Home > Congressional Research Service, international relations, national security, terrorism > CRS — Securing U.S. Diplomatic Facilities and Personnel Abroad: Background and Policy Issues

CRS — Securing U.S. Diplomatic Facilities and Personnel Abroad: Background and Policy Issues

December 17, 2012

Securing U.S. Diplomatic Facilities and Personnel Abroad: Background and Policy Issues (PDF)

Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

The deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. personnel in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012, along with attacks on U.S. embassies in Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia, and Yemen, have drawn renewed attention to the challenges facing U.S. diplomats abroad, as well as to the difficulty in balancing concerns for their security against the outreach required of their mission. Congress plays a key role in shaping the response to these challenges, such as by providing resources for diplomatic security and examining security breaches overseas.

The inability to provide perfect security, especially against the evident threat of mob violence, has focused particular scrutiny on the deployment of diplomatic personnel in high-threat environments. The Department of State currently maintains a presence in locations faced with security conditions that previously would likely have led State to evacuate personnel and close the post.

Under reciprocal treaty obligations, host nations are obligated to provide security for the diplomatic facilities of sending states. However, instances in which host nations have been unable or not fully committed to fulfilling this responsibility have sometimes left U.S. facilities vulnerable, especially in extraordinary circumstances. U.S. facilities therefore employ a layered approach to security, including not only the measures taken by a host country, but also additional, U.S.-coordinated measures, to include armed Diplomatic Security agents, hardened facilities, U.S.-trained and/or contracted local security guards, and sometimes U.S. Marine Security Guard detachments (whose principal role is securing sensitive information).

The rapid growth in the number of U.S. civilians deployed in high-risk environments of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan spurred significant investment in recent years in the Department of State’s capacity to provide security in dangerous areas through its Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), while simultaneously placing unprecedented burdens on DS’s capability to carry out this mission successfully there and in other challenging locations. With greater focus on these frontline states, funds for other U.S. facilities could be strained.

Most of the funding for the protection of about 285 missions abroad is provided through Worldwide Security Protection (WSP) within the State Department’s Diplomatic & Consular Programs (D&CP) account and through Worldwide Security Upgrades (WSU) within the Embassy Security, Construction and Maintenance (ESCM) account. The total security funding requested for FY2012 was about $2.9 billion, and the amount enacted was about $2.6 billion.

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