GAO report says Virginia is better choice for security facility

[private]An audit released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) contends that Virginia would be a more cost-effective choice than Georgia as the location for a security training facility for State Department employees who work at U.S. embassies.

The GAO report, which was publicly released Wednesday, was a blow to Georgia congressmen who’ve been calling for the training center to be situated at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) currently operating in Glynn County.

The case for a new training facility has been discussed for years, but the issue acquired more urgency after the 2012 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi.

The Obama administration and the State Department want the center to be located at Fort Pickett, a National Guard base in Virginia situated near the U.S. capital, the Pentagon, and other military sites.

The GAO said the agency evaluated the Virginia and Georgia locations on the basis of four requirements specified by the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS).

According to the audit report, Fort Pickett “fully met all four [requirements] while the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC) campus in Glynco, Georgia, did not fully meet any.”

The Virginia location would allow the State Department “to consolidate at one location 10 of the 12 hard-skills training venues currently in seven states,”the report said. “FLETC can accommodate many of these venues on its campus but would have to conduct some exercises at a Marine Corps training facility about 30 miles away.”

“Fort Pickett is available for nighttime training, which DS conducts over about 190 nights per year, while at FLETC there may be some limitations on nighttime training,” the report said. “GAO also determined that the Fort Pickett site held advantages in terms of proximity to Washington, D.C., and exclusivity of use.”

Georgia’s congressional delegation members, however, have criticized the State Department and strongly urged that the training center be co-located with FLETC instead of in Virginia.

“I want to improve diplomatic security training efforts in a cost-effective, timely manner,” Sen. David Perdue said in a letter to the Office of Management and Budget. “As such, I respectfully request that you share the staff-level recommendation that concluded FLETC should be the site for the new diplomatic security training facility.”

“For nearly 22 years, the Department of State’s pursuit of an independent training facility has been marred by waste, delays and failures,” said Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler), whose district is home to the FLETC facility.

“In this latest chapter, bureaucrats at the State Department are banking that the public outcry over the tragedy at Benghazi will help push them across the finish line,” Carter said in an op-ed column.

“To date, they have poured $200 million into a potential site at Fort Pickett, Va., by utilizing unobligated funds left over from another federal boondoggle — President Obama’s failed ‘stimulus’ — to skirt statutory limits on their ability to use newly appropriated dollars while Congress provides oversight,” Carter added.

The cost of the Virginia location is estimated at $413 million, but FLETC officials have said the cost of putting the facility in Georgia would be only $243 million.

© 2015 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Buddy Carter , David Perdue , diplomatic security training , FLETC , GAO