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State Dept. Panel: Diplomatic Security Must Be Priority

By Melanie Batley   |   Wednesday, 04 Sep 2013 02:19 PM

An independent review panel is recommending that the State Department elevate the office responsible for diplomatic security to a higher level of importance, particularly with American embassies and consulates facing increasing threats of terrorist attacks.

According to The New York Times, the panel's findings, which have not yet been publicly released, implicitly criticize Secretary of State John Kerry's office for not giving enough priority to the department that oversees security at 275 installations.

It also recommends "as a matter of urgency" establishing a new under secretary that would elevate security matters to the highest levels of the department.

"The department's present direction of expeditionary diplomacy, operating with an increasing number of temporary and permanent posts in complex, high-risk environments, requires an organizational paradigm change," the panel said in its 31-page report, according to the Times.

"The threats Foreign Service personnel face requires the Department's security function not to be relegated to the same status as other important but distinctly different, support functions," the report added.

The findings are in keeping with the conclusions presented in December by the Accountability Review Board, which was tasked with investigating the terrorist attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya that killed four Americans on September 11, 2012.

That review blamed the diplomatic security bureau and another unit in the State Department for failing to coordinate and plan adequate security and made a number of recommendations about improvements for security and other areas at the department. It also recommended the creation of the latest review panel, according to the Times.

The Times noted that security at diplomatic posts continues to remain a major concern for the U.S., particularly with the upcoming anniversary of the Benghazi attacks and the recent temporary closures of 19 embassies and consulates across the Middle East and North Africa due to terrorist threats.

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