Former Ambassador Matt Bryza: Fears and Frustrations on Embassy Security

Matt Bryza served as U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan from 2011-12 and as a deputy assistant secretary of state from 2005-09. He is now director of the International Centre for Defence Studies in Tallinn, Estonia and resides in Istanbul. Below is an excerpt from his December 3 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal:

I was appalled to learn weeks later that midlevel bureaucrats in Washington had implemented the cutback for Baku. My immediate and angry response got the capability restored. But for approximately two weeks, our embassy personnel—and all their family members—were left unnecessarily vulnerable because of budget decisions taken deep within the bureaucracy and against the assessment of the U.S. president’s personal representative in Azerbaijan, his ambassador.

I saw a similar lack of urgency when I returned to Washington. As I thanked diplomatic security officials for restoring the key capability that had been cut without my approval, I expected them to acknowledge that their subordinates had made a mistake. I also expected them to emphasize the need to do anything required to protect an embassy facing a serious terror threat. Instead I sensed reluctance—bred apparently by budgetary pressures, as fortress embassies like those in Baghdad and Kabul swallowed the lion’s share of the State Department’s diplomatic-security budget.

This budgetary stinginess is dangerous and self-defeating for U.S. diplomats. And it contrasts starkly with what I witnessed in a 2001 episode, when the State Department mounted an all-out campaign to beef up information security after the disappearance of a single laptop computer from the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. It is ridiculous that the State Department can find financial resources to protect classified data but not to protect the people who produce that information.

Continue reading, My Experience with Lax Embassy Security.

If link above does not work, click here (H/T to James Schumaker).

– DS



10 responses

  1. Is it too late to get my money back? Your last 2 posts scare the crap out of me!

    Mom of FSO posted to Tripoli

    • Debbie — I haven’t splurge it on ice cream yet, so yes, you may :-). Sorry, did not mean to scare you. They are two perspectives from two former FSOs that should help inform the ongoing conversation. And since its out there in the public space, it should be harder to ignore. But that’s only two out of the many. If your FSO has deep worries about security, I’m right here.

  2. Interesting that the original Baby DAS derides “mid-level bureaucrats” for making decisions. It takes one to know one.