Embassy SecurityAmbassador Francis X. Taylor, Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security and Director for the Office of Foreign Missions
Testimony Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
March 20, 2003
Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the committee--I am honored to appear before you today with my esteemed colleague to speak on the issue of security of our Embassies and Consulates abroad. As Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security, I am acutely aware of and in many senses responsible for countering the serious threats we face operating overseas. I am also an avid proponent of keeping our key Congressional committees informed of the steps we are taking to ensure the security of our personnel, information, and national security activities abroad.
Congress has played an important role in the evolution of how the Department of State protects our operations overseas. As a result of attacks against our facilities in the 1980s and the problems associated with the first effort at building the new embassy in Moscow, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 1989 and 1990 included a requirement that the Secretary certify to Congress that adequate and appropriate steps are taken to ensure the Department builds safe and secure facilities.
As a result of the 1998 embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar-Es-Salam, Congress passed an additional piece of legislation, now referred to as the “Secure Embassy Counterterrorism and Construction Act,” mandating 100 feet of setback and collocation of all Foreign Affairs agencies in newly construction facilities overseas, unless a specific waiver was granted by the Secretary or me.
The Department has faithfully complied with the certification requirement, and I can state unequivocally that this Congressionally levied task has resulted in the construction of safer facilities overseas. Mandating colocation and setback has similarly improved the safety and security of our personnel and facilities overseas.
Congress also provided generous and most necessary funding in the form of an emergency appropriation in the aftermath of the 1998 embassy bombings, which allowed us to improve our perimeter security at our most threatened posts in a timely fashion. Improvements made to the U.S. Consulate in Karachi with this funding undoubtedly saved many lives when a suicide car bomber struck in 2002.
However, I am not here on this occasion to provide a discourse solely on actions we have jointly taken in the past. You have asked GAO to report on the state of Diplomatic Facility Conditions. I think their presentation has fairly and accurately stated the depth of our requirements in order to meet the Department’s diplomatic goals in a relatively safe and secure environment.
You have heard from General Williams on his restructuring of the Overseas Buildings Operations Office to meet these requirements. He has outlined his goals, execution strategies, and budget requests. I think the success of his efforts is self-evident. His efforts and more importantly results have built a new level of credibility with Congress and convinced skeptics that the Department can adapt to new methods of management and utilize some of the best practices from industry. I support his efforts, and my offices within Diplomatic Security will continue to work closely with OBO.
Diplomatic Security itself is not standing still either. A highly focused development effort in our physical security office has successfully delivered new products and methods that will allow OBO to better mitigate our vulnerabilities. Department of State proprietary standards for forced entry and bullet-resistant doors and windows, once the only standards in industry or government concerned with this type of security, have been supplemented by adoption of industry standards promulgated by Underwriters Laboratories and the American Society of Testing and Manufacturing. We have developed and commercialized a totally new lightweight laminated glass blast window that will lower costs and simplify installations. We have pioneered new developments in anti-ram vehicle protection and provided new products more acceptable to foreign governments and architects. And we have done this in partnership with other U.S. government agencies to leverage our work and provide better answers across our spectrum of needs.
DS special agents serving in regional security offices anchor our overseas security efforts and provide a first line of defense for U.S. diplomatic personnel, their families, U.S. diplomatic missions, and national security information. More than 420 DS security officers in 157 countries advise chiefs of missions on security matters, and develop and implement the programs that shield each U.S. mission and residence from physical and technical attack. One little known fact it that DS also provides security professionals at OBO construction projects overseas for the entire period of the construction project. Known as site security managers, these DS agents ensure that project security requirements are foremost in these vast efforts.
Our level of cooperation with OBO has never been as close as it is today. The Department’s need for safe and modern facilities have never been clearer. DS and OBO goals have never been as clearly aligned. We need your continued support to build upon the fine efforts the Department has made in the last 3 years to construct more new embassies and consulates. If General Williams says he can produce even more on an annual basis, then DS will be there supporting his effort. Thank you. I welcome any questions you have at this point.
Released on March 24, 2003