Is Diplomatic Security Working at the U.S. State Department?

US Embassy Istanbul

Want to be a U.S. diplomat?  It can be a dangerous profession.  Attacks are increasing from terrorists, new construction creates Fortress America-style buildings, and it appears that the bureaucratic lines within the State Department are bogged down.

The State Department late last year appointed for the first time a senior official — a deputy assistant secretary of state — to ensure that embassies and consulates in dangerous places got sufficient attention. But this review found that step insufficient, noting that in Washington, clear lines of authority and responsibility for diplomatic security were lacking. The report said a new under secretary would be responsible for “conducting threat and vulnerability assessments to identify risk” and recommending safeguards.

via Diplomatic Security Must Be Priority at State Dept., Panel Says –


2 thoughts on “Is Diplomatic Security Working at the U.S. State Department?”

  1. First of all, the safety of diplomats is ultimately on the hands of the host country. This does not mean that the United States should or isn’t doing as much as it can to protect its diplomats, but we must remember who is responsible.

    That being said, DS is bogged down with bureaucracy. The whole government is. However, in my opinion, what is more dangerous for diplomats is the disdain they get from the public and especially their funders, Congress.

    There is some merit to the argument that more funding won’t help. Both of the embassies that I was with are undergoing reconstruction efforts to make them safer, and yet it’s true they still probably couldn’t hold off a large scale mob invasion. But really, almost no embassy can and almost no amount of money will fix that. It’s a risk that diplomats are willing to face. But more money can still help make that risk smaller.

    While I of course haven’t seen the full report, I wonder if it called for better indirect ways for security to be improved. See the article talks (at least briefly) about how DS directly protects people. But a lot of what they also do is helping the host nation train it’s security forces so that the host nation can better do its duty in protecting the diplomats posted in it, from all nations. This is, when done well, a much better use of funds, in my opinions, as it benefits everyone involved, not just the US and can help fulfill the goals of development.

    Now a lot of these programs need work and oversight, this is a way that DS could be better restructured. Still, a realization of what aid is and how it benefits the US, such as security training aid, followed by more funding and better bureaucracy is what State needs more than bigger embassies with thicker walls.

    As a final thought, remember that in general one only hears about failures (I’ve heard this most often applied to the CIA but I think it applies here too). Diplomatic Security is for the most part working, the outsider just may not see it.

  2. While security must been seen as an utmost priority, I agree that pouring additional funds into the State Department will not necessarily make diplomats and their families safer. I have a brother who is a contractor for security at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. He has made several comments about the attitudes of the State Department employees there- many of whom see security measures as an annoyance instead of for their vitality. He cited one instance where diplomats were agitated at being asked to hang up their phones while having cars searched upon entering the Embassy. He has also talked about a limiting of the number of security personnel allowed to carry automatic weapons at a given time because it was “upsetting” to Embassy employees. The most important factor for diplomatic security is the diligence of all personnel involved. Dollars upon dollars can be contributed to building higher walls or more sophisticated intercom systems, but in the end, if State Department employees are not fully understanding of the very imminent dangers that surround them in unstable areas, then signals of a threat may go unnoticed and preventable violence could occur.

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