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Kaine Discusses Importance of Embassy Security In Foreign Relations Hearing

Fort Pickett, VA cited as State Department’s top choice for security training facility

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, discussed the importance of security training for State Department personnel during the confirmation hearing today for Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security nominee Gregory Starr.

During his questioning, Kaine highlighted a July 2013 hearing where Starr described the advantages of building a Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC) in Fort Pickett, Virginia. According to Starr, Fort Pickett is the best site to meet State’s operational requirements, and takes advantages of synergies by being in close proximity to the State Department, its Foreign Service Institute, intelligence agencies, and military facilities in the Washington D.C. area.

“Is it still the position of the State Department that the best option for the training of embassy personnel in the future is a FASTC at Fort Pickett, Virginia?” Kaine asked.

“It is certainly my position sir,” Starr said in response. “We very much understand that our world has changed. And with that world, that’s not just a question of training diplomatic security agents, but it’s the entire Foreign Service that needs to be prepared for the places that they work. We believe the equities of having a consolidated training center in the nearby area to all of our other equities – Foreign Service Institute, the Department of Defense, the intelligence community, the Marine Corps base in Quantico – is still the most effective solution.”

Kaine has long-supported the establishment of a Foreign Affairs Security Training Center to train U.S. diplomatic and government personnel assigned to high-threat posts. The need for more adequate training for State Department personnel was underscored by the 2012 tragedy in Benghazi and more recently by threats to a number of U.S. embassies around the world. In response to the Benghazi Accountability Review Board (ARB) recommendation, the State Department reported to Congress in February 2013 that Fort Pickett was the best-suited site to meet operational requirements and provide synergistic training.

In April 2013, Kaine and Senator Mark Warner wrote a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry urging swift action on the FASTC project at Fort Pickett.