2005 Jeddah ARB Recommended “Remote Safe Areas” for Embassies – Upgrades Coming … Or Maybe Not

The results of the Accountability Review Board convened after the terrorist attack of the U.S. Consulate General in Jeddah was never released to the public. So the only recommendation that we know of, which to-date has not been remedied is that one about the construction of safe areas within the embassy compounds.  And the only reason we know about this? The OIG posted its 5-page review online.

A remote safe area, cited by a March 2013 5-page OIG review is “a designated area within a building that serves as an emergency sanctuary and provides at least 15- minute forced-entry and ballistic-resistant (FE/BR) protection, emergency power, ventilation, communications, and emergency egress (12 FAH-5 H-040, Glossary).”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the intent for this is to have a temporary sanctuary for people who are not able to get into the safe haven which offers a longer FE/BR protection.

The brief OIG document published online details the background:

During the December 6, 2004 terrorist attack at the U.S. consulate in Jeddah, gunmen killed four locally employed staff members and injured nine others working outside the consulate building. An ARB determined that these employees were killed or injured because the general services annex building did not have a safe area to which the employees could retreat. The Department concurred with the ARB recommendation to construct safe areas throughout compounds at posts worldwide. It planned to address first the most vulnerable posts with critical and high terrorist threat levels and proposed that the OSPB address compound safe areas as a formal security standard for all posts.

Here is a clip of that attack:

Why is this coming up now?

Apparently the OIG did four inspection cycles in 2012 where inspectors visited 17 missions.  65 percent of the missions visited  (11 out of 17) did not have remote safe areas.  What more, “none of the RSOs could identify a safe area that was constructed as a result of the Jeddah ARB.”  The inspectors also found that four missions rated high or critical for terrorist threat or political violence “lack of a compound emergency sanctuary.”

During four inspection cycles in 2012, security inspectors visited 17 missions and made several significant observations. The inspectors identified 11 missions that did not have remote safe areas and made formal or informal recommendations to construct compound emergency sanctuaries on the compounds. Of the remaining six posts, three had sufficient safe areas and three were small enough that employees could quickly access the chancery safe areas during an emergency. Security inspectors noted the lack of a compound emergency sanctuary at each of four missions rated high or critical for terrorist threat or political violence. In addition, none of the regional security officers in the 17 posts could identify a safe area that was constructed as a result of the Jeddah ARB.

The OIG document only indicates review of 17 missions out of over 283 compounds worldwide.  A high percentage of the 17 missions reviewed, about 65% did not have the recommended safe areas.  So if we expand that to cover all post worldwide, that’s potentially 185 compounds around the world with no safe areas.  The OIG says:

Inspectors also found that new embassy compounds constructed after the Jeddah attack did not include remote safe areas. OIG subsequently learned that the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) will implement the standards for all new embassy compound projects planned after FY 2012.

$200 million needed to upgrade 283 compounds, but then it gets tricky ….

The FY 2013 Department budget request to Congress included $688 million for security upgrades, including $87.7 million for CSUP. According to the budget request, the program funds comprehensive security upgrades, major FE/BR door and window replacements, chemical/biological retrofit projects, emergency egress projects, and security upgrades for soft targets. The budget request does not specifically mention compound emergency sanctuaries as one of the projects; however, the action memorandum signed in 2011 identified CSUP as the source of funding for the estimated $200 million necessary to upgrade 283 compounds. The memorandum also notes that funding for compound emergency sanctuary upgrades would be provided in competition with other worldwide priorities.

Funding for CSUP has declined over the past 5 years from a high of $108 million in FY 2008 to the current level of $95 million under the continuing resolution. Adding another $200 million security program to the CSUP without a corresponding increase in funding will likely result in many embassies not receiving a compound emergency sanctuary upgrade for many years.

And that’s where we’re at on a 7-8 year old Jeddah ARB recommendation. How many more accepted recommendations from that ARB alone are languishing in dark binders labeled “implementations?”  How many more from other unreleased ARBs?

Doesn’t it make you wonder if an ARB is just a pretty harmless paper hammer.

— DS


Related post:

A ‘Rocking Affair’ and Finally Watching the Terror Attack on U.S. Consulate Jeddah


Related item:

Review of Department of State Implementation of Jeddah Accountability Review Board of Recommendation to Consider Remote Safe Areas at Missions Worldwide (pdf)