Transcript: Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides’s testimony at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Benghazi

Edited by Jenny Jiang

Transcript of Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides’s testimony on the Accountability Review Board’s report on the Benghazi attack before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Dec. 20, 2012: 

Mr. Chairman, Sen. Lugar, members of the committee, I also want to thank you for this opportunity.

I want to reiterate what Bill has said. All of us have the responsibility to provide the men and women who served this country with the best possible security and support.

From senior Department leadership setting the priorities to the supervisors evaluating security needs to Congress appropriating sufficient funds, we all share this responsibility.

Secretary Clinton has said that as Secretary of State this is her greatest responsibility and her highest priority.

Today, I will focus on the steps we’ve been taking at Secretary Clinton’s direction and that we will continue to take.

As Bill said, the board’s report takes a clear-eyed look at serious systemic problems for which we take responsibility and that we have already begun to fix.

We’re grateful for the recommendations from Ambassador Pickering and his team. We accept every one of them – all 29 recommendations.

Secretary Clinton has charged my office with leading a task force that will ensure that all 29 are implemented quickly and completely and to pursue steps above and beyond the board’s report.

The Under-Secretary for Political Affairs, the Under-Secretary for Management, the Director General of the Foreign Service, and the Deputy Legal Advisor will work with me to drive this forward.

The task force has already met to translate the recommendations into actual 60 specific action items. We’ve assigned every single one to the responsible bureau for immediate implementation and several will be completed by the end of this calendar year.

Implementation of each and every recommendation will be underway by the time the next Secretary of State takes office. There will be no higher priority for the Department in the coming weeks and months.

And should we require more resources to execute these recommendations, we’ll work closely with the Congress to ensure that they are met.

As I said, Secretary Clinton wants us to implement the ARB’s findings…

Let me offer some very clear specifics.

For over 200 years, the United States, like every other country around the world, has relied on host nations to provide security for embassies and consulates. But today’s evolving threat environment, we have to take a new and harder look at the capabilities and the commitments of our hosts.

We have to re-examine how we operate in places of emerging threats where national security forces are fragmented or may be weak.

So at Secretary Clinton’s direction, we moved quickly to conduct a worldwide review of our overall security posture with particular scrutiny of a number of high threat posts.

With the Department of Defense, we deployed five inter-agency security assessment teams made up of diplomatic and military security experts to 19 posts in 13 countries – an unprecedented cooperation between our departments at a critical time.

These teams have provided us with a roadmap for addressing emerging security challenges.

We’re also partnering with the Pentagon to send 35 additional Marine detachments – that’s about 225 Marines – to medium and high threat posts, where they’ll serve as visible deterrence to hostile acts. This is on top of the approximate 150 detachments we have already deployed.

We are aligning our resources to our 2013 budget request to address physical vulnerabilities and reinforce structures wherever needed and to reduce risks from fire.

And let me add, we may need your help in ensuring that we have the authority to streamline the usual processes that produce faster results.

We’re seeking to hire more than 150 diplomatic security personnel, an increase of about 5%, and to provide them with the equipment and training they need. As the ARB recommended, we will target them squarely at security at our high threat posts.

I want to second Bill’s praise for these brave security professionals. I have served this department for only two years, having come from the private sector. However, I have traveled to places like Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan, and I have seen first hand how these dedicated men and women risk their lives everyday. We owe them a debt of gratitude as they go to work everyday to protect us in more than 270 posts around the world.

And as we make these improvements in the field, we’re also making changes here in Washington. We’re named the first ever Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for High Threat Posts in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. We’re updating our deployment procedures to increase the number of experienced and well-trained staff serving in those posts.

We’re working to ensure that the State Department makes decisions about where our people operate in a way that reflects our shared responsibility for security.

Our regional assistant secretaries were directly involved in our inter-agency security assessment process and will assume greater accountability for securing our people and our posts.

We will provide the Congress with detailed report at every step we’re taking to improve security and implement the board’s recommendations.

We’ll look to you for support and guidance as we do this.

Obviously, part of this is about resources. We must equip our people with what they need to deliver results safely and we’ll work with you as needs arise.

But Congress has a bigger role than that.

You have visited our posts. You know our diplomats on the ground and the challenge they face. You know our vital national security interests are at stake and that we’re all in this together.

We look forward to working with you.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman for your support and counsel and for this opportunity to discuss these important matters. We’d both be happy to take your questions.


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