Following the September 11, 2012 attack on U.S. government facilities in Benghazi, Libya, the independent Benghazi Accountability Review Board (ARB) issued 29 recommendations (24 of which were unclassified) to the Department of State. The Department accepted each of the ARB’s recommendations and is committed to implementing them. This will require fundamentally reforming the organization in critical ways. While risk can never be completely eliminated from our diplomatic duties, we must always work to minimize it. A brief summary of the Department’s actions on the 24 unclassified recommendations is as follows:
Unclassified Recommendations of the ARB (Text abridged) and Department Actions
OVERARCHING SECURITY CONSIDERATIONS
1. The Department must strengthen security for personnel and platforms beyond traditional reliance on host government security support in high risk, high threat posts.
- The Department established a High Threat Board to review our presence at High Threat, High Risk posts; the Board will review these posts every 6 months.
- We created a Deputy Assistant Secretary for High Threat Posts in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), who is responsible for ensuring that such posts receive the focused attention they need.
2. The Board recommends that the Department re-examine DS organization and management, with a particular emphasis on span of control for security policy planning for all overseas U.S. diplomatic facilities.
- The Department established a six-person panel to thoroughly review DS’s organization and management structure; the panel has developed draft findings.
3. Regional bureaus should have augmented support within the bureau on security matters, to include a senior DS officer to report to the regional Assistant Secretary.
- DS staff attend regular Regional Bureau meetings, and Regional Bureau staff attend DS daily briefings to better communicate on security issues.
- The Department has adjusted the work requirements (position descriptions) for senior level staff (Assistant Secretaries and Deputy Assistant Secretaries) to reflect everyone’s responsibility for overseas security.
4. The Department should establish a panel of outside independent experts (military, security, humanitarian) with experience in high risk, high threat areas to identify best practices (from other agencies and other countries), and evaluate U.S. security platforms in high risk, high threat posts.
- The Department established a six-person panel to identify best practices used by other agencies and countries; this panel’s work is expected to be complete by late summer.
5. The Department should develop minimum security standards for occupancy of temporary facilities in high risk, high threat environments, and seek greater flexibility to make funds rapidly available for security upgrades at such facilities.
- The Department has re-affirmed that Overseas Security Policy Board Standards apply to temporary facilities.
- We identified flexible funding authorities to make improvements to our overseas facilities.
6. Before opening or re-opening critical threat or high risk, high threat posts, the Department should establish a multi-bureau support cell, residing in the regional bureau.
- The Department developed standard operating procedures for “Support Cells” for opened/reopened posts. The process is being incorporated into the Foreign Affairs Handbook.
7. All State Department and other government agencies’ facilities should be collocated when they are in the same metropolitan area, unless a waiver has been approved.
- We verified all data on our overseas facilities; we are exploring which non-collocated facilities can be eliminated and their personnel relocated.
8. The Secretary should require an action plan from DS, OBO, and other relevant offices on the use of fire as a weapon against diplomatic facilities, including immediate steps to deal with urgent issues.
- The Department issued guidance to all posts on “weapons of opportunity.”
- Fire testing is ongoing at U.S. military facilities.
9. The Department should revise its guidance to posts and require key offices to perform in-depth status checks of post tripwires.
- The Department reviewed and revised requirements for posts on how to respond to changing security benchmarks (i.e., “tripwires”).
- The Department established a Washington-based “Tripwires Committee” to review tripwires upon breach, to help ensure that posts and regional bureaus in Washington respond more quickly should security deteriorate at post.
10. The State Department must work with Congress to restore the Capital Security Cost Sharing Program [for embassy construction] at its full capacity, adjusted for inflation to approximately $2.2 billion in fiscal year 2015.
- The FY14 President’s Budget included a request for $2.2 billion in the Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance account.
11. The Board supports the State Department’s initiative to request additional Marines and expand the Marine Security Guard (MSG) Program – as well as corresponding requirements for staffing and funding.
- Along with the Congress and Department of Defense, we are working to increase the number of Marine Security Guards at U.S. diplomatic facilities, and have requested (and received) more resources to build facilities at additional posts to host Marine Security Guards in the future.
STAFFING HIGH RISK, HIGH THREAT POSTS
12. The Board strongly endorses the Department’s request for increased DS personnel for high- and critical-threat posts and for additional Mobile Security Deployment teams, as well as an increase in DS domestic staffing in support of such action.
- With Congressional support, the Department is creating 151 new Diplomatic Security positions — 113 are expected to be hired this fiscal year. The remainder will be hired in FY14.
13. The Department should assign key policy, program, and security personnel at high risk, high threat posts for a minimum of one year. For less critical personnel, the temporary duty length (TDY) length should be no less than 120 days.
- All high threat posts now have a minimum of a one-year tour of duty. We are planning to ensure overlap between incumbent and incoming positions to facilitate continuity of operations at high threat posts.
- Temporary duty assignments are set at a minimum of 120 days.
14. The Department needs to review the staffing footprints at high risk, high threat posts, with particular attention to ensuring adequate Locally Employed Staff (LES) and management support. High risk, high threat posts must be funded and the human resources process prioritized to hire LES interpreters and translators.
- The Department surveyed every post to review the numbers of interpreters and translators on staff, and found that there was adequate staffing.
15. With increased and more complex diplomatic activities in the Middle East, the Department should enhance its ongoing efforts to significantly upgrade its language capacity, especially Arabic, among American employees, including DS, and receive greater resources to do so.
- The Department is ramping up the language capacity of its American employees, including Diplomatic Security agents, especially in Arabic. Increasing language capacity takes time – certain languages take up to 2 years to learn. In the short term, the Department is committed to better equipping the growing cadre of security experts to engage local populations and cooperate with host nation security forces.
TRAINING AND AWARENESS
16. A panel of Senior Special Agents and Supervisory Special Agents should revisit DS high-threat training with respect to active internal defense and fire survival as well as Chief of Mission protective detail training.
- The Department established a panel of Supervisory Special Agents to participate in a Program Review of the High Threat Tactical Course; as a result, DS revised high-threat training and COM protective detail training and raised standards for passing the High Threat Tactical Course. DS and the Foreign Service Institute are currently revising the curriculum.
- DS is pursuing a high-threat training strategy that will incorporate elements of this training across the full spectrum of courses required for DS special agents throughout their careers.
17. The Diplomatic Security Training Center and Foreign Service Institute should collaborate in designing joint courses that integrate high threat training and risk management decision processes for senior and mid-level DS agents and Foreign Service Officers and better prepare them for leadership positions in high risk, high threat posts.
- The Department has enhanced security training efforts, including by requiring personnel headed to high threat posts to receive additional, specialized security training.
SECURITY AND FIRE SAFETY EQUIPMENT
18. The Department should ensure provision of adequate fire safety and security equipment for safe havens and safe areas in non-Inman/SECCA facilities, as well as high threat Inman facilities.
- The Department has surveyed fire and life safety equipment requirements abroad and is now upgrading this equipment, to include enhanced fire safety equipment and personal protective equipment, at all high-threat, high-risk U.S. diplomatic posts abroad.
19. There have been technological advancements in non-lethal deterrents, and the State Department should ensure it rapidly and routinely identifies and procures additional options for non-lethal deterrents in high risk, high threat posts and trains personnel on their use.
- The Department has addressed this recommendation.
20. DS should upgrade surveillance cameras at high risk, high threat posts for greater resolution, nighttime visibility, and monitoring capability beyond post.
- Over the next year the Department will have upgraded high-threat, high-risk facilities with more modern surveillance cameras that feature greater resolution and monitoring capability at all times of day.
INTELLIGENCE AND THREAT ANALYSIS
21. Careful attention should be given to factors showing a deteriorating threat situation in general as a basis for improving security posture. Key trends must be quickly identified and used to sharpen risk calculations.
- The Department has addressed this recommendation.
22. The DS Office of Intelligence and Threat Analysis should report directly to the DS Assistant Secretary and directly supply threat analysis to all DS components, regional Assistant Secretaries, and Chiefs of Mission in order to get key security-related threat information into the right hands more rapidly.
- The DS Office of Intelligence and Threat Analysis, now reports directly to the Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security for threat reporting and supplies threat analysis to regional Assistant Secretaries and Chiefs of Mission.
23. The Board is of the view that findings of unsatisfactory leadership performance by senior officials in relation to the security incident under review should be a potential basis for discipline recommendations by future ARBs, and would recommend a revision of Department regulations or amendment to the relevant statute to this end.
- The Department is working with Congress to increase accountability. In January, the Department proposed legislation to grant future ARBs the authority to recommend disciplinary action on the basis of unsatisfactory leadership, and thus increase accountability for security incidents.
24. The Board was humbled by the courage and integrity shown by those on the ground in Benghazi and Tripoli, in particular the DS agents and Annex team who defended their colleagues… We trust that the Department and relevant agencies will take the opportunity to recognize their exceptional valor and performance, which epitomized the highest ideals of government service.