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Diplomacy in Action

DSS Director Jeffrey W. Culver's Remarks on Planned Training Center In Queen Anne's County, MD

January 5, 2010


Jeffrey W. Culver
Director, Diplomatic Security Service
Remarks at U.S. General Services Administration Public Project Overview Meeting
Centreville, Maryland
(as prepared for delivery)

Date: 10/26/2009 Description: Jeffrey W. Culver, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Diplomatic Security and Director of the Diplomatic Security Service. © State Dept Image

Good evening. My name is Jeff Culver, and I am Director of the Diplomatic Security Service. I have been a special agent with the U.S. Department of State for more than 20 years. The organization I represent is the Bureau of Diplomatic Security – or DS as it is more commonly known. We are the security and law enforcement arm of the U.S. Department of State.

Our mission is to provide a secure environment for the conduct our nation’s foreign policy. The men and women of DS are special agents, engineers, diplomatic couriers, and others who protect the people, property, and information of the State Department. DS has many responsibilities – both domestically and internationally.

Every year DS conducts hundreds of investigations involving visa and passport fraud. We also protect U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and visiting foreign dignitaries while they are in the United States.

But chief among our responsibilities is the protection of our fellow Americans representing our country at our U.S. embassies throughout the world – a number of whom are in dangerous locations like Yemen and Pakistan and even in war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

Need For Consolidated Facility

Since 9/11, the demand on DS to train U.S. Government employees has increased enormously. As more and more U.S. embassies remain open in dangerous locations, the need to train State Department and other government employees and their families who will serve at those embassies overseas has increased.

I am sure that many of you have heard that over the weekend, our U.S. Embassy in Yemen was closed for two days due to security threats. This is only the most recent reminder of the dangers facing our fellow Americans and my fellow State Department colleagues who volunteer to serve in these dangerous locations. And the future shows no signs of that danger letting up.

At the moment, DS conducts training at 19 different locations around the United States. The current situation is inefficient, expensive, and therefore unduly burdensome to taxpayers.

This partially consolidated training center would improve efficiency, and improve the standards of our training programs for the worthy purposes they serve.

Please notice that I said a “partially consolidated” training center because some of our training will not take place in the proposed training center in Queen Anne’s County. I will have more to say about that in just a moment.

The State Department’s training program is vital to the security of all U.S. Government and foreign affairs personnel and their families. Without this consolidation plan, DS training programs will continue to be hampered by facilities shortcomings.

I understand there are community concerns and questions associated with the proposed training center, so I would like to present some facts about the training facility we propose. And just as important, I want to present some facts about what types of training activities will NOT be conducted at this facility.

Training Activities

The proposed training center will train primarily U.S. Government employees, most of whom work for the Department of State. They will include DS special agents like me, other DS personnel like security engineers and technicians, as well as the wider corps of U.S. diplomats and their families.

A limited number of police and security professionals from countries that are our partner nations in fighting terror also will receive training. Many of these officers play a vital role in providing security at our Embassies overseas.

We group our training into two categories – soft skills and hard skills.

First the soft skills. We plan to build state-of-art classrooms, simulation and practical applications laboratories, administrative support offices, and a fitness center.

For our hard-skills training, we plan to construct a series of indoor and outdoor weapons firing ranges designed to be used with a wide array of small arms ammunition – akin to a normal hunting rifle. All of these ranges will be designed and constructed so that all rounds are contained and cannot exit the confines of the range.

Part of our training is to familiarize our students with what they might expect to encounter when they are deployed to a high-threat area. For that reason, we plan to have an explosives demonstration area, where we will detonate a series of charges.

These charges -- up to three pounds at the largest -- will be detonated to provide an opportunity for our personnel who are being trained to secure and investigate such an incident at one of our embassies. These blasts will NOT occur routinely.

Of course, we will be required to store the weapons, ammunition, and explosives to support the hard-skills training. All facilities will be designed and constructed in strict compliance with all applicable safety, security and environmental regulations.

We plan to construct several mock urban environments. These are streets, buildings, and facades designed to simulate a variety of urban scenarios. Some of these buildings will be designed for live-fire use. Like the other ranges, these facilities will be designed to fully contain all rounds fired so there is no chance of their exiting the facility.

Hard-skills training also will include three driving tracks. The tracks will be modern two-lane, closed loop, 1.6- to 3-mile-long road courses that replicate normal and emergency driving conditions and multiple vehicle handling situations. The vehicles used on these tracks are not race cars, but normal vehicles that can be seen on any city street.

One of my colleague s will discuss noise abatement, safety set-back zone, and environmental compliance in more detail in a moment.

To support the soft- and hard-skills training, we will need to provide various support elements. When complete, we envision dormitories capable of housing up to 450 students, a dining facility to feed students and staff, recreation opportunities to include an athletic field and track, bike and jogging trails. We will also provide on-site medical and fire emergency services.

Of course, a multi-faceted training facility of this nature will require site infrastructure such as power, fresh water, waste-water treatment and telecommunications capabilities. And all of these considerations are being included in the planning process.

Recent Misunderstandings

I know there has been some misunderstanding about a recent Request for Information that was issued by DS last month for specialized training for heavy weapons familiarization.

With our DS agents and State Department personnel operating in dangerous places all over the world – and in war zones – it is necessary to expose them to some heavy weaponry. Some individuals mistakenly assumed that this is the type of activity that would take place at this proposed training center here in Queen Anne’s County.

Let me be absolutely clear. It was never envisioned that this type of heavy weapons training activity would be conducted here – and it never will be. This Request was designed for a much larger facility to support training for weapons and blasts far in excess of what can or will ever be used at the Queen Anne’s site.

As I mentioned earlier, we are proposing here a partially consolidated training center, but DS will still need to seek alternate sites for this type of weapons training.

A Good Neighbor

The Bureau of Diplomatic Security enjoys a reputation as a world leader in international security and law enforcement. Our security professionals are some of the finest, most talented, and sought-after experts anywhere in the world.

The training they provide, and that others will receive, has saved the lives of countless of our fellow citizens -- U.S. Government employees and their families the world over.

Ladies and gentlemen, I want to conclude by emphasizing that we do recognize and understand that you will have many questions, and that in no way do we mean to diminish your concerns. Quite the contrary.

The men and women of DS come from communities just like this one, and we share your values. I understand and appreciate the quality of life offered by a rural community like yours. I am convinced that the proposed training center poses no risk to that lifestyle, nor does it jeopardize the values we share.

In fact, I believe the training center will not only be a good neighbor, but can become a proud part of your community. It will offer valuable job opportunities, commerce for local businesses and thus improved living standards through local economic development, and that it can be a safe and welcome addition to Queen Anne’s County.

Simultaneously, on another level, this training center will make a significant contribution to the security of our common national interest and the safety of our fellow Americans serving us and our nation overseas.

In sum, it will be a safe, well-designed, and beneficial project. It merits your support. I hope you will agree that this project should go forward as planned, with your support.

Thank you.

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