State Department boosting security post-Benghazi

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Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed last Sept. 11 when the U.S. mission in Benghazi came under attack. An independent State Department review blasted the department's failure to respond to the embassy's requests for more security and recommended a number of reforms.

Since the attack, Deputy Assistant Secretary of High Threat Posts Bill Miller testified, the department has designated 27 U.S. overseas facilities as high-threat, high-risk posts requiring greater security. Miller's position was created in response to the Accountability Review Board's [ARB] recommendations.

“This designation is not a static process,” Miller said, “and the list will be reviewed annually, at a minimum, and more frequently as needed.”

Starr said the pending bill, introduced by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), would “help us on a number of different fronts” but stopped short of saying it could have prevented the Benghazi tragedy.

“Pursuant to the recommendations of the independent Benghazi ARB, DS plans to train more of the U.S. foreign affairs community to deal with high-risk environments through our Foreign Affairs Counter-Threat course,” he testified. “We are expanding the duration of the DS high-threat tactical training course and incorporating elements of that training into other DS courses so that regardless of a DS special agent’s assignment, we have a flexible cadre of agents trained to operate in varying security environments.”

Menendez's bill would give the State Department the authority to hire the best instead of the cheapest security contractors “where conditions require enhanced levels of security.”

The legislation would also authorize disciplinary action in cases of unsatisfactory leadership by senior officials related to a security incident, a power the Obama administration has requested after the Accountability Review Board (ARB) said it did not have the legal authority to recommend that anyone be fired over security lapses in Benghazi.

The bill would also authorize funding for the Capital Security Cost Sharing Program to provide extra security at more high-risk posts, for Arabic language training, and for a Foreign Affairs Security Training Center to train diplomatic security personnel. It also requires planning to incorporate additional Marine Security Guards at overseas facilities and requires extensive reporting on State’s implementation of the ARB recommendations and on the designation of high-risk posts.

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