Eric J. Boswell
Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security
Testimony before the Senate Homeland Security Subcommitt on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia
December 9, 2009
Good afternoon, Chairman Akaka and members of the committee -- I am honored to appear before you today. I’d like to thank you and the Committee members for your continued support and interest in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s (DS) programs. With Congressional support, Diplomatic Security has been able to safeguard American diplomats and facilities for the conduct of U.S. foreign policy and maintain our robust investigative programs which serve to protect the United States borders. With your permission, I will make a brief statement.
While Diplomatic Security continues to provide the most secure environment possible for the conduct of America’s foreign policy, the scope and scale of DS’s responsibilities and authorities have grown immensely in response to emerging threats and security incidents. Increased resources were necessary for the Bureau to meet the requirements of securing our diplomatic facilities in the extremely high-threat environments of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other locations. The Department currently operates diplomatic missions in locations where, in the past, we might have closed the post and evacuated all personnel when faced with similar threats.
As you may know, I also served as the Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security from 1995 to 1998. This is not the same organization as when I left. It is far, far more capable. Not only has DS grown in personnel and resources it has developed the organizational structure necessary to meet all of the current challenges as well as those of the future.
Strategic Threat Analysis and Resource Planning
The recently released Government Accountability Office review of my bureau correctly assesses that DS must do more to anticipate potential and emerging global security trouble spots in order to create risk management and mitigation strategies that best focus our limited resources and prioritize security needs. Such plans must also incorporate the strategic management of the resources available for our bureau to fulfill its mission both currently and in the future.
Two years ago, DS created the Threat Investigations and Analysis Directorate (TIA) to enhance our intelligence analysis capability. The new TIA Directorate concentrates our threat analysis and intelligence gathering efforts under one streamlined command structure and fosters closer working relationships among all our analysts and those responsible for investigating, deterring, and mitigating threats. In an effort to further strengthen our successful security partnership with the American private sector, the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), created in 1985, was incorporated within the TIA Directorate to provide seamless information coordination between our threat analysts and the OSAC staff responsible for relaying both general and specific threat information to over 6,700 constituents from the U.S. business, NGO, faith-based and academic sectors. Just last month, we held a highly successful 24th Annual OSAC Briefing at the Department with nearly 1,000 representatives from member organizations.
A recent example demonstrates DS success at streamlining intelligence information and relaying it rapidly to Americans overseas. In late 2008, with narco-traffickers battling for control of the Mexican drug trade, extreme violence was spilling onto the streets of Mexican towns adjacent to our border. In response to a hand grenade attack at one of our consulates, TIA worked with the post security staff and other U.S. Government agencies to investigate possible perpetrators, disseminate incident reports that assessed the increased threat to American interests, and warn individuals who may have been at risk.
Our next challenge is to sharpen our focus on not only predicting future security threats, but planning in advance for the security solutions and resources needed for tomorrow’s crises and foreign policy initiatives. Over the coming months, we will begin working toward the development of a strategic planning unit charged with ensuring that DS is even better positioned to support future foreign policy initiatives and manage global security threats and incidents.
At the same time, we must balance resources and security requirements to achieve an effective mix of highly-skilled personnel while controlling costs associated with requirements that have grown tremendously over the past 20 years. We are embarking on a new Bureau-wide planning process that will allow us to better measure the performance of our 120 plus existing programs and utilize data to make better and more informed resource decisions. Having decision-supporting data available will enable DS to determine how well current programs and resources align with the Department and Bureau’s strategic goals.
DS is actively participating in the State Department’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) that the Secretary has focused on improving the Department’s resources and training to ensure the right people for the right job at the right time are in place to conduct diplomacy around the world. We are also participating in the QDDR working group responsible for the foreign affairs community’s activities in contingency-response environments.
Staffing & Training Challenges
The Department of State operates increasingly in dangerous locations, and this requires extensive resources to mitigate the risk. Although DS’s workforce has grown substantially over the past decade, the fluid nature of the security environments in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan presents an ongoing challenge to our program and staffing structures in those and other posts.
To meet the challenge of securing U.S. diplomatic operations under wartime conditions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other high threat zones, DS relies on the Worldwide Personal Protective Services (WPPS) contract to provide protective security, aviation support, and fixed guard services. These contracts allow the scalability required for increased threats or new operational requirements, and provide specialized services in extraordinary circumstances. In recognition of the early challenges DS experienced in contract oversight specifically in Iraq, we have improved contract officers representative training for all security officer personnel and increased agent staffing in Iraq and Afghanistan to directly supervise the personal security contractors. In addition, DS has established a new Security Protective Specialist (SPS) skill code, a limited non-career federal employment category designed to augment DS Special Agents by providing direct oversight of WPPS-protected motorcades in critical-threat locations where such resources are needed most. We are similarly evaluating other staffing options to adequately cover this important oversight function.
Although the Bureau is experiencing a surge in new positions, uneven staff intake in the 1990’s has resulted in significant experience gaps in our agent and security engineering corps. To limit the effects of this experience gap, we have increased training and mentoring programs, and carefully identified personnel capable of serving in what we call stretch assignments. Over the past ten years the Bureau has embarked on an ambitious recruitment and hiring program. We have increased our outreach to college and universities, with an eye toward building a professional service that reflects America’s diversity. We have also taken steps to better market DS through the use of social networking applications, targeted advertising both online and in traditional trade, military, and diversity periodicals.
In order to deploy highly qualified personnel into the field quickly, we have revamped some of our training programs and are carefully evaluating our entire agent training program to ensure that the instruction provided to new and existing DS special agents is relevant to the new realities of our Bureau’s mission.
DS and the Overseas Security Policy Board (OSPB) have worked closely on the physical vulnerability list that informs the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) “Top 80” Capital Security Improvement List to ensure that the Department’s new, more secure diplomatic facilities are constructed based on a risk-driven prioritization that takes into account the threat we face at each post where such construction is required. We also remain focused on developing security enhancements that improve security and life safety for existing current facilities while honoring their architectural character and preserving the public accessibility required for a successful diplomatic installation.
DS continues to strive to meet the security needs of the Department in increasingly dangerous locations by anticipating needs and dedicating appropriate resources to accomplish our mission. Through these changes, DS remains one of the most dynamic agencies in the U.S. federal law enforcement and security community.
Thank you for the opportunity to brief you on the global mission of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and on our unique ability to safeguard Americans working in some of the most dangerous locations abroad, and the taxing requirements we face. With your continued support, we will ensure Diplomatic Security remains a valuable and effective resource for protecting our people, programs, facilities, and interests around the world.