The U.S. Government Accountability Office released a study Thursday criticizing the State Department’s weak security practices to protect diplomatic personnel and their families overseas.
The study cites multiple "vulnerabilities" in high threat areas. The State Department has built many new embassies and consulates, and enhanced security measures at others, since the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania East Africa. But the increased security at U.S. diplomatic posts has made areas where diplomatic personnel and their families congregate, such as residences, schools and churches, more attractive "soft targets" for terrorists.
In its assessment, GAO examined security standards in place in areas of high threat, how the State Department determined risk to such "soft targets" and how the agency dealt with security vulnerabilities. The study identified "a number of gaps or weaknesses" in the State Department’s procedures for conducting risk management in high threat areas.
GAO discovered that over 50 percent of the 68 diplomatic residences analyzed in the study did not live up to all security standards and that updates to security have been sluggish.
The government office concluded that its findings "raise serious questions about State’s ability to make timely and informed risk management decisions about soft targets."
The State Department has allocated almost $200 million for security enhancements to residences, schools and other soft targets overseas.