State Department vows changes after Benghazi
Congress urged to provide more funds to beef up security for U.S. diplomats.
WASHINGTON — State Department officials promised Thursday to quickly carry out the recommendations of a review board to beef up security for the foreign service and urged Congress to provide more money to protect U.S. diplomats.
The promises came during a Senate hearing into the handling of diplomatic security in Benghazi, Libya, before a deadly attack on a diplomatic outpost there that led to the deaths of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador.
“We have to do better,” Deputy Secretary of State William Burns said in prepared testimony to the Foreign Relations Committee.
On Wednesday, one department official resigned and three others were relieved of their duties after a scathing report was released by an inquiry panel led by Thomas Pickering, a retired diplomat.
In an opening statement, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the committee’s chairman, said Congress “also bears some responsibility” to provide adequate financing for diplomatic security.
He noted that the board’s report called for spending $2.3 billion a year in the coming decade to protect U.S. embassies and offices abroad. state, after the withdrawal from consideration of Susan Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations, after criticisms of statements she made following the attack on the Benghazi outpost.
Sen. Bob Corker, RTenn., was skeptical about claims of progress, saying that rarely are the recommendations of review boards like the Pickering panel fully implemented.
“The culture of the State Department is one that needs to be reformed,” he said.
But Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said one reason for weak security was that Congress had not provided as much money as the administration has sought and the Pickering panel recommended.