Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence


Resources Deployed in the United States


  1.  In the US, our Posts spent almost £24 million on administration and local staff pay in the financial year 2000-01. Approximately 50% of this amount was spent on the 482 locally-engaged staff employed in government offices throughout the US.

Staff Numbers for Posts in USA
PostUK Staff Local Staff Total
Atlanta220 22
Boston218 20
Chicago436 40
Dallas13 4
Denver11 2
Houston316 19
Los Angeles437 41
Miami410 14
New York (UK Mission to the UN)39 1352
New York-(Consulate-General)11 5768
New York (British Information Services) 12122
New York (Joint Management Office)3 3639
Orlando04 4
Phoenix01 1
San Francisco 321 24
San Juan 02 2
Seattle16 7
Washington79180 259
Totals 158 482640

  Numbers include staff from other Government Departments but not those in the British Defence Section in Washington or those members of the Film Office in Los Angeles not paid by the FCO.

  2.  Over the last two years, two new UK Posts have opened in the US: a Consulate in Denver, Colorado, and a Trade and Investment Office in Phoenix, Arizona. Our science and technology network in the US is expanding, reflecting a major commitment to technology transfer work, and eight new staff will be based in Boston, San Francisco, Houston and Los Angeles (in addition to the existing five in Washington).

  3.  On and after 11 September, the Consulate-General in New York gave a superb example of what a properly-resourced Post can do in a crisis. Able to draw on over 60 staff (and the resources of the other Posts in New York), the Post set up a 24-hour emergency call centre in close communication with the crisis centres in London and locally in New York. Setting up a separate British Family Centre in a hotel proved invaluable in providing a first class and discreet service to visiting families. This Centre housed the Police Family Liaison Officers and Counsellors, in addition to experienced Consulate-General staff. It allowed the main Consulate-General to move back towards more normal working and to handle reporting requirements, the media and visitors, and the `UK with NY' Festival, to which the New York authorities attached much value as a demonstration of solidarity.

Estate in the United States

  4.  The inventory of property in the United States, as elsewhere, is continually updated, to ensure value for money. At the moment the FCO is funding the replacement of offices in:

    —  Los Angeles, where the FCO will soon be starting a project to fit out a more efficient suite of offices at a total capital cost of £1,000,000;

    —  Boston, where the FCO is negotiating a lease on new offices adjacent to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to provide a base for the Consulate-General closer to the heart of the high technology centre of the Eastern seaboard.

  5.  The FCO has recently reviewed the owned estate in the US and agreed on the sale of properties which do not provide good value for money. These include the current apartment of the Consul-General in New York. The future of the over-scale San Francisco Residence is still under consideration, with the Committee's interest kept in mind. It was valued in March 2001 at about £9 million and is therefore one of the most expensive properties in the US, with an annual capital charge in excess of £500,000. The FCO is exploring the market for a suitable alternative.

Information Technology

  6.  Posts in North America have been a priority for the current programme of IT investment. In August 2000 they were the first Posts to be connected to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Telecommunications Network (FTN). FTN, a global network on which the Permanent Under Secretary has briefed the Committee, delivers for the first time, reliable, secure and fast communications across the world. The major benefits for users in North America have been classified e-mail to London (and to other FCO posts as the FTN network spreads) and the ability to access the internet from a terminal on which Restricted information is also held. The FCO is the first Diplomatic Service in the world to achieve internet access from classified terminals in missions overseas. This investment is a major step towards making the FCO a truly global on-line organisation.

  7.  To help meet the changing demands of the US market, an increasing amount of correspondence is dealt with electronically, both government to government and with the public. The British Information Services office in New York maintains a number of well presented web-sites for posts throughout North America. Currently the main web-site receives around 150,000 hits a week.

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© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 18 December 2001