Earlier claims from Chaffetz and fellow Republican Congressman Darrell Issa that the administration ignored pleas for more security from Libya embassy officials should be treated with caution until there’s some proof.
Since retaking control in 2010, House Republicans have aggressively cut spending at the State Department in general and embassy security in particular. Chaffetz and Issa and their colleagues voted to pay for far less security than the State Department requested in 2011 and again this year.
Is that responsible for the tragedy in Benghazi? Probably not, at least not entirely. Usually when security goes wrong, it’s down to a cascade of small failures piling up. But it’s a bit rich to complain about a lack of US security personnel at diplomatic missions on the one hand, while actively working to cut the budget to pay for US security personnel at diplomatic missions on the other.
The Worldwide Security Protection program (WSP), which the government says provides “core funding for the protection of life, property, and information of the Department of State,” and a separate embassy security and construction budget, which in part improves fortifications, have both been under fire.
“In 2011 they came in and passed a continuing resolution for the remainder of that fiscal year. The House proposed $70 million cut in the WSP and they proposed a $204 million cut in Embassy security,” says Mr. Lilly. “Then the next year, fiscal 2012, they cut worldwide security by $145 million and embassy security by $376 million. This year’s bill is the same thing all over again. The House has cut the worldwide security budget $149 million below the request.”
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the Utah Republican co-leading a House investigation on October 10 regarding the “Security Failures of Benghazi” said in a interview last week that the number of American diplomatic security officers serving in Libya had been reduced in the six months prior to the attacks. Via The Daily Beast:
“The fully trained Americans who can deal with a volatile situation were reduced in the six months leading up to the attacks,” he said. “When you combine that with the lack of commitment to fortifying the physical facilities, you see a pattern.”
Sure you see a pattern. Some might think there’s a pattern apparent in the Congress, too.
Here is what the State Department says about its Worldwide Security Protection (WSP) Program in its funding request to the Congress:
The Worldwide Security Protection (WSP) program affords core funding to provide a safe and secure environment for the conduct of U.S. foreign policy. The promotion of American interests and foreign policy protects life, property, and information at more than 274 missions abroad. In order to do this, the Department must address threats against U.S. personnel, facilities, and equipment worldwide. The civil unrest in Abidjan, Egypt, and Tunis; the increasingly volatile situation in Mexico; the physical assault on the Embassy in Syria; and the suspension and reactivation of operations at the U.S. Embassy in Libya highlight the need for continued vigilance, program execution, and funding. As U.S. diplomatic humanitarian efforts in critical threat and unstable locations expand, increased security and security training will ensure all U.S. Government employees (USG) are prepared to work safely in these areas. WSP provides funding for the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), and other Departmental bureaus.
Last year, when Congress slashed State’s budget, Matt of Feral Jundi asked: Is The DoS And The WPS Program Being Set Up For Failure By Congress?
Another point I wanted to make is WPS will be vital for the ‘other’ DoS missions out there as a result of the Arab Spring. The cards are being re-shuffled in the middle east and diplomatic missions in these countries will be vital for national interest. These are dangerous times, and security for these diplomatic missions is essential. Congress should do all it can to ensure DoS and it’s security apparatus is successful, because lives and national interest are on the line.
Here is Stimson’s The Will and the Wallet:
Looking at the House and Senate Appropriations Committee reports for State and Foreign Operations, the committees both cut from the administration’s request but did so to different degrees and in different ways. The House made substantially deeper cuts than the Senate, shaving 11.6% ($6.3B) off of the President’s request, while the Senate cut by a smaller 4.7% ($2.6B). Beyond overall funding levels, the House and Senate agreed on some budget priorities while sharply disagreeing on others.
Notably, both Committees cut deeply into the State Department’s operating costs, each slashing about $2.5 billion, or about 22% of the President’s request, from State’s Diplomatic and Consular Programs account. In fact, this cut accounts for over a third of the House’s $6.3 billion overall net cut and falls only about $50 million short of the Senate’s net cut.
The Cable reported the significant cuts in the 2011 budget with the actual numbers:
As part of the budget deal struck to avoid a government shutdown, the White House has agreed to reduce the State Department and foreign operations budgets for the rest of fiscal 2011 by $8 billion.
Other programs that will lose large portions of their requested funding include the operating expenses for USAID ($122 million less than the request), the Civilian Stabilization Initiative (-$144 million), the office of the Global AIDS Coordinator (-$155 million), the Peace Corps (-$71 million), the International Clean Technology Fund (-$215 million), the International Strategic Climate Fund (-$185 million), and Worldwide Security Protection (-$61 million).
So we’ll probably make a big deal about “Main State” rejecting a request for a DC-3 but … but how about how much money Congress slashed from the security protection portion of the budget request?
For the sake of clarity and whatnot, and so that we, the people can have both the real low down on these failures and also a big picture idea on how these security failures happen, the Committee on Oversight reps should call themselves as witnesses to this very important hearing and ask the following questions for starters:
- Did I or did I not vote to cut the State Department’s embassy security budget in 2011?
- Did I or did I not cut the same security budget again in 2012?
- Did I think through the possible consequences to that reduction in security budget for over 270 American missions overseas? Was my vote sequestered from reality?
- When allocating blame for this incident, what percentage of that should I assign myself? What methodology for calculating blame would be helpful?
- Before I get hopping mad and write all sorts of letters, did I stop and think how the reduction in security funds might have affected the hiring of Libyan local guards at $32 a day versus American private security contractors at say $750 a day?
- This guy has serious questions about inadequate security that need some answers, too. Dammit, didn’t I get elected to Congress so I get to ask the hard questions?
Should be interesting to watch. I’ll bring my 16 oz Bloomberg drink and popcorn.
- Libya attack: Congressmen casting blame voted to cut diplomatic security budget (csmonitor.com)
- U.S. Cut Security Before Libya Attacks (thedailybeast.com)
- House GOP leaders: Diplomats sought more security before Libya attack (washingtontimes.com)
- Libya consulate: Security added, or taken away? (cbsnews.com)