New State Department Budget Hopes to Right Benghazi Wrongs

The administration wants an additional $600 million next year to increase security at its overseas facilities.

This photo taken on September 11, 2012 shows a vehicle and surrounding buildings smoldering after they were set on fire inside the US mission compound in Benghazi.
National Journal
Jordain Carney
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Jordain Carney
March 12, 2014, 9:19 a.m.

The State De­part­ment is ask­ing Con­gress for $4.6 bil­lion to boost se­cur­ity at its em­bassies and con­su­lates, a re­quest that fol­lows 2012’s deadly at­tack on the de­part­ment’s fa­cil­ity in Benghazi, Libya.

The fund­ing would be used, State’s fisc­al 2015 budget plan says, for se­cur­ity staff and up­grades to in­fra­struc­ture, and for new em­bassies or con­su­late com­pounds. That’s $600 mil­lion more than the $4 bil­lion re­ques­ted for se­cur­ity up­grades last year.

A hand­ful of re­cent con­gres­sion­al re­ports have ques­tioned, if not out­right blamed, the de­part­ment for its lack of re­spons­ive­ness lead­ing up the 2012 at­tack that killed four Amer­ic­ans: Am­bas­sad­or to Libya Chris Stevens, U.S. For­eign Ser­vice In­form­a­tion Of­ficer Sean Smith, and em­bassy se­cur­ity per­son­nel Glen Do­herty and Tyr­one Woods.

Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry said in a let­ter sub­mit­ted with the budget re­quest that the ex­tra fund­ing would help “reg­u­lar­ize se­cur­ity en­hance­ments made” since a 2012 Benghazi Ac­count­ab­il­ity Re­view Board found that se­cur­ity in Benghazi was “grossly in­ad­equate” to with­stand the at­tack.

Kerry is go­ing to Con­gress this week to ex­plain his de­part­ment’s re­quest. Al­though the at­tack happened while Hil­lary Clin­ton headed the State De­part­ment, staffers say Kerry will face scru­tiny over State’s se­cur­ity prac­tices and if, or how, they’ve been im­proved in the roughly 18 months since Benghazi.

“The fail­ures of Benghazi can be summed up this way: The Amer­ic­ans serving in Libya were vul­ner­able; the State De­part­ment knew they were vul­ner­able; and no one in the ad­min­is­tra­tion really did any­thing about it,” ac­cord­ing to a 2014 re­port by the Sen­ate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee.

Fol­low­ing up on a re­com­mend­a­tion from the re­view board re­port, the de­part­ment’s budget backs an in­ter­agency ef­fort to provide $2.2 bil­lion for cap­it­al se­cur­ity con­struc­tion.

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