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November 22, 2014

Report: Diplomatic Facilities (Like in Benghazi) Suffer From Poor, Dated Standards

A subset of diplomatic facilities similar to the one that came under attack in Benghazi, Libya, suffers from absent, outdated or inconsistent security standards, a Government Accountability Office report released Wednesday determines.

The public version of the “sensitive but unclassified” report doesn’t name which 10 high-risk, geographically diverse posts were part of its survey. It does describe the kind of facilities the GAO examined in light of threats dating back to the 1998 East Africa bombings.

“These threats have been heightened in part due to policy decisions to keep staff in locations that previously would have been deemed too dangerous for U.S. personnel,” the report states. “To establish or maintain a U.S. presence in these and other locations, the Department of State (State) often relies on older, acquired, and temporary diplomatic facilities that do not meet the same security standards as more recently constructed permanent facilities.”

And, “These attacks raise questions about the security of U.S. diplomatic facilities, particularly those facilities not built to current security standards, such as the facility in Benghazi,” the report states.

Among the report’s findings were “some facility types for which standards were lacking or unclear, instances in which the standards were not updated in a timely manner, and inconsistencies within the standards.”

For example, “State’s process for updating physical security standards is not timely. In some instances, State and OSPB [Overseas Security Policy Board] have taken over 8 years to update standards, which may leave some facilities more vulnerable in the interim.”

Overall, the State Department agreed with 12 of the 13 GAO recommendations to fix the gaps, and indicated it had been working on some of the problems already. For the 13th, the department was in the midst of evaluating it via a State working group, so it withheld judgment.

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