H.R. 2541, DIPLOMATIC SECURITY IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 1995 -- HON. BENJAMIN A. GILMAN (Extension of Remarks - October 26, 1995)
HON. BENJAMIN A. GILMAN
in the House of Representatives
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 26, 1995
- Mr. GILMAN. Mr. Speaker, today I am introducing legislation to support the activities of a key bureau within the Department of State--the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. This is the Bureau that is tasked among other things with maintaining the security of the lives of American diplomatic personnel overseas.
- We have been repeatedly reminded that the world is still a very dangerous place. My bill will help strengthen America's defenses against international terrorism targeted against individuals or governments, and will improve our ability to battle this deadly and cowardly scourge.
- Recently, we have witnessed several attacks on American personnel and facilities; including the tragic death of two innocent American personnel viciously gunned down while in a United States diplomatic van on the streets of Karachi, Pakistan. There was also the recent grenade attack on the United States embassy in Moscow. It is still an unsafe world for American personnel and facilities abroad.
- The Diplomatic Security Bureau is required to provide a secure environment for the conduct of American diplomacy worldwide. Americans are sent to distant and sometimes unfriendly locations around the world to carry out our foreign policy goals. It is our duty to be sure that the best security is provided to these Americans and other nationals, who help carry out and implement our foreign policy abroad.
- Unfortunately, there has long been precious little enthusiasm for many of these difficult, and often undiplomatic security type functions and safety efforts within some parts of our State Department. I fear that in the competition for resources, security of all kinds is getting short changed today.
- The bill, I am introducing today, will help to provide greater leadership and professionalism within the Diplomatic Security Bureau. This reform is important given the extent of responsibilities assigned to this bureau.
- In addition to protection of personnel assigned to U.S. diplomatic missions abroad, the Bureau provides physical protection for Department of State office and residential facilities, communications, and information systems; prevents the penetration of diplomatic facilities by foreign intelligence efforts, and certifies construction security procedures.
- Diplomatic Security also conducts personnel background investigations for security clearances, investigates visa and passport fraud, protects resident and visiting foreign dignitaries, and makes semiannual assessments of the threat levels of overseas posts for terrorism, crime, human intelligence, and technical attacks on facilities.
- My bill sets out new professional statutory qualifications for the Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security. This individual is in charge of the important day to day leadership in the State Department protecting our personnel and facilities abroad, as well as a key border security function, dealing with vital travel and entry documents. The bill also insures the Bureau's permanent existence in any possible downgrading scheme.
- The Diplomatic Security Bureau, besides these many responsibilities I noted, also investigates passport and visa fraud, which exists on a massive scale today. This fraud seriously threatens our internal security by facilitating the often undetected and easy entry into our Nation of international terrorists, drug traffickers, and other unsavory criminal elements.
- The growing problem with visa and passport fraud requires professional law enforcement leadership and experience to help bring about successful prosecute of these criminal offenses in our Federal courts. I was pleased last year to take the lead in the crime bill that raised the criminal penalties for these offenses, especially if done to facilitate terrorism, or drug trafficking.
- In addition, we must continue to adhere to high standards for construction and building security at the Diplomatic Security Bureau. We can not afford to have another Moscow Embassy episode that has cost the country in terms of expenditures required to rebuild this building and in terms of national security concerns.
- On June 29, 1995, the International Relations Committee held oversight hearings on many of these security problems, including the recent attacks on American personnel overseas in both Karachi, Pakistan, and on our Ambassador in Burundi.
- We identified the problem of the Ambassador's driver in Burundi, who because of budget cuts and resource restraints, did not receive the needed defensive driving training as requested earlier out of concern for safety by our Embassy in Bujumbura.
- In both instances in Pakistan and Burundi, the embassy vehicle drivers froze when the attacks came, and were not adequately trained to possibly help avoid injury to our United States personnel under transport. While such training would not have guaranteed successful avoidance, its omission, surely did not help matters.
- It was plainly evident from those oversight proceedings that in the last few years the Diplomatic Security Bureau has taken far too deep, and disproportionate cuts as part of the State Department's own management initiated resource reductions. The State Department has started to cut into the very bone marrow of its own vital safety and security operations.
- The cuts in staff, resources, building and construction security, and other personnel, security training, and/or contract related security activities, such as crisis management training, maybe today needlessly endangering the safety of our personnel, facilities, and overall national security abroad.
- This is a cause serious concern, which cannot be ignored, especially today when we are considering increased American presence in places like Bosnia, and in light of the rise of radical religiously motivated terrorism, often directed at Americans and our interests. Let us hope we have not forgotten the lessons of Beirut in the early 1980's when our Embassy and other facilities abroad faced the deadly terrorist bombs and attacks.
- Congress must help put an end to this unacceptable downward slide in diplomatic security at the U.S. State Department. We must help restore it to the priority status it deserves. After all, these are issues of vital national interest. In addition, we do a disservice to those Americans we send abroad to conduct our foreign policy, when we neglect their very security, and personal safety.
- Disproportionate cuts in our diplomatic security efforts in the last few years, have been largely accepted without serious protest. The current incumbent in the post of Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security has no real formal background in law enforcement, the intelligence services, or the security field.
- Professional qualifications related to this important and high level position within the State Department are not now required of any incumbent who holds, or will hold, that top security position in the State Department. Therein lies the potential danger to our national security.
- My bill, helps correct this situation. This Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security position should be more than a ticket punch in the foreign service on the way up the career ladder at our State Department.
- It is vital, especially in the current climate of reduced budgets and cutbacks in the State Department, that the Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security have the relevant professional law enforcement, intelligence, and/or security qualifications and experience for this important job.
- Professional qualifications that are essential, in order that he or she can carry on the fight for adequate resources and respect in a even more informed, and serious manner, befitting the threat to our national security, and do so, without fear or favor.
- The bill, I introduce today, will require professional related qualifications hereafter for anyone appointed Assistant Secretary of Diplomatic Security, and charged with that important responsibility abroad in today's ever dangerous and hostile world.
- This reform embodied in my bill (H.R. 2541) is in America's vital interest.
- I ask that the full text of the bill be printed hereafter:
SECTION 1. ESTABLISHMENT OF ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR DIPLOMATIC SECURITY.
There shall be in the Department of State an Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security who shall be responsible to the Secretary of State for matters relating to diplomatic security. The Assistant Secretary shall have substantial professional qualifications in the field of law enforcement, intelligence, or security and shall be appointed and compensated as provided under section 1(c)(1) of the State Department Basic Authorities Act of 1956.