordination and conformity with established standards.
• ECA’s systems and applications do not meet all user needs due to the absence of stakeholder participation, systems documentation, and management review and approval throughout the development process.
The inspection took place in Washington, DC, between September 28 and December 1, 2011.