GAO Sees Many Challenges in Diplomatic Security

Funding for diplomatic security has increased substantially over the last two decades, now just shy of $5 billion a year, but the State Department still faces numerous challenges in protecting its 275 overseas posts and 152 domestic locations, GAO has said.

In a summary of its recent work on different aspects of diplomatic security, GAO said State must account for a wide range of physical and other types of threats to its employees and their accompanying family members including crime, espionage, visa and passport fraud, technological intrusions, political violence, and weapons of mass destruction.

Regarding physical security, GAO said it has found weaknesses in their process to address some security vulnerabilities at diplomatic facilities and the residences of diplomats and other staff, as well as at the schools their children attend and other “soft targets.” Further, while State has processes for communicating threat information to post personnel and U.S. citizens in-country, such information has not always been shared in a timely manner; similarly, gaps in the implementation and monitoring of crisis and evacuation preparedness “could endanger staff assigned to overseas posts and the family members accompanying them.”

Personnel challenges include the distribution of domestic and overseas positions, posting fully qualified individuals in the assignments with the greatest needs, and ongoing efforts to fill language-designated positions, GAO said. Also, while State “has robust security training requirements, it lacks consistent monitoring and enforcement processes, particularly for its Foreign Affairs Counter Threat training and for security refresher briefings at posts.”

It said that State did not respond to a draft of the report except with technical changes.