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United States Government Accountability Office: 


Before the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the 
Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia, Committee on Homeland 
Security and Governmental Affairs, U.S. Senate: 

For Release on Delivery: 
Expected at 2:30 p.m. EDT: 
Wednesday, June 29, 2011: 

Diplomatic Security: 

Expanded Missions and Inadequate Facilities Pose Critical Challenges 
to Training Efforts: 

Statement of Jess T. Ford, Director:
International Affairs and Trade: 


Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Johnson, and Members of the Subcommittee: 

I am pleased to be here to discuss the training efforts of the U.S. 
Department of State's (State) Bureau of Diplomatic Security 
(Diplomatic Security). My testimony is based on our report, which is 
being released today.[Footnote 1] 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.[Footnote 2] 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.[Footnote 3] 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. 

Today I will discuss (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 

To address these objectives in our report, we interviewed numerous 
State and Diplomatic Security officials at headquarters, several 
training facilities, and five overseas posts, as well as officials at 
other relevant agencies. We reviewed and analyzed government standards 
and other legislative and regulatory guidance, data and documentation 
related to Diplomatic Security-provided training efforts, information 
and data on recent DSTC and other Diplomatic Security-provided course 
offerings, and overall funding for training from 2006 to 2011. We also 
observed classroom-and exercise-based training at several Diplomatic 
Security training facilities and viewed examples of other types of 
DSTC-provided learning. Because we recently reviewed training provided 
by the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), this report did not include an 
assessment of the training that Diplomatic Security personnel received 
through FSI.[Footnote 4] We conducted this performance audit from June 
2010 to May 2011, in accordance with generally accepted government 
auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform 
the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a 
reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit 
objectives. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a 
reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit 
objectives. More information on our scope and methodology and detailed 
findings are available in the full report.[Footnote 5] 

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 

Diplomatic Security Generally Adheres to Standards and Tracks 
Training, but Its Systems Have Weaknesses: 

To ensure the quality and appropriateness of its training, Diplomatic 
Security primarily adheres to FLETA standards. Diplomatic Security 
incorporated FLETA standards into its standard operating procedures, 
using a course design framework tailored for DSTC. In our report, we 
used the Foreign Affairs Counter Threat (FACT) course to demonstrate 
how DSTC modified the design of one of its courses over time. The FACT 
course provides mandatory training on conducting surveillance 
detection, aspects of personnel recovery, emergency medical care, 
improvised explosive device awareness, firearms familiarization, and 
defensive/counterterrorist driving maneuvers to all U.S. government 
employees serving under chief of mission authority in Afghanistan, 
Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan, Yemen, and parts of Mexico. Since 2003, FACT 
has been redesigned and modified several times in response to changing 
high-threat environments. For instance, a 2005 State Office of 
Inspector General report noted that U.S. government personnel were not 
expected to drive themselves in Iraq but regularly did so. As a 
result, DSTC added driving skills to the FACT course. In 2009, because 
of indirect fire attacks, the Ambassador to Iraq noted that personnel 
needed to know what the sirens announcing a rocket attack sounded like 
and what the protective bunkers looked like. In response, DSTC built 
two bunkers on one of its leased facilities and now uses them in 
conducting duck-and-cover exercises to recorded sirens. DSTC officials 
noted that FACT is very well received by the students, and one State 
official stated that the reason she survived a bombing attack was 
because of her FACT training. 

Diplomatic Security does have some weaknesses when it comes to 
evaluating all of its training population and tracking the training to 
ensure that training requirements are met. Distributed or online 
training is a growing part of DSTC efforts to save costs and reach 
people in the field. However, DSTC's systems do not have the 
capability to obtain feedback on its online training. DSTC officials 
also stated that DSTC has difficulty obtaining feedback from non-State 
personnel, a growing portion of its student body. DSTC instead relies 
on voluntary comments from the agencies or individual students from 
those agencies. Without feedback, DSTC is less able to ensure the 
effectiveness of these efforts. 

DSTC's systems also do not have the capability to track whether 
personnel have completed all required training. For example, DSTC 
officials are using an unofficial method to track completion of FACT 
training; called the FACT tracker, it is used on DSTC's internal web 
site to log in all personnel who take the class, including non-State 
students. Additionally, agents are required to pass a firearms 
requalification every 4 months when they are posted domestically and 
once a year if posted overseas. However, DSTC systems do not 
effectively track this requirement, and it is the agents' and 
supervisors' responsibility to keep track of when their next 
requalification is due. Moreover, DSTC systems are not designed to 
track training delivered through distributed or online training or 
keep records of participation or performance. For example, DSTC 
provides "Knowledge from the Field" DVDs--information and professional 
development products that include lessons learned from attacks and 
other incidents at consulates and embassies. However, DSTC cannot say 
for certain which of its personnel have accessed the training. 

DSTC officials noted that they are pursuing access to a more robust 
learning management system to address some of the difficulties with 
their existing systems. According to State officials, DSTC and FSI are 
currently discussing whether DSTC will be able to use or modify FSI's 
learning management system for DSTC's purposes. 

Diplomatic Security Faces Significant Challenges to Carrying Out Its 
Expanded Training Mission: 

Diplomatic Security faces significant ongoing challenges to carrying 
out its training mission, including (1) an increasing number of 
training missions in Iraq, (2) a potential increase in the number of 
students it has to train, and (3) inadequate training facilities. 

Expanding Missions in Iraq Challenge DSTC's Ability to Meet Training 

DSTC must train Diplomatic Security personnel to perform new missions 
in Iraq as they take on many of the protective and security functions 
previously provided by the U.S. military and which Diplomatic Security 
has had little or no experience in providing, including downed 
aircraft recovery, explosives ordnance disposal, and rocket and mortar 
countermeasures, among others. DSTC officials pointed to a number of 
coordination mechanisms and other efforts to meet new training needs. 
For example, as of March 2011, DSTC, in coordination with the 
Diplomatic Security Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) armored 
vehicles working group, had completed the design and development of an 
MRAP training course. However, Diplomatic Security officials noted 
that the additional training will likely increase the time needed to 
get Diplomatic Security personnel into the field. 

Proposed Increase in Number of Students Requiring Training May Further 
Strain DSTC Resources: 

DSTC faces a proposal that will dramatically increase the number of 
State and non-State personnel required to take high-threat training 
(see fig. 1), including FACT training, but State does not have an 
action plan and time frames to manage the proposed increases. These 
expanded training missions constrain DSTC's ability to meet training 
needs. State's 2010 Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review 
(QDDR) stated that all personnel at high-threat posts, as well as 
those at critical-threat posts, will now receive FACT training. 
[Footnote 6] According to Diplomatic Security officials, this would 
increase the number of posts for which FACT is required from 23 to 
178, increasing the number of students taking FACT each year from 
about 2,000 to over 10,000. DSTC officials noted that they lack the 
capacity to handle so many students and that current FACT classes are 
already filled to capacity. DSTC would need to locate or build 
additional driving tracks, firearms ranges, and explosives ranges, as 
well as obtain instructors and other staff to support such a dramatic 
increase in students. According to Diplomatic Security officials, 
State has not completed an action plan or established time frames to 
carry out the QDDR recommendation. Given these difficulties, 
Diplomatic Security officials noted that they did not see how the new 
requirement could be implemented. 

Figure 1: Increase in DSTC-Provided High-Threat Training from 2006 to 

[Refer to PDF for image: vertical bar graph] 

Fiscal year: 2006; 
Number of students: 971. 

Fiscal year: 2007; 
Number of students: 1,135. 

Fiscal year: 2008; 
Number of students: 1,504. 

Fiscal year: 2009; 
Number of students: 1,760. 

Fiscal year: 2010; 
Number of students: 2,132. 

Source: GAO analysis of DSTC data. 

[End of figure] 

Existing Facilities Hamper Training Efforts and Strain Resources: 

In addition, DSTC's training facilities do not meet its training 
needs, a situation that hampers efficient and effective operations. 
Diplomatic Security leases, rents, or borrows all of the 16 facilities 
it uses, and the number of facilities in use at any given time and how 
they are used vary based on training requirements and facility 
availability. For example, Diplomatic Security uses the firearms 
ranges at Marine Corps Base Quantico to train with heavier weapons. 
However, according to Diplomatic Security officials, the Marines 
occasionally force Diplomatic Security to change its training 
schedule, sometimes with minimal notice, which increases costs and 
makes it difficult for DSTC staff to meet training objectives within 
the time available. 

Several leased facilities, such as State Annex-7, are overcrowded and 
need various repairs, in part because of disputes between Diplomatic 
Security and its lessor over which party is responsible for structural 
repairs (see figure 2). DSTC's main firearms ranges are in these 
buildings, but according to DSTC officials, the ranges are small and 
have some unusable firing lanes. In addition, because of the 
limitations of its facilities, Diplomatic Security has had to 
improvise with makeshift solutions to provide some types of training--
for example, placing tape on the floors of its garage at State Annex-
11 to simulate walls for conducting room-entry training (see figure 3). 

Figure 2: Disrepair and Crowding at State Annex-7: 

[Refer to PDF for image: 4 photographs] 

Leaking ceiling; 
Crowded storeroom; 
Broken firing range lane; 
Storage in firing range area. 

Source: GAO. 

[End of figure] 

Figure 3: Simulated Tape Walls Used in Training: 

[Refer to PDF for image: photograph] 

Source: GAO. 

[End of figure] 

Recognizing that its existing facilities were inadequate, DSTC 
developed an Interim Training Facility in 2007. Nevertheless, 
Diplomatic Security officials noted that the facility is a stopgap 
solution and cannot meet a number of Diplomatic Security's training 
needs such as the firing of heavier weapons, the use of more powerful 
explosives to train agents in incident management, and the integrated 
tactical use of driving and firearms training in a mock urban 
environment. The Interim Training Facility also lacks space for 
Diplomatic Security to train its personnel for many of the additional 
missions that they are expected to take over from the U.S. military in 
Iraq. In order address its inadequate facilities, State has been 
pursuing the development of a consolidated training facility. State 
was allocated $136 million in fiscal years 2009 and 2010 to begin 
development of the facility and is currently in the process of 
identifying a suitable location. 

Recommendations for Executive Action: 

Our report being released today includes three recommendations for the 
Secretary of State, the first two of which are to develop or improve 
the processes to obtain participant evaluations for all of DSTC 
required training, including distributed training efforts, and to 
track individual DSTC training requirements and completion of DSTC 
training. We also recommend that the Secretary develop an action plan 
and associated time frames needed to carry out the QDDR recommendation 
to increase the number of posts at which FACT is required. State 
agreed with our findings and recommendations. In addition, we found 
that State had not followed through on its commitment to carry out a 
strategic review of Diplomatic Security as recommended in our 2009 
report.[Footnote 7] Given the restrained fiscal environment and 
growing mission in Iraq, it is even more critical today that State 
carry out such a review. 

Chairman Akaka and Ranking Member Johnson, this concludes my prepared 
statement. I would be pleased to respond to any questions that you or 
other Members of the Subcommittee may have at this time. 

GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments: 

For questions regarding this testimony, please contact Jess. T. Ford 
at (202) 512-4268 or Contact points for our offices of 
Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on the last 
page of this testimony. GAO staff who made significant contributions 
to this testimony are Anthony Moran, Assistant Director; Thomas Costa; 
Anh Nguyen; David Dayton; Cheron Green; and Mark Speight. 

[End of section] 


[1] GAO, Diplomatic Security: Expanded Missions and Inadequate 
Facilities Pose Critical Challenges to Training Efforts, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: June 1, 

[2] GAO, Department of State: Challenges Facing the Bureau of 
Diplomatic Security, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: Dec. 9, 

[3] GAO, Department of State: Diplomatic Security's Recent Growth 
Warrants Strategic Review, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: Nov. 12, 

[4] GAO, Department of State: Additional Steps Are Needed to Improve 
Strategic Planning and Evaluation of Training for State Personnel, 
[hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: 
Jan. 25, 2011). 

[5] [hyperlink,]. 

[6] Department of State, Leading through Civilian Power: The First 
Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (2010). 

[7] [hyperlink,]. 

[End of section] 

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