State neglected GAO’s diplomatic security advice

The U.S. Embassy in Malta's security guards quarters are marked with a large sign. The U.S. Embassy in Malta's security guards quarters are marked with a large sign. Lino Arrigo Azzopardi/AP

The State Department did not follow up on recommendations made in 2009 to improve diplomatic security, a failing that may have contributed to critical staffing shortages at dangerous diplomatic posts around the world, a Government Accountability Office official said Thursday.

In a written statement presented to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, GAO’s Michael J. Courts said a lack of a “strategic review” at State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security lead to the office expanding its resources and personnel “reactively” without consideration of its longer term future. Courts referenced a GAO report released in late 2009 that said State faced serious “operational challenges.” especially in dangerous posts that needed “adequate strategic guidance.” He said the bureau had made some improvements, but State should integrate the problems Diplomatic Security faces into the department’s broader strategic planning.  

“For example, State’s strategic plan does not specifically address Diplomatic Security’s resource needs or management challenges,” Courts wrote.

The Bureau of Diplomatic Security has come under increased political scrutiny following the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Security personnel testifying at a congressional hearing in October said Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Charlene Lamb rejected additional resources for the Benghazi consulate because she said the mission had changed, negating the need for additional forces.

Areas for improvement highlighted in Courts’ testimony include facilities and buildings, inadequate foreign language knowledge, experience gaps, “host country laws” that prohibit personnel from taking adequate precautions, and a need to balance the diplomatic mission with security concerns.

“Realistic security assessments need to be conducted and we must ensure that our front-line diplomats are provided the necessary protection to do their jobs effectively,” House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairwoman Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said in a written statement released Thursday.  

The State Department declined to comment for this story. 
Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.