Transcript of Senate hearing Q&A: Clinton’s response on State Department budget shortfalls & preventing terrorist safe haven in northern Mali

Transcribed and edited by Jenny Jiang

Partial transcript of Q&A between Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the attacks against the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing was held on Jan. 23, 2013: 

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.): 

…As you have said, you were heartbroken by those losses in Benghazi. We saw it in your face many times – today as well. You were heartbroken personally and professionally.

But rather than pointing to others for their deficiencies, you stepped up and you convened an Accountability Review Board to look into this attack in detail and you’ve asked them to tell us the way they saw it…

I am grateful that you have unequivocally committed to ensuring that their recommendations are implemented to the fullest extent.

And this brings me to a question. As we all know, the House of Representatives urged and voted for a cut of $300 million for embassy security. Now, maybe it’s irrelevant for some here but I have a message: It does cost money to pay for embassy security or police on the beat or military personnel or police here at the capitol that protect us, which we’re very grateful for and we pay for. It does cost money.

So to me, I was not disappointed to hear the co-chairs say, “Congress must do its part to meet this challenge and provide necessary resources to the State Department to address the security risks and meet mission imperatives.” Frankly, I think it’s a no brainer and the fact that we would even have a problem with it, to me, doesn’t make any sense. I hope we can work together to get the resources that we need for security.

Which brings me to a question about working more closely with the DOD [Department of Defense]…Have you already engaged the DOD to provide additional Marines at U.S. facilities to fulfill the ARB’s recommendation that State and DOD work together to provide more capabilities and capacities at higher risk posts?

And before you answer that, could you maybe address the issue in Mali right now. When you see Mali, you see a government that is weak; they don’t have the best security. Are we working on that post?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: 

…Let me start with the budget because this is a bipartisan issue. Since 2007, the department has consistently requested greater funding for embassy construction and diplomatic security. With the exception of 2010, Congress has consistently enacted less than requested. Most notably, in 2012 the department received $340 million less than requested – close to 10% less than the request. And then over the last 2 years, cuts to embassy construction, security, and maintenance budgets were almost 10% off as well.

Now the ARB as you said has recommended an increase in facilities funding in $2.2 billion per year to restore the construction levels called for the 1998 ARB report – the only other one that was ever public.

And I would go back to something the chairman said because this was a point made in the ARB. “Consistent shortfalls have required the department to prioritize available funding out of security accounts.” And I will be the first to say the prioritization process was at times imperfect, but as the ARB said funds provided were inadequate. We need to work together to overcome that. We are asking for funding for more Marine security guards, for refilling the capital accounts so that we can begin to do the kind of upgrades in construction that’s needed.

Deputy Secretary Nides briefed House and Senate Appropriations and authorizing staff. We sent letters to the House and Senate leadership to ask for transfers authority language – not new money right now but transfer authority language. The Senate was good enough to put it into the Senate version of the Sandy supplemental; it did not get into the House side. So we’re still looking for the House to act.

With respect to Mali, Senator, there was a country that had been making progress on its democracy. Unfortunately, it suffered a military coup by low-ranking military officers, which threw it into a state of instability.

With the Tuaregs, who as you know…as well as other groups have been in the employ of Qaddafi for years; he used them as mercenaries. With his fall, they came out of Libya, bringing huge amounts of weapons from the enormous stores of weapons that Qaddafi had, that insurgents liberated as well as others, and they came into northern Mali at the same time there was a move by the Al Qaeda in the Maghreb to establish a base in northern Mali.

We have been working to try to upgrade security around northern Mali. Among a number of the countries, Algeria’s the only one with any real ability to do that. Most of these countries don’t have the capacity to do that. We are now trying to help put together an African force from ECOWAS so that African soldiers will be in the front of this fight.

The Malians asked the French to come in, and obviously France is one of our oldest allies. We are trying to provide support to them. But this is going to be a very serious ongoing threat because if you look at the size of northern Mali, if you look at the topography – it’s not only desert, it’s caves – sounds reminiscent – we are in for a struggle. But it is a necessary struggle. We cannot permit northern Mali to become a safe haven.

People say to me all the time, “Well, AQIM hasn’t attacked the United States.” Well, before Sept. 11, 2001, we hadn’t been attacked on our homeland since, I guess, the War of 1812 and Pearl Harbor. You can’t say well because they haven’t done something they’re not going to do it. This is not only a terrorist syndicate, it is a criminal enterprise. So make no mistake about it, we’ve got to have a better strategy. And I would hope that we have not only a strategy that understands making it possible for these governments to defend themselves better but for people to understand and agree with us that these terrorists are not in any way representative of their values but that we can bolster democracy and try to give these Arab revolutions a real chance to succeed.

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One Comment on “Transcript of Senate hearing Q&A: Clinton’s response on State Department budget shortfalls & preventing terrorist safe haven in northern Mali

  1. Pingback: Transcript: Clinton’s response to Sen. John Barrasso's questions on the security arrangements in place before the 9/11 Benghazi attack | What The Folly?!

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