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WASHINGTON – If the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, was due to poor security, U.S. diplomats abroad will be even less protected as a result of the $85 billion in budget cuts under sequestration, Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee complain, according to report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
The cut in security funding for State Department facilities and personnel would be some $168 million, with basic operations slashed by some $780 million, said a study they released.
Sequestration is a cut in the rate of increase, but the study pointed out that some 80 State Department facilities need upgrading or new construction to remain in compliance with security guidelines.
“Under sequestration, security upgrades will be further delayed and United States personnel and property will remain at risk,” the study said. “Such a cut would severely limit the ability of the State Department to provide physical protection for diplomatic personnel and facilities overseas and maintain missions in increasingly dangerous locations.”
Overall, the cuts are affecting U.S. homeland border security, airport screening for flights, the ability to monitor incoming container shipments for nuclear materials and now the protection of U.S. diplomats abroad.
Since 2010, Congress has cut some $300 million for embassy security and security construction programs.
“Security budgets for diplomatic security have never been consistent,” an intelligence officer told Homeland Security Today. “Congress has repeatedly cut or not appropriated enough to deal adequately with our expanding overseas diplomatic missions.”
In the past, similar cuts have resulted in the cancellation or reduction in a number of security programs.
They have included residential security, vehicle armoring, physical security, weapons and ammunition, construction security and radio frequency and shielding of conference rooms against eavesdropping.
In 2009, the Government Accountability Office, or GAO, had recommended that the Secretary of State conduct a strategic review of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security to ensure that its mission and activities address the department’s priority needs.
Following a subsequent GAO audit, however, GAO told Congress that “the State Department has not yet conducted the strategic review.”
Last November, GAO told lawmakers in its audit report, Diplomatic Security Challenges, that requested security upgrades at the Benghazi location were repeatedly denied by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, since “resources needed to carry it out have grown substantially since 1998” and that foreign mission security policy and practices haven’t kept up with increased security risks.
To underscore this lack of keeping pace, the diplomatic security budget increased from $200 million in 1998 to $1.8 billion 10 years later. However, the size of the bureau’s employees had doubled.
In an apparent sympathetic message, GAO told Congress that the State Department “is maintaining missions in increasingly dangerous locations, necessitating the use of more security resources and making it more difficult to provide security in these locations.”
While staff has increased, GAO said there remain shortages “as well as other operational challenges,” all of which have “further taxed” its ability to implement its mission.
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