Many civilian federal employees risk their lives to serve in America’s embassies and consulates in some of the world’s most dangerous, war-torn countries.
Yet, U.S. personnel currently serving in these high risk posts are not being provided the proper security. In the same way we make protecting our troops serving in harm’s way a top priority, we must also provide an adequate level security for our diplomatic corps.
While American embassies have become much more secure since 9/11, concerns about the personal security of employees serving at high threat missions have risen. Although an employee may work at a very secure, well-guarded embassy, he or she often lives in a leased residence in the community and often has to commute to and from work without armed guard.
Moreover, questions have been raised about apparent disparities in the level of security provided to different agency staff serving at certain high risk embassies. An employee from one agency may be provided armored transport to and from work, whereas an employee of another agency might be forced to drive to work in a personal car.
Because of these concerns, I sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday asking her to review the adequacy of personnel security measures for all federal employees at U.S. embassies, regardless of parent agency or grade.
The State Department’s diplomatic security agents (known abroad as regional security officers), who are charged with managing the security of our embassies and consulates, are true professionals who do extraordinarily challenging work. They face resource and regulatory constraints that may limit their ability to provide all employees the same level of security protection and must often ration limited security funding by providing employees deemed to be more likely targets, like the ambassador, with increased security.
The fact is that every man and woman in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and many other dangerous places around the world have put his or her life on the line to protect and advance the interests of this country. And all of them — regardless of rank or branch of government service — can be potential targets.
I look forward to working with the State Department to address this issue and identify ways to provide all federal employees serving at high threat diplomatic missions adequate personal security support. Every government worker that’s putting his or her life on the line overseas deserves equal access to security — whether it’s on or off the clock.
Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.