Benghazi Accountability Review Board Implementation

Fact Sheet
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
September 17, 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 immediately began implementation work. Effective implementation will require fundamentally reforming the organization in critical ways – work which is already well underway – as well as sustained support from the Congress. While risk can never be completely eliminated from our diplomatic and development duties, we must always work to minimize it. We owe that to the men and women working overseas to advance our interests, promote our values, and keep America safe.

Below is a brief update on implementation of the 24 unclassified recommendations:

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.

  • We have implemented an institutionalized, repeatable, and transparent process, called the Vital Presence Validation Process or VP2, 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. This process enables us to make systematic, clear-eyed assessments about whether and how the United States should operate in dangerous overseas locations where U.S. interests are at stake.
  • We have created a “Security Accountability Framework” that clearly defines key actors, their roles and responsibilities, and governance mechanisms. This framework provides 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 Diplomatic Security’s organization and management structure.
  • The panel concluded its work on May 3, 2013, making 35 recommendations to improve Diplomatic Security operations and its management structure. The Department accepted 30 of these recommendations and is working to implementing them. Recommendations include:
    • Reviewing Diplomatic Security personnel allocation both domestically and abroad to ensure priority positions overseas are filled first; and,
    • Establishing a Diplomatic Security strategic planning unit.

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.

  • We have significantly improved the way that security professionals and policy experts exchange information. DS staff now attend regular Regional Bureau meetings, and Regional Bureau staff attend DS daily briefings to better communicate on security and policy issues.
  • We have also taken steps to institutionalize the shared responsibility for security issues. Of note, the Department has adjusted the work requirements 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, and we are in the process of implementing 38 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 and key authorities were enacted by Congress.
  • More flexible transfer authority for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding was continued in subsequent annual appropriations and in the Presidents’ Budget.

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 have conducted a comprehensive review of all our overseas facilities and are developing long-term plans to relocate personnel at appropriate non-collocated facilities.
  • Furthermore, whenever 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 formal guidance to all posts on “weapons of opportunity”
  • We have also expanded training that addresses survival in smoke and fire situations. Such information has been added in Crisis Management Training exercises, which are conducted at all high threat, high risk posts annually. In addition, DS agents currently receive medical training on the effects and treatment of smoke inhalation, injuries, and treatment, and participate in exercises that require students to escape from smoke-filled buildings.
  • The Department continuously works with outside entities such as the U.S. Army and New York Fire Department to identify emerging threats and trends and to enhance our training.

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 (CSCS) Program [for embassy construction] at its full capacity, adjusted for inflation to approximately $2.2 billion in fiscal year 2015.

  • The FY 2014 Consolidated Appropriations bill includes $2.2 billion in funding for the CSCS program. This includes reimbursements from other agencies and Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding.
  • For FY 2015, the President’s Budget requests $2.2 billion for the CSCS program including reimbursements and OCO 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 have deployed seventeen new Marine Security Guard detachments since the Benghazi attacks. We are working with the DOD to deploy an additional eighteen detachments in the coming years.
  • The Marine Corps also established the MSG Security Augmentation Unit in Quantico, Virginia, which can provide MSGs on short notice at the request of Chiefs of Mission. These Marines are drawn primarily from the combat arms and military police occupational specialties, and have extra training in close-quarters battle, trauma, and weapons and tactics. Nine squads were established in January 2014. Many of these squads have already been dispatched repeatedly to augment security in response to changing threat environments.


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. An additional 9 have been hired in 2014. The remaining 29 employees are planned to be hired this year.

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. We continue to review staffing levels to ensure that security and other priority functions are being appropriately addressed.

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.
  • We have completed two 10-week sessions of Arabic “Awareness, Language, Emergency and Response Training” ALERT training and one session of Urdu since October 2013.
  • We are preparing to offer more iterations of Arabic ALERT in 2014, and will offer additional languages.


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 ongoing collaboration efforts on high-threat training and risk management, including the integration of updated course materials in a broad range of existing training and development of new courses.


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 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.


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.