In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, congressional and media focus centered on why no Marine Embassy Security Guards had been stationed there.
However, the State Department will require more than a beefed-up Marine presence to improve embassy defenses, said Steve Vinsik, vice president of global security solutions at Unisys, a Reston, Va. information technology company.
Embassies will also need to upgrade technologies that can give installations advanced warning of an attack, such as video surveillance systems, chemical and biological weapon detectors and perimeter sensors, Vinsik said.
People think “‘those video cameras still work, so we don’t need to upgrade [them],’ but the technology has leapfrogged tremendously, to the point where the systems they have in place are just inadequate,” he told National Defense.
Once improved video and sensor systems are operational, the State Department will need analytic software to process the huge amounts of data streaming in.
“You can’t expect somebody to sit in a room and look at a couple hundred video screens,” he said. Analytic software “can detect when a crowd starts to gather. It can say, ‘OK, I have a number of people converging together,’ [and] send an alert. … That allows someone to take notice and focus on that camera or the cameras in those immediate areas.”
The department will also be looking for software that can integrate detection and sensor systems and correlate that information with threat intelligence reports. Unarmed drones could also be used in the future to give added situational awareness, Vinsik said.
The Senate in February passed legislation giving the State Department power to transfer $1.1 million to bolster security in their embassies.
If passed by the House, the State Department should balance this funding between upgrading infrastructure and adding personnel, Vinsik said.
“It’s not just ‘throw a bunch of Marines at it, and you’ll solve the problem.’ Yeah, you’ll solve the problem, but is that the best use of their time?”Photo Credit: Thinkstock