On January 23 at 2:00 p.m., Secretary Clinton will testify in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee regarding the tragedy in Benghazi on September 11, 2012. Earlier in the day, Clinton testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The House of Representatives will be looking for answers on how and why this attack occurred. Representatives will undoubtedly ask why calls for more security were unanswered in the months before this attack on our consulate.
As Clinton testifies before the House this afternoon, it’s imperative that certain facts are made clear. First, for all its global responsibilities, the State Department budget is relatively small. The department requested a budget of $51.6 billion for FY 2013. Meanwhile, by way of comparison, the Department of Defense received a budget of $633 billion under the National Defense Authorization Act, which President Obama signed into law in early January. It is evident that this type of discrepancy in funding hinders the United States when it comes to exercising softer, nonmilitary power around the globe.
Second, with regard to the question of inadequate security, part of the blame lies with the House of Representatives itself. For FY2013, the Obama Administration requested $938 million be allocated to the Department of State for Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance. The House of Representatives rebuffed this request, cutting that line to $755 million. At the end of the day, the State Department projected it would receive approximately $762 million for these security measures.
Few people realize that United States law mandates the State Department employ the “cheapest, rather than the best” contractors to secure our overseas posts. In 2009, exceptions to this rule were made for Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, given the dangerous atmosphere in these countries. In Benghazi, local guards were secured our consulate; some have argued that they did little to halt the attack, while others suggest they may have been complicit.
The allocations for these security measures were approximately $970 million in 2010 and $837 million in 2011. While the answers to the security lapses that lead to Benghazi are numerous, it is important to keep in mind that the budget for Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance was routinely slashed by the 112th Congress.