Transcript of Senate hearing Q&A: Clinton asks Congress for transfer authority to fund security upgrades for U.S. embassies in high threat areas

Transcribed and edited by Jenny Jiang

Partial transcript of Q&A between Sen. Bob Casey (D-Penn.) 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. Bob Casey (D-Penn.): 

…And also I want to commend not just the approach but the words you spoke today about not retrenching, not retreating, when it comes to getting that balance right between engagement and also security – both high priorities.

I was struck by and I’m glad you were so specific on page 3 of your testimony about the specifics on the implementation – 29 recommendations by the board, which now has found its way into or I should say a set of 64 specific action items.

You said in your testimony “fully 85% are on track to be completed by the end of March, with a number completed already.”

I’ll ask you one question about that and one follow-up. What, if any, impediments to implementation do you perceive right now? And are there impediments to meeting those deadlines that this committee and the Congress can help you with by way of meeting that deadline and implementation?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

…Let me say that we need your help – we need you help, number one, to hold us accountable.

You know, to keep asking whoever sits in this chair or anybody else in the department with any responsibility in this area “What are you doing?” and “How are you doing it?” And it’ll help to clear up misconceptions, like “No ARB recommendations have been fully implemented” which I know is not the case. But it’ll also help keep driving the change.

You know, I really believe that an authorization process will dramatically change the dynamic and I strongly urge it be tried.

And again, I go back to my Armed Services Committee experience with Sen. McCain over those years. We had subcommittees. We took it very seriously. We held hearings. We brought people in. We had a three-day mark-up that was sacrosanct but we also had the quadrennial defense review – the QDR – where the Defense Department submitted that and it helped to provide a framework.

So when I got to the State Department, I said there is nothing like that at the State Department so I started the first-ever quadrennial diplomacy and development review – the first ever QDDR. You can help me continue that and make the department have to ask the hard questions if you legislate it the way the QDR is legislated for the defense department.

Secondly, you can help by making sure that the needs we come to you with – like what are the training needs, the budgetary needs, the bureaucratic changes that are needed – that you help support that.

And certainly, we’ve talked a little bit about the budget but getting that transfer authority – if you can help us with the House – it’s $1.4 billion.

Marine security guard detachment $553 million. We’ve been closely coordinating with DOD. Historically, Marine security guards do not do personal security; they only do protection of classified materials. So we’re working through what the guards will do and how we can use more of them.

Secondly, more diplomatic security personnel – $130 million. That would fund an additional 155 DS personnel and related equipment.

And then facilities construction upgrades – $736 million.

We’re going to have periodic reviews by these teams I started – the Defense-State inter-agency security assessment teams. We’re going to start a high-threat post review by the Secretary, which had not happened before.

We’re going to strengthen the mutual security agreements between the State Department and other government agencies when they are no co-located. We had a very good relationship with the Annex in Benghazi. We helped them. They helped us. But there wasn’t anything that was – it was more on-the-ground, working together; it wasn’t part of an overall template.

So there’s a lot that I think we can take from this ARB because I told Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen “Put it out there. I want to know more than anybody what happened. Don’t hold any punches. Tell us what the facts are.” But now, we have to act on it or shame on us.

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One Comment on “Transcript of Senate hearing Q&A: Clinton asks Congress for transfer authority to fund security upgrades for U.S. embassies in high threat areas

  1. Pingback: John Kerry underscores need for better embassy security in his welcome remarks to State Department employees | What The Folly?!

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