Summary of Review
On June 25, 2021, the White House issued Executive Order 14035 “to strengthen the Federal workforce by promoting diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility.”1 The Executive Order called for the development of a government-wide diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) strategic plan, which the White House published in November 2021,2 and directed agencies to develop DEIA strategic plans. In September 2022, the Department of State (Department) published its DEIA strategic plan.3
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted this review to assess the status of the Department’s efforts to implement its DEIA goal to “strengthen accountability policies and processes to prevent and eliminate discrimination, harassment, bullying, and toxic management” (the accountability goal). OIG focused its review on the accountability goal because OIG’s past inspection work, as well as a recent Department-wide climate survey, indicated that the Department’s workforce generally perceived it as not holding employees accountable for conduct and behavior issues. Furthermore, because the Department’s DEIA strategic plan had been in effect only since September 2022,4 OIG focused this review on determining the initial status of the Department’s efforts—led primarily by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (S/ODI), the Office of Civil Rights (S/OCR),5 and the Bureau of Global Talent Management (GTM)—toward implementing the accountability goal. Although it was too soon to fully evaluate the Department’s effectiveness in implementing the accountability goal, OIG conducted this review to establish baseline information and spotlight this important Department effort.
Specifically, OIG evaluated the status of the Department’s implementation of the following four strategies related to the accountability goal:
- Strengthen candidate vetting for senior leadership positions.
- Increase transparency in Department accountability mechanisms.
- Expand and strengthen mechanisms for employees to report problematic behavior and avoid retaliation or reprisal.
- Shorten timelines for Department investigations related to discrimination, harassment, and other misconduct.
Overall, OIG found the Department was making progress toward the strategies and corresponding milestones related to the accountability goal, although some milestones are taking longer to achieve than originally estimated and continue to be in progress. OIG also found GTM was unaware of at least some of the milestones and told OIG the current vetting process for senior leadership positions was robust and questioned the need to alter the current system. Other Department stakeholders told OIG they did not know which office was responsible for advising individuals when there was a vetting issue with an assignment, promotion, award, or participation in a selection board.6 Some staff told OIG that cables summarizing types of misconduct, part of the Department’s efforts to increase transparency in its accountability mechanisms, could be more effective if they were more widely available, publicized, or discussed within the Department. Lastly, to expand and strengthen mechanisms for employees to report problematic behavior and avoid retaliation or reprisal, the Department notified Congress in December 2022 of its intent to create a new Office of Harassment and Bullying Intervention in GTM, which would be staffed initially with 15 people.
Tables 1 through 4, in the body of the report, provide the status and action office(s) for each individual milestone under the Department’s four strategies related to the accountability goal.7 Finally, OIG notes the Department’s 2022 completion of its inaugural agency-wide climate survey on DEIA and recent publication of its FY21 and FY22 demographics baseline reports will be helpful in evaluations of Department DEIA efforts, including its efforts to strengthen accountability.
This report does not contain any recommendations.8
1 Executive Order 14035, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in the Federal Workforce, June 25, 2021.
2 White House, Government-wide Strategic Plan to Advance Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in the Federal Workforce, November 23, 2021.
3 Department of State, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA) Strategic Plan 2022–2026.
4 OIG began its review in January 2023. As noted in Appendix A, OIG concluded its review in April 2023.
5 The Office of Diversity and Inclusion (S/ODI) and the Office of Civil Rights (S/OCR) are within the Office of the Secretary of State.
6 Selection boards, which are normally composed of members of the Foreign Service and public members, recommend members of the Foreign Service for promotion. To serve on a selection board, members of the Foreign Service must meet certain qualification requirements. See 3 FAM 2326.1-2a, 3 FAM 2326.1-3, and 3 FAM 2326.1-1a.
7 OIG generated the information in these tables from the Department’s implementation plan dashboard, as of March 1, 2023.
8 Although this report does not contain any recommendations, OIG provided a draft of this report to Department stakeholders for their review and comment on the findings. The Department provided technical comments that were incorporated into the report, as appropriate.