Search Penny Hill Press

Friday, May 17, 2013

Securing U.S. Diplomatic Facilities and Personnel Abroad: Background and Policy Issues

Alex Tiersky
Analyst in Foreign Affairs

Susan B. Epstein
Specialist in Foreign Policy

The United States maintains about 285 diplomatic facilities worldwide. Attacks on such facilities, and on U.S. diplomatic personnel, are not infrequent. The deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. personnel in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012, along with attacks on U.S. embassies in Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia, and Yemen, drew renewed attention to the challenges facing U.S. diplomats abroad, as well as to the difficulty in balancing concerns for their security against the outreach required of their mission. Congress plays a key role in shaping the response to these challenges, such as by providing resources for diplomatic security and examining security breaches overseas.

The inability to provide perfect security, especially against the evident threat of mob violence, has focused particular scrutiny on the deployment of diplomatic personnel in high-threat environments. The Department of State currently maintains a presence in locations faced with security conditions that previously would likely have led State to evacuate personnel and close the post.

Under reciprocal treaty obligations, host nations are obligated to provide security for the diplomatic facilities of sending states. However, instances in which host nations have been unable or not fully committed to fulfilling this responsibility have sometimes left U.S. facilities vulnerable, especially in extraordinary circumstances. U.S. facilities therefore employ a layered approach to security including not only the measures taken by a host country, but also additional, U.S.-coordinated measures, to include armed Diplomatic Security agents, hardened facilities, U.S.-trained and/or contracted local security guards, and sometimes U.S. Marine Security Guard detachments (whose principal role is securing classified information).

The rapid growth in the number of U.S. civilians deployed in high-risk environments of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan spurred significant investment in recent years in the Department of State’s capacity to provide security in dangerous areas through its Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS). However, it simultaneously placed unprecedented burdens on DS’s capability to carry out this mission successfully there and in other challenging locations. With greater focus on these frontline states, funds for other U.S. facilities could be strained.

Most of the funding for the protection of about U.S. missions abroad is provided through Worldwide Security Protection (WSP) within the State Department’s Diplomatic & Consular Programs (D&CP) account and through Worldwide Security Upgrades (WSU) within the Embassy Security, Construction and Maintenance (ESCM) account. The total security funding requested for FY2012 was about $2.9 billion and the amount enacted was about $2.6 billion.

In the wake of the Benghazi attack, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton convened an Accountability Review Board (ARB), which released a report on its findings on December 19, 2012; Secretary Clinton pledged to fully implement all 29 of the ARB’s recommendations. As the ARB was deliberating, the Department took a number of initial steps to bolster security, including an internal reorganization. The Department of State also requested additional funding from Congress to improve its security measures.

Congressional activity in the 112
th Congress on this issue included a number of hearings on the attack, as well as a report by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, including a number of findings and recommendations. The 113th Congress has provided
additional resources for diplomatic security needs, continued to investigate the circumstances around the attack and the U.S. response, and begun consideration of a number of related legislative proposals.

Date of Report: May 7, 2013
Number of Pages: 31
Order Number: R42834
Price: $29.95

To Order:

R42834.pdf  to use the SECURE SHOPPING CART


Phone 301-253-0881

For email and phone orders, provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.