Transcript: Clinton’s response to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s questions on the State Department’s transfer authority request & cooperation with the DOD in responding to the Benghazi attack

Transcribed and edited by Jenny Jiang

Partial transcript of Q&A between Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) 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. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.):

…I want to thank you for your leadership on Benghazi, for taking responsibility for what happened there, for initiating an investigation so we would understand what happened, for moving forward to address threats in other high-risk areas, and for all of your efforts to implement the recommendations of the Accountability Review Board. Thank you. That’s the kind of leadership we want to see across our government.

I want to go back to what I thought you said about still looking for the funding to be transferred – the $1.3 billion – $1.4 billion from the OCO [Overseas Contingency Operations] account to address the security threats not just in Libya but around the world. And do I understand that we still have not had that money transferred and so that means that the $553 million for Marine security guards, the $130 million for diplomatic security, the $691 million for security installations – that is all on hold? So we can’t move forward until that has been approved by the House?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

Well, now we have to start over because it was in the [Senate version of] Hurricane Sandy [bill]. It was not put into the House version of the Sandy. So no, we cannot – we cannot move money we already have to address the needs and the deficiencies that the ARB has recommended we do.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.):

Well, I would just echo the comments that have been made already by this committee and by you that this is action that we need to get moving on immediately because we still have people at risk around the world, and we need to take action that’s going to ensure their security. So I would certainly urge the Chairman and the Ranking Member to move the committee to do everything we can to make this happen.

I want to go back to something that Secretary [Thomas] Nides said at the hearing on Dec. 20th because I asked him about the cooperation between the Department of Defense and State and what the situation was on the ground before the Benghazi attack in terms of placement of our military in the region. He talked about the unprecedented cooperation between State and Defense in response to Benghazi. But I wonder if you could talk about how we ensure that this is a standard way of doing business and that we’re acting in cooperation when we’re looking at the threats facing us, particularly as we look at what’s happening in northern Africa and across the Middle East.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

Well, Senator, that’s a really important and timely because certainly our cooperation around this crisis was exemplary. You know, the President told the Secretary and the Chairman to do everything they possibly could, to spare no effort or resource, and we had a very good inter-agency response as the ARB found. But the fact is, we have to look closely now at what more state and DOD [Department of Defense] could do together to prepare for contingencies such as this.

And I think that’s a challenge that needs to be taken up because in Iraq and now in Afghanistan, our diplomats and our military work closely together. But as we saw in Iraq, when the military left, you know, that was putting a lot of burdens on our civilians in Iraq that are very difficult for us to be able to address because we relied on our DOD colleagues for so much.

Similarly, as we start to look at the drawdown in Afghanistan, what kind of civilian presence are we going to be able to leave there and what could DOD do to help us to try to determine what that can and should be. And I think you get a sense of the challenge of this from a statement that Admiral Mullen made. He said, “On the night of the attack, Benghazi, Tripoli, and Washington communicated and coordinated effectively with each other. They looped in the military right away. The inter-agency response was timely and appropriate, but there was simply not enough time for U.S. military forces to have made a difference.” Having said that, Admiral Mullen goes on, “It is not reasonable nor feasible to tether U.S. forces at the ready to respond to protect every high-risk post in the world.”

So we have to look at this from both the State Department and the DOD perspective, and we don’t have assets of any significance right now on the African continent. We’re only building that up. So what do we need in Africa, what countries will welcome us there – give us both our military and civilian teams a good safe base out of which to operate. So if we’re just focusing on Africa, particularly North Africa, right now there’s got to be a great deal of planning and coordination between DOD and AFRICOM and between the State Department and the rest of the administration.


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