State Dept’s New High Threat Posts Are Not All Danger Posts

We posted yesterday about a brand new office within Diplomatic Security with a new Deputy Assistant Secretary responsible for “evaluating, managing, and mitigating the security threats, as well as the direction of resource requirements at high threat diplomatic missions.”

The news report from the National Review dated Nov 30 listed the 17 high threat missions as the diplomatic facilities in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Libya, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen. The list of posts includes Syria but not Algeria. It also includes Nigeria, not Niger.  The more recent CBS News report dated December 8 includes 17 diplomatic missions with Algeria, but not Syria; and Niger not Nigeria. The same CBS report cited a senior State Department official saying that “no congressional approval was required for the bureaucratic shift and no new funds were involved.”

We were curious how these new list of high threat posts square with posts currently receiving danger pay designation. Danger pay is additional compensation given to State employees above basic compensation for service at designated danger pay posts “where civil insurrection, terrorism, or war conditions threaten physical harm or imminent danger to all U.S. Government civilian employees.”

As of December 2, six of the 17 reported new high threat posts have zero danger pay: Azerbaijan, Egypt, Indonesia, Kenya, Mauritania, Niger.  We’re listing Niger below since that’s from the later report dated December 8. If the list does include Nigeria as mentioned in the National Review report, then that’s the only mission on the list designated at 10% danger pay.

Hi-Threat Posts -

Data extracted from

Also several posts with comparable danger pay are not on this reported high threat list.

Syria is a 25% danger post. It is not on the list presumably since the U.S. Embassy in Damascus suspended its operations in February 2012.

Algiers, which is on one list but not the other is a 15% danger post with posts outside the capital city designated at 25%.

Lebanon is a 20% danger post as well as a Monterrey and Nuevo Laredo, both in Mexico. The West Bank in Jerusalem and Karmi’el in Israel both also get 20% danger pay.

Other posts designated danger pay posts at the 5, 10, 15% differential level are listed here.

The question we have is — if these 17 posts are considered high threat missions, how come six of these missions are not even designated danger pay posts?

Is it possible to be a high threat mission and not be a dangerous mission? How does that work?

On the other hand, how is it that 20% danger posts in Lebanon, Mexico, Jerusalem and Israel are not included on this high threat list?

And while Jordan, a 15% danger pay post made it to the high threat list, there are a good number of 15% danger posts that did not make the list. For instance, Colombia, Saudi Arabia, a couple posts in Mexico and several posts in Africa.

What then are the basis for the high threat designation?  Are there secret factors not identified in the Danger Pay Factors Form (FS-578) that are required prior to the high threat designation?   Are these two totally unrelated? And if they are, does that make sense?

domani spero sig

Updated 8:06 PST:  Added distinction between Niger and Nigeria from the available reports.

8 responses

  1. I was in Kenya, which is rated critical for crime and terrorism, gets zero danger pay, but 35% hardship. From what I always heard, because Kenya has good schools, they didn’t want to give danger pay which would scare away all the families (or maybe it would mean they wouldn’t be allowed to come? Not sure what the rule is on that). So instead they give hardship pay, even though Nairobi is really not a hardship post, at least not by my definition. If that rationale is true, I’m not sure why they can just play around with the categories like that. Seems like there ought to be standards…

  2. And then there is the “critical crime threat post,” which can often have comparable or higher murder rates, rape, and armed robbery. I guess if the killing is indiscriminate, then it’s not “dangerous.” Go figure. It’s a language all its own.

    • Lawrence, thanks for your sharp eye. I have added an update. The NR list includes Nigeria. The CBS piece includes Niger. Two different countries, of course, with two different designations.

  3. You must have discovered by now that D/S is not always up to date. It literally took years after the Cold War had ended before the no-longer existent E. Germany was removed from the list of Communist countries.

    • Oh dear. In this case, I think it may also have something to do with the different hands at work. The high threat list from DS, and the danger pay designation from the “A” side. Why they’re not working hand in glove ….