Diplomatic Security:

Expanded Missions and Inadequate Facilities Pose Critical Challenges to Training Efforts

GAO-11-780T: Published: Jun 29, 2011. Publicly Released: Jun 29, 2011.

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This testimony discusses the training efforts of the U.S. Department of State's (State) Bureau of Diplomatic Security (Diplomatic Security). The testimony is based on our report, which is being released today. Diplomatic Security is responsible for the protection of people, information, and property at over 400 embassies, consulates, and domestic locations and, as we reported in previous testimony, experienced a large growth in its budget and personnel over the last decade. Diplomatic Security trains its workforce and others to address a variety of threats, including crime, espionage, visa and passport fraud, technological intrusions, political violence, and terrorism. To meet its training needs, Diplomatic Security relies primarily on its Diplomatic Security Training Center (DSTC), which is an office of Diplomatic Security's Training Directorate and is the primary provider of Diplomatic Security training. Diplomatic Security's training budget grew steadily from fiscal years 2006 to 2010--increasing from approximately $24 million in fiscal year 2006 to nearly $70 million in fiscal year 2010. In fiscal year 2010, DSTC conducted 342 sessions of its 61 courses and trained 4,739 students. Our prior work identified the challenges that Diplomatic Security experienced as a result of growth stemming from the reaction to a number of security incidents. GAO found that State is maintaining a presence in an increasing number of dangerous posts, is facing staffing shortages and other operational challenges that tax Diplomatic Security's ability to implement all of its missions and has not provided Diplomatic Security with adequate strategic guidance. This statement discusses (1) how Diplomatic Security ensures the quality and appropriateness of its training and the extent to which Diplomatic Security ensures that training requirements are being met, and (2) challenges that Diplomatic Security faces in carrying out its training mission.

In brief, DSTC has had to meet the challenge of training more personnel to perform additional duties while still getting Diplomatic Security's agents, engineers, technicians, and other staff--as well as a growing number of personnel outside of its workforce--into the field, where they are needed. DSTC has largely met this challenge by maintaining high standards for its training. Specifically, DSTC incorporated Federal Law Enforcement Training Accreditation (FLETA) standards into its operating procedures and became the first federal law enforcement agency to receive accreditation. Certain issues, however, constrain the effectiveness of DSTC's systems. DSTC lacks the systems needed to evaluate the effectiveness of some required training despite its own standards to do so, and its systems do not accurately and adequately track the use of some of its training. More importantly, we identified three key challenges that DSTC faces: an increasing number of training missions in Iraq, a potential increase in the number of students it has to train, and inadequate training facilities. The report this testimony is based on(GAO-11-460) includes three recommendations for the Secretary of State.

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