Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security
House of Representatives
Committee on International Relations
May 17, 2000
Good morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. I welcome this opportunity to testify before you on the security profile of our United States facilities overseas.
On August 7, 1998, our embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, were bombed simultaneously by extremists bent on the destruction of American presence throughout the world. These tragedies unleashed a massive and intense effort to provide much needed security improvements at all our overseas posts. Although much has been accomplished, more needs to be done. Our overseas facilities are generally more secure now than in August of 1998, but the continuing threat environment worldwide requires that we not lose focus, that we continue to explore new ways of protecting ourselves, and support a program for new embassy construction.
The Department has aggressively upgraded security at previously low and medium threat posts to standards that were formerly only applied at high or critical level embassies or consulates. High and critical level posts have also received significant upgrades of equipment to better fortify their facilities. We no longer believe, in an era of transnational terrorism, that we have low or medium threat posts, nor do we believe that we will receive tactical intelligence of an imminent attack. Simply put, we must be prepared for any eventuality that presents itself.
Our goal following the bombings was to immediately improve the security of our threatened consulates and embassies, and we have done so. But at the outset let me say that it is important for this Committee to know that we still have a very basic problem that cannot be fixed quickly. The vast majority of our diplomatic posts fail to meet one of our most basic security standards, namely, the 100 foot setback standard. Until we can build embassies meeting the setback and other security standards, our efforts cannot provide the degree of security all of us want for our people and facilities.
Having recognized that we still have grave security concerns overseas, it is also important for the Committee to know that we have done a lot and that our embassies and consulates are more secure now than ever before. In this regard, let me review for you what we have done through our security upgrade program. Some of these actions have been based solely on DS initiatives; others were suggested by the Accountability Review Boards chaired by Retired Admiral William J. Crowe, the report of the Overseas Presence Advisory Panel (OPAP), and the Office of the Inspector General.
As previously stated, we are aggressively upgrading security at low and medium threat level posts to standards that previously only applied to high and critical rated posts. We have put in place physical security upgrades at our embassies and consulates such as reinforced perimeter walls, bollards, guard booths, vehicle barriers, and shatter resistant window film. We are upgrading and deploying security equipment to include better lighting, cameras, and video recorders; bomb detection equipment; armored vehicles, alarm and public address systems; and x-ray equipment. Where possible, we have mitigated the lack of sufficient setback by closing streets and provided for mandatory vehicle inspections.
We have also expanded our Anti-Terrorism Assistance training to aid foreign police in combating terrorism through appropriate programs as surveillance detection, border security, explosive detection, crisis management, and maritime security.
In addition, we have installed alarm systems at embassies and consulates to alert personnel to impending emergency situations and have instituted a program for the employees to "duck and cover" when the alarms are sounded.
We have also created a new security environment threat list with a modified methodology and criteria for determining threat levels. This process now addresses transnational terrorism as a distinct category as well as the threats from indigenous terrorism and political violence, and the threats from intelligence services, both technical and human, and, of course, crime.
DS has also changed the focus in training courses for Regional Security Officers and Special Agents to give them greater training on counter-terrorism methodology; explosive ordnance recognition and disposal; chemical/biological weapons threats and defenses; and surveillance detection techniques.
In response to a specific recommendation from the Accountability Review Boards chaired by Retired Admiral William J. Crowe, we are also working with the FBI to better analyze law enforcement information which might have a bearing on threats to our missions overseas and to more quickly disseminate that information to appropriate posts. To that end, a DS special agent has been detailed to the International Terrorism Section at FBI Headquarters, and DS special agents are participating in the FBI’s Terrorism Task Force.
DS has also established the office of The Coordinator for Chemical Biological Countermeasures. That office, which is conducting a worldwide survey to determine vulnerabilities, has purchased and is distributing Chemical Biological equipment to all posts. As part of its educational program, it has distributed instructional materials, including a pamphlet, videos, and a series of cables, to alert all posts to the nature of the threat and to provide defensive guidance. It has also established a comprehensive training program for security professionals and first responders.
The newest addition to our programs and of major significance has been the establishment, in less than one year, of surveillance detection programs at almost all of our overseas posts. A critical lesson learned from the bombings is that there is intense surveillance conducted against our facilities prior to an attack. Since going operational in January 1999, surveillance detection teams, most of which work with host government’s security services, have observed over 700 suspected incidents of surveillance against our personnel and facilities. It has, in a sense, expanded our security perimeter and zone of control beyond our previous limitations. The surveillance detection program is clearly a "work in progress," but we feel that it is destined to become a major aspect of our overseas security defenses.
Finally, and I believe most importantly, DS has hired 234 new special agents and 17 security engineering specialists which has allowed for the creation of 140 new Security Officer positions abroad. By the end of Fiscal Year 2000, we will have 420 DS special agents serving as security officers in 157 countries. DS has also hired 20 additional diplomatic couriers, 34 maintenance technicians, and 46 civil servants in support of overseas security.
This is National Police week. On Monday on the very grounds of this capitol we paid tribute to this country’s law enforcement heroes who gave their lives in the line of duty in the past year. Over the years Diplomatic Security has had its own heroes, some who gave their lives and others who lived to continue the fight. I am positive that out of this new cadre of special agents and other security specialists we will have more heroes. I thank this Committee for its support in hiring these new people and hope that I can look to you for support as we seek additional positions to strengthen our programs. It is people that will make the difference; that is, trained, motivated and dedicated professionals with the single purpose of insuring the safety of our overseas personnel and facilities.
REPLACING FBO, REGIONALIZATION, AND POST CLOSINGS
Mr. Chairman, with regard to your request for my views regarding the creation of a new agency to replace FBO, let me assure you that we have enjoyed a positive and close working relationship with FBO as is necessary to support our diplomatic personnel, to improve security, and to upgrade our facilities worldwide. We have a construction security management group working within FBO that helps to strengthen this partnership. I do not believe that distancing DS from FBO would enhance our security effort. Furthermore, I personally do not see how an independent entity would be more capable of overcoming the challenges and obstacles that FBO currently faces.
You have also asked for my views on the OPAP proposal to make greater use of regionalization as a means to reduce the number of personnel needed at posts and for my views on whether any posts will be downsized or closed because of security threats.
OPAP recommended creating a process "to right-size our overseas presence, reduce the size of some posts, close others, reallocate staff and resources, and establish new posts where needed." State and other agencies formed an interagency committee to review how to implement the right-sizing recommendation in the OPAP report. In early March, a pilot program began at a number of posts for the purpose of developing recommendations for right-sizing at these posts and to develop criteria that can be applied universally. What I have seen thus far, Mr. Chairman, suggests that regionalization efforts could result in reducing the size of some posts, but would inevitably result in increasing the size of others. But from a security standpoint, I doubt that there would be any measurable savings in such an effort. My concerns are primarily focused on decisions related to where the regional posts are to be located and assurance that the prescribed security standards are in place. Certain countries present particularly difficult environments in which to work. By that I mean, high crime, inadequate infrastructure, unstable government, poor police support, and so on. Yet they may provide a geographical advantage as they are centrally located hubs for air transportation or viewed as a gateway to the continent. Believing that security is an important factor when entertaining ideas of regionalization, it is critical that no decision be made without proper vetting of life safety issues relative to these regionalization issues.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my testimony. As I indicated at the beginning, we have been diligent in our efforts to upgrade security at our overseas posts, and we have been successful in making those facilities safer now than they have ever been before. Nevertheless, there is still much that needs to be done, and until all of our facilities meet the basic security requirements, none of us will be satisfied with our security posture overseas.
I appreciate the interest you and the Committee have taken in this
topic and will be happy to answer any questions you may have.