The 1998 terrorist bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed more than 220 people and injured 4,000, highlighted the compelling need for safe and secure overseas facilities. In November 1999, an independent advisory group, the Overseas Presence Advisory Panel, said that thousands of Americans representing our nation abroad faced an unacceptable level of risk from terrorist attacks and other threats. The panel called for accelerating the process of addressing security risks to provide overseas staff with the safest working environment, consistent with the nation's resources and the demands of their missions. Moreover, the panel concluded that many U.S. overseas facilities were insecure, decrepit, deteriorating, overcrowded, and "shockingly shabby," and it recommended major capital improvements to redress these problems. GAO was asked to (1) assess the current conditions of overseas diplomatic facilities, including security, maintenance, office space, and information technology; and (2) provide some preliminary observations regarding State's efforts to improve facility conditions by replacing existing buildings with new, secure embassy compounds.
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