WASHINGTON — The federal bureau that employs a 27-year-old special agent charged in a fatal shooting at a Waikiki McDonald’s has been plagued with management problems and “experience gaps,” according to a 2009 federal oversight report.
The Bureau of Diplomatic Security is the law enforcement and security arm of the U.S. State Department, and its mission is to provide a safe and secure environment for the conduct of U.S. foreign policy worldwide.
But a November 2009 report by the Government Accountability Office described a rapidly growing bureau that has been “hindered by staffing shortages,” and has struggled to find “enough qualified candidates.”
The result: “Inexperienced staff” who potentially “compromise diplomatic readiness.”
A public affairs specialist with the bureau did not immediately respond to Civil Beat’s inquiries about murder suspect Christopher Deedy’s employment experience with Diplomatic Security.
Deedy is a special agent with the bureau, and was in Honolulu to protect foreign dignitaries during APEC when he was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. According to the GAO report, the bureau employs about 1,585 special agents, who are considered the lead operational employees. The overall Diplomatic Security workforce is about 40,000, including contractors.
“Thirty-four percent of Diplomatic Security’s positions (not including those in Baghdad) are filled with officers below the position’s grade,” the 2009 report says. “Diplomatic Security officials stated that these gaps between the experience level required by the position and the experience level of the employee assigned can affect the quality of Diplomatic Security’s work.”
The report says that several staffers said that they “did not feel adequately prepared for their job.”
Concerns about the adequacy of Diplomatic Security training came up again in June 2011 testimony by the GAO’s International Affairs and Trade director, Jess Ford.
Ford said that Diplomatic Security has “some weaknesses” when it comes to ensuring “training requirements are met.” One major weakness: Diplomatic Security Training Centers “do not have the capability to track whether personnel have completed all required training.”
“Agents are required to pass a firearms requalification every 4 months when they are posted domestically and once a year if posted overseas,” Ford wrote in testimony. “However, (training center) systems do not effectively track this requirement, and it is the agents’ and supervisors’ responsibility to keep track of when their next requalification is due.”
Ford also testified that the bureau’s training centers “cannot say for certain which of its personnel have accessed the training” that is made available to them.
It is not yet clear what level of training Deedy would have been required to complete in order to become a special agent. GAO pointed out that just 3 percent of the bureau’s budget went toward training in 2008.
Part of the strain comes from a huge uptick in staffers at the bureau in the past decade. Diplomatic Security funding increased by about $200 million and personnel doubled between 1998 and 2008, according to the 2009 report.
The bureau’s budget grew to $1.8 billion by 2008, which GAO attributed to requirements associated with the U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. But those operations have strained the bureau’s “ability to provide security” elsewhere, GAO reports.
“As a result of the low level of available staff, Diplomatic Security reported that many posts go for years without updating their security training…” according to the June 2011 report. “In 2005, Diplomatic Security identified the need for a training float — additional staff that would allow the bureau to fill critical positions and still allow staff time for critical job training — but the bureau has not been able to implement one.”
The report also found that the bureau opted to shorten basic training requirements as a way to get more new hires. The GAO recommended executive action that would enable the bureau to begin “operating programs with experienced staff, at the commensurate grade levels.”
“Although some planning initiatives have been undertaken, neither State’s departmental strategic plan nor Diplomatic Security’s bureau strategic plan specifically address the bureau’s resource needs or its management challenges,” the report says. “Therefore, Diplomatic Security’s tremendous growth over the last 10 years has been in reaction to events and has not benefited from adequate strategic guidance.”