Among the recommendations of a highly anticipated State Department report on preventing future failures akin to the ones leading up to the Sept. 11 attack on a diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, many share a common thread: restoring GOP cuts to State’s budget.
Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today, Deputy Secretaries of State Tom Nides and William Burns laid out the commitment of the Department to implement each of the twenty-four unclassified recommendations put forward by the Accountability Review Board (ARB). One of the most expensive recommendations from the ARB includes restoring full funding for mechanisms put into place after embassy attacks in Kenya and Tanzania in 1999:
Recalling the recommendations of the Nairobi and Dar es Salaam ARBs, the State Department must work with Congress to restore the Capital Security Cost Sharing Program at its full capacity, adjusted for inflation to approximately $2.2 billion in fiscal year 2015, including an up to ten-year program addressing that need, prioritized for construction of new facilities in high risk, high threat areas. It should also work with Congress to expand utilization of Overseas Contingency Operations funding to respond to emerging security threats and vulnerabilities and operational requirements in high risk, high threat posts.
In order to carry out that and other recommendations, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton intends to request an additional $1.3 billion dollars in funding from Congress, transferred from money allocated for Iraq. This increase would provide for the addition of Marine guards to many of the more dangerous posts around the world, along with increasing the number of State Department diplomatic security personnel and security improvements at overseas U.S. missions. The House and Senate are poised to increase funds available to the Marine Corps to deploy many more Marine Embassy Guards around the world, potentially shifting their mission from one of protecting classified to documents to protecting people.
In Thursday’s hearings, Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer (CA), Robert Menendez (NJ), and Bob Casey (PA) didn’t shy away from recalling the effect Republican gutting of the State Department budget in the past Congress has had on diplomatic security. Boxer pointed out that the Obama administration requested $2.6 billion for the State Department in 2012, which the House of Representatives slashed. While the Senate was able to restore the a large amount of funding requested, State still wound up $200 million short over the last two years.
Committee Chairman Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) made clear in his opening and closing statements that an increase in the State Department’s budget was a real necessity in the coming years. Kerry, thought to be Obama’s choice to replace Clinton following her pending resignation, will likely utilize many of the same arguments before Congress in the next term.
Several Republicans have attempted to argue in the past that the funding cuts to the State Department’s budget had a negligible effect on the result in Benghazi. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), one of the most outspoken critics of the Obama administration in the wake of Benghazi, once proudly declared that he “absolutely” voted for budget cuts to the State Department. The Republicans in the House for Fiscal Year 2013 have already stated that they were willing to put forward $1.934 billion for the State Department’s Worldwide Security Protection program, leaving a sizable gap between them and the $2.15 billion requested by the Obama administration.
(Photo credit: NY Times)