By Paul Courson
Secretary of State John Kerry tried to reassure diplomatic workers on Monday that security improvements are underway at American missions around the world where they are likely to be deployed.
The measures include plans for a rapid evacuation contingency if conditions turn deadly, as they did last September during a terror attack on the U.S. post in Benghazi, Libya.
In opening remarks at a "Security Overseas Seminar" at the Foreign Service Institute, Kerry said there's a balance between making contact with the local populations the United States is trying to serve, and protecting Americans working in hostile regions.
"Diplomacy and security needs do not have to be trade-offs," he said, declaring that "if we are going to bring light to the world, we have to go where it is dark."
Kerry cited hostilities in Libya last year that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, and an attack this year in Afghanistan that killed American diplomatic worker Anne Smedinghoff.
"I am acutely aware of the very real risks we take around the world. I think of them every day," Kerry said, but that in helping others embrace American ideals, no one should be "surprised that there is danger."
To address such risk, Kerry said "we're bringing on more security personnel, we're enhancing our training, we're putting more Marines at high-threat diplomatic posts, and we're making sure that their first responsibility is protecting our people, not just classified materials."
And should a threat exceed the presence of Marines and security fortifications, Kerry said upgrades include "linking our embassies with various military commands to make emergency extradition more central to our military mission."
The two-day seminar is aimed at government workers and their families preparing for assignments overseas. A schedule for Tuesday listed panels that include "Hostage Survival," "Evacuations and Contingency Planning," and "Coping in a Crisis."