In light of the Benghazi attacks, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton felt that the Administration acted admirably considering the circumstances. A major sticking point is Congress.
The Benghazi embassy attack of four months ago still has no motive or known terrorist actors, according to the independent Advisory Review Board (ARB). Finding the embassy’s security was inadequate and calling for funding, Secretary Hillary Clinton again seeks money from Congress to bolster diplomatic security. However, she expects the ARBs 29 recommendations to be 85 percent in place by March with all recommendations to be in place soon, likely this year.
The amount in question is $1.4 billion in total, including money for Marine guards and security. The outgoing Secretary stated that amount was in the Senate version of a bill to allow Hurricane Sandy relief. But it was not in the House of Representative version. Congress needs to act, and quickly—preferably before defense sequestration cuts to the tune of $50 billion dollars occur.
According to Hillary Clinton, requests from her department for spending increases have met with constant criticism from Congress since 2007. Her department makes up less than one percent of the budget. Last year saw spending 10 percent below expectation. Recently, the House of Representatives voted to cut embassy security spending by $300 million.
Increasing Congressional awareness was perhaps one reason Hillary Clinton testified moments ago before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. During the testimony, she touched on the progress she made as Secretary of State. But she acknowledged there was more yet to be done in light of systemic departmental weakness she took steps to remedy as well as the ubiquitous circumstances of “global” terror—not just in Benghazi.
She proposes her department work more closely with the Department of Defense, noting she was not made aware of security requests and pleas during the attack. Beyond echoing the ARB recommendations for more guards, she said there needs to be a focus on diplomacy. That is why she encourages democracy without simply the killing of leaders. She hopes the department works with unprepared nations like Libya, talking to opposition leaders and implementing training characteristic of stronger African regions like Tunisia and Cairo and Somalia. For this reason, there needs to be concentration in North Africa with the strengthening of AFRICOM.
Hillary Clinton’s main objective as Secretary of State was to keep people safe, she said, including responding to other threats in the area. Those other threats come from weapons transfers from Libya to Algeria and possibly Syria, on which the Administration takes a hard line over its great supply of chemical and biological weapons. Malian and other terrorists pose a significant threat as well, as do places like Yemen. The department also needs to keep around 20-area embassies safe, where there has been success in staving off attacks in the past.
These attacks can be long-standing or spring up suddenly, as the Benghazi attacks seemed to. The attack by a heavily armed militia—her words days after the tragedy—was calculated but not highly organized. She trusted Ambassador Stevens’ competency. Even so, Clinton said the requisite number of Department of State agents were on the ground. But, although other forces from host countries were there, the U.S. military couldn’t respond in time.