Jim Kouri
Secretary Hillary Clinton faces diplomatic security challenges
By Jim Kouri
December 14, 2009

The Department of State's Bureau of Diplomatic Security is currently responsible for the protection of people, facilities, information, and property at over 400 embassies, consulates, and domestic locations.

Since the 1998 bombings of U.S. Embassies in East Africa, the scope and complexity of threats facing Americans abroad and at home has increased. Diplomatic Security must be prepared to counter threats such as crime, espionage, visa and passport fraud, technological intrusions, political violence, and terrorism.

This summary report is based on a Government Accountability Office analysis that was releases to the US Congress, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and concerned agencies and organizations on December 9. The GAO analysis addressed the growth of Diplomatic Security's missions and resources, and the challenges Diplomatic Security faces in conducting its work.

To address these objectives GAO analysts interviewed numerous officials at Diplomatic Security headquarters, several domestic facilities, and 18 international postings. They also analyzed Diplomatic Security and State budget and personnel data, as well as assessed challenges facing Diplomatic Security through analysis of interviews with personnel positioned domestically and internationally, budget and personnel data provided by State and Diplomatic Security, and planning and strategic documentation.

GAO analysts conducted this performance audit from September 2008 to November 2009, in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. Those standards require that GAO plans and performs the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives.

GAO believes that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives.

Since 1998, Diplomatic Security's mission and activities — and, subsequently, its resources — have grown considerably in reaction to a number of security incidents. As a consequence of this growth, analysts identified several challenges. In particular, the State Department is maintaining a presence in an increasing number of dangerous posts, which requires additional resources.

In addition, staffing shortages in domestic offices and other operational challenges — such as inadequate facilities, language deficiencies, experience gaps, and the difficulty of balancing security needs with State's diplomatic mission — further tax Diplomatic Security's ability to implement all of its missions.

Diplomatic Security funding and personnel have also increased considerably over the last 10 years. In 1998, Diplomatic Security's budget was about $200 million; by fiscal year 2008, it had grown to approximately $1.8 billion, of which over $300 million was for security in Iraq.

In addition, the size of Diplomatic Security's direct-hire workforce has doubled since 1998 and will likely continue to expand. Recently, Diplomatic Security's reliance on contractors has grown to fill critical needs in high-threat posts. Diplomatic Security faces several challenges that could affect the bureau's ability to provide security and use its resources efficiently.

The Diplomatic Security Bureau's considerable growth has not benefited from adequate strategic guidance. In the GAO report, they recommended that the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her staff — as part of the agency's Quadrennial Diplomatic and Development Review (QDDR) or separately — conduct a strategic review of Diplomatic Security to ensure that its missions and activities address its priority needs.

© Jim Kouri


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Jim Kouri

Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police... (more)


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