Egyptian protesters tear down the US flag at the US embassy in Cairo (Newscom)

Egyptian protesters tear down the US flag at the US embassy in Cairo (Newscom)

Recent testimony has revealed the fragile nature of the security of many American embassies.

State Department officials Gregory B. Starr and Bill A. Miller testified that 10 months after the attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi, 15 diplomatic posts in high-threat areas fail to meet safety and security standards.

It is in the interest of the U.S. to maintain adequate security at our embassies and diplomatic posts. Embassies have historically been a primary target for terrorist activities. The storming of the U.S. embassy in Iran in 1980, the attack on the Beirut embassy that killed 63 Americans in 1983, and the attacks in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998 that killed hundreds are only a handful of the hundreds of attacks on U.S. embassies that have occurred over the past three decades.

Senator Bob Corker (R–TN) expressed concern during the hearing about how the State Department intends to spend the $2.2 billion it has requested for embassy security. Indeed, funds have been spent in areas in which “the security issues are not necessarily urgent,” such as Oslo and The Hague, instead of more vulnerable regions across the Middle East.

In order to secure its facilities abroad, the U.S. ought to take the lessons learned from the attack in Benghazi and apply them to other diplomatic facilities:

  • The U.S. should first assess the counterterrorism measures in place at all of our diplomatic facilities abroad. It is necessary to know what counterterrorism efforts are in place to reduce the threat of attacks on our facilities.
  • Officials should conduct analyses of potential risks to U.S. embassies and take appropriate action to counter them. Embassies that are determined to be in high-risk areas that do not meet security requirements should take priority over more secure embassies elsewhere.
  • U.S. emergency procedures in response to armed assaults should be in place and clear to all embassy personnel. These procedures should be flexible enough to adjust to events as they happen.
  • A climate of interagency cooperation should exist in Washington that would allow rapid and flexible responses to crises. In order to effectively manage resources, command and control among government agencies should be coordinated.

If the U.S. does not start to take embassy security seriously, then deadly attacks like the one that claimed the lives of four Americans, including U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens, may become far more common.

Franklin Holcomb is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.