printable banner

U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Benghazi Accountability Review Board Implementation

September 11, 2013


Following the September 11, 2012 attack on U.S. Government facilities in Benghazi, Libya, the independent Benghazi Accountability Review Board (ARB) issued 29 recommendations (24 of which were unclassified) to the Department of State. State has already addressed almost all of the recommendations, and is working diligently in concert with the Department of Defense (DOD) and others, as appropriate, to implement those that remain (which require more time and resources to complete, such as recruiting and deploying the full contingent of proposed Marine Security Guards).
While risk can never be completely eliminated from our diplomatic duties, we must always work to minimize it. A brief update of the Department’s actions on the 24 unclassified recommendations is as follows:
Unclassified Recommendations of the ARB (text abridged) and Department Actions
1. The Department must strengthen security for personnel and platforms beyond traditional reliance on host government security support in high risk, high threat posts.
  • Hard decisions must be made when it comes to whether the United States should operate in dangerous overseas locations. The Department is enhancing our processes and is developing a revised institutionalized, repeatable, and transparent process to make risk-managed decisions regarding the U.S. presence at high-threat locations, including whether to begin, restart, continue, or suspend operations.
  • The Department established a High Threat Board to review our presence at high threat, high risk posts.
  • We created a Deputy Assistant Secretary for High Threat Posts in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), who is responsible for ensuring that such posts receive the focused attention they need.
2. The Board recommends that the Department re-examine Diplomatic Security (DS) organization and management, with a particular emphasis on span of control for security policy planning for all overseas U.S. diplomatic facilities.
  • The Department established a six-person panel to thoroughly review DS’s organization and management structure.
  • The panel concluded its work on May 3, 2013, making 35 recommendations to improve DS operations and its management structure. The Department accepted 31 of these recommendations and is committed to implementing them.
3. Regional bureaus should have augmented support within the bureau on security matters, to include a senior DS officer to report to the regional Assistant Secretary.
  • DS staff attend regular Regional Bureau meetings, and Regional Bureau staff attend DS daily briefings to better communicate on security issues.
  • The Department has adjusted the work requirements (position descriptions) for senior level staff (Assistant Secretaries and Deputy Assistant Secretaries) to reflect everyone’s responsibility for overseas security.
4. The Department should establish a panel of outside independent experts (military, security, humanitarian) with experience in high risk, high threat areas to identify best practices (from other agencies and other countries) and evaluate U.S. security platforms in high risk, high threat posts.
  • The Department established a six-person panel to identify best practices used by other agencies and countries.
  • The Best Practices Panel has concluded its work. We expect the report to be formally transmitted to the Department for consideration in the near future.
5. The Department should develop minimum security standards for occupancy of temporary facilities in high risk, high threat environments, and seek greater flexibility to make funds rapidly available for security upgrades at such facilities.
  • The Department has reaffirmed that Overseas Security Policy Board Standards apply to temporary facilities.
  • We identified flexible funding authorities to make improvements to our overseas facilities.
6. Before opening or reopening critical threat or high risk, high threat posts, the Department should establish a multibureau support cell, residing in the regional bureau.
  • The Department developed standard operating procedures for “Support Cells” for opened/reopened posts. The process has been incorporated into the Foreign Affairs Handbook.
7. All State Department and other government agencies’ facilities should be collocated when they are in the same metropolitan area, unless a waiver has been approved.
  • We verified all data on our overseas facilities; we are exploring which non-collocated facilities should be eliminated and their personnel relocated.
8. The Secretary should require an action plan from DS, Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO), and other relevant offices on the use of fire as a weapon against diplomatic facilities, including immediate steps to deal with urgent issues.
  • The Department issued guidance to all posts on “weapons of opportunity,” including fire.
  • Fire testing is ongoing at U.S. military facilities.
9. The Department should revise its guidance to posts and require key offices to perform in-depth status checks of post tripwires.
  • The Department reviewed and revised requirements for posts on how to respond to changing security benchmarks (i.e., “tripwires”).
  • The Department established a Washington-based "Tripwires Committee" to review tripwires upon breach, to help ensure that posts and regional bureaus in Washington respond more quickly should security deteriorate at post.
  • The Department established a mechanism to review tripwires of high-threat, high risk posts on an annual basis.
10. The State Department must work with Congress to restore the Capital Security Cost Sharing Program [for embassy construction] at its full capacity, adjusted for inflation to approximately $2.2 billion in fiscal year 2015.
  • The FY 2014 President's Budget included a request for $2.2 billion in the Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance account.
11. The Board supports the State Department’s initiative to request additional Marines and expand the Marine Security Guard (MSG) Program – as well as corresponding requirements for staffing and funding.
  • Working with the Department of Defense, we are accelerating the deployment of 35 new Marine Security Guard detachments to U.S. diplomatic facilities. Two detachments are in place, with another expected by the end of September.
  • We also have requested (and received) additional resources to build facilities at additional posts to host Marine Security Guards in the future.
12. The Board strongly endorses the Department’s request for increased DS personnel for high- and critical-threat posts and for additional Mobile Security Deployment teams, as well as an increase in DS domestic staffing in support of such action.
  • With Congressional support, the Department is creating 151 new Diplomatic Security positions -- 113 were hired during this fiscal year. The remaining 38 will be hired in FY 2014.
13. The Department should assign key policy, program, and security personnel at high risk, high threat posts for a minimum of one year. For less critical personnel, the temporary duty length (TDY) length should be no less than 120 days.
  • All high threat posts now have a minimum of a one-year tour of duty. We are planning to ensure overlap between incumbent and incoming positions to facilitate continuity of operations at high threat posts.
  • Temporary duty assignments are set at a minimum of 120 days.
14. The Department needs to review the staffing footprints at high risk, high threat posts, with particular attention to ensuring adequate Locally Employed Staff (LES) and management support. High risk, high threat posts must be funded and the human resources process prioritized to hire LES interpreters and translators.
  • The Department surveyed every post to review the numbers of interpreters and translators on staff, and found that there was adequate staffing.
15. With increased and more complex diplomatic activities in the Middle East, the Department should enhance its ongoing efforts to significantly upgrade its language capacity, especially Arabic, among American employees, including DS, and receive greater resources to do so.
  • The Department is ramping up the language capacity of its American employees, including Diplomatic Security agents, especially in Arabic. Increasing language capacity takes time – certain languages take up to 2 years to learn. In the short term, the Department is committed to better equipping the growing cadre of security experts to engage local populations and cooperate with host nation security forces.
  • The first offering of an intensive, 10-week “Arabic Alert” language course specifically for security personnel will begin October 15, 2013.
16. A panel of Senior Special Agents and Supervisory Special Agents should revisit DS high-threat training with respect to active internal defense and fire survival as well as Chief of Mission protective detail training.
  • The Department established a panel of Supervisory Special Agents to participate in a program review of the High-Threat Tactical Course; as a result, DS revised high-threat training and Chief of Mission protective detail training and raised standards for passing the High-Threat Tactical Course.
  • The panel’s findings resulted in the identification and development of 170 operational requirements, associated proficiency standards, and training plans needed by DS special agents operating in high-threat, high-risk environments. These findings were used to develop a new High-Threat Training Strategy that encompasses a career-long cycle of instruction for all DS special agents and includes new training courses for entry-, mid-, and senior-level agents.
17. The Diplomatic Security Training Center and Foreign Service Institute should collaborate in designing joint courses that integrate high-threat training and risk management decision processes for senior and mid-level DS agents and Foreign Service officers and better prepare them for leadership positions in high-risk, high-threat posts.
  • The Department has enhanced security training efforts, including requiring personnel headed to high-threat posts to receive additional, specialized security training.
18. The Department should ensure provision of adequate fire safety and security equipment for safe havens and safe areas in non-Inman/SECCA facilities, as well as high-threat Inman facilities.
  • The Department has surveyed fire and life safety equipment requirements at all high-threat, high-risk U.S. diplomatic posts abroad. The Department has ensured that all high-threat, high-risk posts have adequate fire safety equipment, and is now upgrading and procuring additional personal protective equipment.
19. There have been technological advancements in nonlethal deterrents, and the State Department should ensure it rapidly and routinely identifies and procures additional options for nonlethal deterrents in high-risk, high-threat posts and trains personnel on their use.
  • The Department has addressed this recommendation. However, details cannot be publically discussed.
20. DS should upgrade surveillance cameras at high-risk, high-threat posts for greater resolution, nighttime visibility, and monitoring capability beyond post.
  • Over the next year the Department will have upgraded high-threat, high-risk facilities with more modern surveillance cameras.
21. Careful attention should be given to factors showing a deteriorating threat situation in general as a basis for improving security posture. Key trends must be quickly identified and used to sharpen risk calculations.
  • The Department has addressed this recommendation. However, details cannot be publically discussed.
22. The DS Office of Intelligence and Threat Analysis should report directly to the DS Assistant Secretary and directly supply threat analysis to all DS components, regional Assistant Secretaries, and Chiefs of Mission in order to get key security-related threat information into the right hands more rapidly.
  • The DS Office of Intelligence and Threat Analysis, now reports directly to the Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security for threat reporting and supplies threat analysis to regional Assistant Secretaries and Chiefs of Mission.
23. The Board is of the view that findings of unsatisfactory leadership performance by senior officials in relation to the security incident under review should be a potential basis for discipline recommendations by future ARBs, and would recommend a revision of Department regulations or amendment to the relevant statute to this end.
  • The Department is working with Congress to address this recommendation. In January, the Department proposed legislation to grant future ARBs the authority to recommend disciplinary action on the basis of unsatisfactory leadership, and thus increase accountability for security incidents.
24. The Board was humbled by the courage and integrity shown by those on the ground in Benghazi and Tripoli, in particular the DS agents and Annex team who defended their colleagues. We trust that the Department and relevant agencies will take the opportunity to recognize their exceptional valor and performance, which epitomized the highest ideals of government service.
  • The President and the Secretary of State have publicly mentioned the bravery and heroic efforts of our personnel on numerous occasions.
  • The Department bestowed the Holbrooke award on Ambassador Chris Stevens; the Thomas Jefferson award to the personnel who gave their lives in September; the Secretary’s award to one officer who was seriously injured; and the Secretary's Heroism Award to 12 personnel who defended the Benghazi facilities.

Back to Top

Do you already have an account on one of these sites? Click the logo to sign in and create your own customized State Department page. Want to learn more? Check out our FAQ!

OpenID is a service that allows you to sign in to many different websites using a single identity. Find out more about OpenID and how to get an OpenID-enabled account.