Corker, who is expected to become the ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee in the next Congress, said improving security for America’s diplomats abroad will require all branches of government to step up.
An independent review of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, renewed debate on Capitol Hill on Wednesday over diplomatic security funding. The report, which was sharply critical of the State Department and its assessment of diplomatic security needs in Libya, also said Congress needs to be more supportive of Foggy Bottom’s budget requests for security.
Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., said after a briefing with the authors of the review Wednesday morning that they projected the State Department will need “about $2.5 billion a year over a number of years” to “strengthen our security status in various critical places.”
A State Department-appointed Accountability Review Board assessed the response to the attack and the security failures leading up to it. The department released the unclassified section of its report late Tuesday, while members of the board briefed the Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs committees Wednesday morning on its findings. Open hearings on the report are scheduled in both committees Thursday.
The panel, headed by retired diplomat Thomas R. Pickering and former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, found “systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department” contributed to an “inadequate” security posture at the consulate, technically called a “Special Mission,” in Benghazi. But it also called for “a more serious and sustained commitment” from Congress to support State Department needs when it comes to funding diplomatic security.
“Congress must do its part to meet this challenge and provide necessary resources to the State Department to address security risks and meet mission imperatives,” the report concludes, noting the funding for diplomacy represents a small percent of both the overall budget and what the country spends on national security.
Thinking It Through
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who is expected to become the ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee in the next Congress, confirmed that “numbers were thrown out” on diplomatic security funding during Wednesday’s closed briefing.
But he added, “I don’t know how anybody could possibly be in a position to analyze that yet without beginning a top-to-bottom review of the department itself.”
Corker said the Foreign Relations Committee should conduct such a review “to make sure that the resources that are already there are being used in an appropriate way.”
Only then can Congress determine “what the appropriate resource allocation should be,” he said.
House Foreign Affairs Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., flatly rejected any assertion that the State Department needs more funding.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.