Benghazi Accountability Review Board Implementation

Fact Sheet
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
January 15, 2014

Following the September 11, 2012 attack on U.S. government facilities in Benghazi, Libya, the independent Benghazi Accountability Review Board (ARB) on December 19, 2012, issued 29 recommendations (24 of which were unclassified) to the Department of State. The Department accepted each of the ARB’s recommendations and is committed to implementing them. This will require fundamentally reforming the organization in critical ways – work which is already well underway. While risk can never be completely eliminated from our diplomatic and development 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. We are refining an 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, modify the current staffing footprint, or cease operations.
  • We are creating a “Security Accountability Framework” that clearly defines key actors, their roles and responsibilities, and governance mechanisms. This framework will provide an essential foundation for implementing our new risk management methodologies.
  • We created a Deputy Assistant Secretary for High Threat Programs in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), who is responsible for ensuring that high-threat posts receive the focused attention they need.

2. The Board recommends that the Department re-examine 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 working to implementing them. Recommendations include:
  • Reviewing Diplomatic Security allocation both domestically and abroad to ensure priority positions overseas are filled first;
  • Establishing a Diplomatic Security strategic planning unit; and,
  • Continuing to pursue a Diplomatic Security training complement to combat the problem faced by managers who are not able to replace personnel attending their required training.

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 shared 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 five-person panel to identify best practices used by other agencies and countries.
  • The Best Practices Panel transmitted its final report to the Department in September 2013.
  • The panel made 40 recommendations, which are under consideration by the Department. We expect to implement 39 of 40 recommendations.
  • Many recommendations built upon those made by the Benghazi ARB including: establishing a Department-wide risk management model and policy; increased hard-skills training for the foreign affairs community; and developing a security accountability framework.

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 re-affirmed that Overseas Security Policy Board Standards apply to all facilities.
  • Working with Congress, the Department identified flexible funding authorities in the Increased Security Proposal to make improvements to our overseas facilities.

6. Before opening or re-opening critical threat or high risk, high threat posts, the Department should establish a multi-bureau 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 at 2 FAM 420; the FAM covers both regular and high-threat posts, and clearly sets out the actions to be taken by relevant bureaus and offices.

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 can be eliminated and their personnel relocated.
  • When new facilities are planned and built, they are done so with all approved staff being collocated, unless a waiver is in place.

8. The Secretary should require an action plan from Diplomatic Security, Overseas Buildings Operations, 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.”
  • Fire testing is ongoing at U.S. military facilities.
  • We have developed training that addresses survival in smoke and fire situations.

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.
  • To allow Washington to track and respond to breached tripwires overseas, the Department developed an application called ALERT (Action Log for Emergency Response to Tripwires).
  • The Department also uses ALERT to review all 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 FY14 President's Budget included a request for $2.2 billion in the Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance account.
  • The just-filed Omnibus Appropriations bill includes $2.4 billion for this account in regular and Overseas Contingency Operations funding.

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. Eight detachments are already in place. Fourteen new detachments are expected to be in place by the end of 2014 and we will continue to work with the Department of Defense to deploy the remaining thirteen detachments. Additionally, MSG staffing has been increased at 16 high threat/high risk posts to a minimum level of 13 Marines (1 Detachment Commander and 12 Marine Security Guards).Working with Congress, the Department has requested and received more resources to build facilities at additional posts to host Marine Security Guards in the future.
  • The Marine Corps also established the Marine Security Augmentation Unit in Quantico, Virginia, which will be able to provide MSGs on short notice at the request of Chiefs of Mission. These Marines are drawn from combat units, and have extra training in close-quarters battle, trauma, and weapons and tactics. Nine squads will be available by the end of January 2014.


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 created 151 new Diplomatic Security positions. 113 employees, including 75 new DS agents, were hired in 2013. The remaining 38 employees 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 ensure overlap between incumbent and incoming positions to facilitate continuity of operations at high threat posts.
  • Temporary duty assignments at high-threat posts 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 Locally Employed Staff interpreters and translators.

  • The Department surveyed every post to review staffing numbers of (including LES 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 to the required level of proficiency. 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 took place from October-December 2013. We are currently assessing the results of the course and making adjustments as needed.


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 (COM) 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 COM 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 codified into 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 by requiring personnel headed to high threat posts to receive additional, specialized security and fire survival training.
  • The Diplomatic Security Training Center and Foreign Service Institute have formed a working group to coordinate collaboration efforts on high-threat training and risk management, including the development of new courses and integration of updated course materials in a broad range of existing 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; we installed new photo luminescent tape in safe havens; and have procured additional personal protective equipment.
  • We were able to do this with the Increased Security Proposal money funded by Congress in FY 2013, for which we are grateful.

19. There have been technological advancements in non-lethal deterrents, and the State Department should ensure it rapidly and routinely identifies and procures additional options for non-lethal deterrents in high risk, high threat posts and trains personnel on their use.

  • The Department has addressed this recommendation.

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 all high-threat, high-risk facilities with more modern surveillance cameras.
  • Equipment to support these cameras has already been procured and installed at 90 percent of our high-threat, high-risk posts.


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.

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 increase accountability. In January 2013, the Department proposed legislation to grant future Accountability Review Boards 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.