Foreign Emergency Support Team (FEST)
The FEST is the U.S. government’s only interagency, on-call, short-notice team poised to respond to terrorist incidents worldwide. At the request of, and on the behalf of the U.S. Chief of Mission, the FEST deploys overseas to advise, assist, assess, and coordinate U.S. government crisis response activities. The Operations Directorate of the Department of State’s Bureau of Counterterrorism leads the FEST that includes representatives from the Department of Defense, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other agencies, as circumstances warrant. FEST composition is flexible and tailored to the specific incident and the needs of the U.S. Embassy and host nation. The FEST has deployed numerous times since its inception in 1986, and can augment existing U.S. Mission and host nation capabilities with specialized crisis response expertise such as:
• Crisis management expertise
• Time-sensitive information
• Planning for contingency operations
• Hostage negotiating expertise
• Reach-back to Washington, DC agencies
• Specialized communications capabilities.
FEST Assists in the Aftermath of East Africa Bombings
Two Foreign Emergency Support Teams were deployed to Kenya and Tanzania immediately following the August 1998 al-Qaeda terrorist bombings of US Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. The FESTs helped assess both emergencies and aided US Ambassadors as they managed the aftermath of the attacks, which killed some 300 (including 12 Americans) and injured more than 5000.
FEST Responds to USS Cole Bombing
A Foreign Emergency Support Team was deployed to Aden, Yemen following a terrorist attack against the USS Cole, which killed 17 American sailors in October 2000. The FEST advised the US ambassador and helped her direct America's response to the attack. FEST's secure mobile communications capability was especially valuable, since the Port of Aden is some 200 miles from the American Embassy in Sanaa.
Smaller, "tailored" FESTs have responded to abductions of Americans in Ecuador and the Philippines. "Contingency" FESTs were deployed to ensure safety at the Olympic Games in Athens, Greece (Summer 2004) and Turin, Italy (Winter 2006), and in Lagos, Nigeria during a hostage-taking crisis.
In addition to the above activities, the FEST routinely provides veteran diplomatic and interagency experts to national counterterrorism exercises, such as TOPOFF.