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Are U.S. diplomats on drugs? State Dept. doesn’t know

The State Department is supposed to be testing its high-security employees to see if they are getting high, but testing has fallen way below the required levels and no overseas diplomats are getting drug tested at all, according to a new internal report. Former President Ronald Reagan established the rule back in 1986 that federal ...

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The State Department is supposed to be testing its high-security employees to see if they are getting high, but testing has fallen way below the required levels and no overseas diplomats are getting drug tested at all, according to a new internal report.

Former President Ronald Reagan established the rule back in 1986 that federal employees aren’t allowed to use illicit drugs either on or off the job, due to the risk of coercion of employees entrusted with national security information, loss of productivity, and impairment of their health and well-being. The State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual dictates that all department employees with a "secret" level or above should be subject to random drug tests because they posses sensitive information and mandates that the State Department have a detailed plan for drug testing.

But the State Department’s plan doesn’t include testing for anybody stationed overseas, even though more than 40 percent of the highly sensitive jobs are located outside the United States, the State Department’s inspector general (IG) found.

"Moreover, the number of employees in sensitive positions subject to testing is only 1 percent, or approximately 190 employees, while the plan calls for 10 percent, or approximately 1,503 employees. Additionally, there are no formal procedures to ensure that all personnel selected for drug testing are in fact tested and that any employee who seeks a deferral of testing has a legitimate reason for seeking a deferral," the report stated.

"As a result, the Department cannot ensure that it is achieving its goal of having a drug-free workplace."

The IG made four specific recommendations which, if implemented, could mean that the party is over for diplomats who might be taking advantage of the local wares in places like Afghanistan, Thailand, and Colombia. The IG recommended that State develop and implement  an overseas drug testing program, make sure that drug testing is actually random, develop a new methodology for drug testing to be approved by the Department of Health and Human Services, and ensure "the Department is placing appropriate management emphasis and resources toward achieving the objective of a drug-free workplace."

The IG blamed the problem on the lack of program supervision and oversight by the drug program coordinator, who is a deputy assistant secretary for human resources, and the drug program manager, who is a nurse in the office of medical services.

Neither the Bureau of Human Resources nor the Office of Medical Services responded to the draft report.

The State Department is supposed to be testing its high-security employees to see if they are getting high, but testing has fallen way below the required levels and no overseas diplomats are getting drug tested at all, according to a new internal report.

Former President Ronald Reagan established the rule back in 1986 that federal employees aren’t allowed to use illicit drugs either on or off the job, due to the risk of coercion of employees entrusted with national security information, loss of productivity, and impairment of their health and well-being. The State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual dictates that all department employees with a "secret" level or above should be subject to random drug tests because they posses sensitive information and mandates that the State Department have a detailed plan for drug testing.

But the State Department’s plan doesn’t include testing for anybody stationed overseas, even though more than 40 percent of the highly sensitive jobs are located outside the United States, the State Department’s inspector general (IG) found.

"Moreover, the number of employees in sensitive positions subject to testing is only 1 percent, or approximately 190 employees, while the plan calls for 10 percent, or approximately 1,503 employees. Additionally, there are no formal procedures to ensure that all personnel selected for drug testing are in fact tested and that any employee who seeks a deferral of testing has a legitimate reason for seeking a deferral," the report stated.

"As a result, the Department cannot ensure that it is achieving its goal of having a drug-free workplace."

The IG made four specific recommendations which, if implemented, could mean that the party is over for diplomats who might be taking advantage of the local wares in places like Afghanistan, Thailand, and Colombia. The IG recommended that State develop and implement  an overseas drug testing program, make sure that drug testing is actually random, develop a new methodology for drug testing to be approved by the Department of Health and Human Services, and ensure "the Department is placing appropriate management emphasis and resources toward achieving the objective of a drug-free workplace."

The IG blamed the problem on the lack of program supervision and oversight by the drug program coordinator, who is a deputy assistant secretary for human resources, and the drug program manager, who is a nurse in the office of medical services.

Neither the Bureau of Human Resources nor the Office of Medical Services responded to the draft report.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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