NEWS BACKGROUNDER: Even After Benghazi Attack, House Leaders Continued To Block Embassy Security Funds

Leahy: “. . . pure, distilled hypocrisy”

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt., and then-chairman of the State Department’s budget committee – the State Department and Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee), pushed for more embassy security funding than House Republicans were willing to provide – both before and after the Benghazi attack.

Leahy said:  “House Republicans have wasted millions of taxpayer dollars on a partisan exercise.  For that, and for blaming the Administration for failing to protect our diplomats, without acknowledging their own efforts to slash resources for embassy security, is pure, distilled hypocrisy.”

BEFORE BENGHAZI:  After Republicans took over the House in January 2011 -- before the Benghazi attack -- they proposed deep cuts for U.S. embassy operations and State Department programs across the board, including for diplomatic and embassy facility security.  The House Republican Appropriations Committee cut $1 billion from the embassy security budget proposed by the Obama Administration in the two years prior to the Benghazi attack.

  • For FY12, the House State Department and Foreign Operations (SFOPS) Bill was $596 million below the Administration’s request of $3.83 billion for diplomatic and embassy facility security (including Diplomatic Security, Worldwide Security Protection and Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance).  The counterpart Senate SFOPS bill was $319 million below the request.
  • For FY13, the House was $434 million below the Administration’s request of $4.04 billion for these security programs.  The Senate SFOPS bill was $70 million below the request.
  • Thus, over these two years immediately before Benghazi, the House SFOPS bills included cuts totaling more than $1 billion for these security programs.
  • Both the Senate and House SFOPS overall budget allocations (the total funds given to the Appropriations Committee with which to craft their overall priorities in the SFOPS bills) for these years were below the President’s request.  In FY12 and FY13, the House chose to slash these security programs instead of other programs.

AFTER BENGHAZI:  In the aftermath of the Benghazi attack in 2012, House Republicans repeatedly blocked Senator Patrick Leahy’s legislation to bolster funding for security for U.S. embassies abroad. 

Senator Leahy’s efforts included a stand-alone embassy security bill, in the aftermath of the Benghazi attack, which he wrote and introduced, and which the Senate unanimously approved in February 2013.  It was based on the Leahy Amendment that the Senate approved in December 2012 during debate on the emergency supplemental appropriations bill [LINK: http://www.leahy.senate.gov/press/leahy-embassy-security-bill-passes-senate ]  House Republican leaders dropped this Leahy embassy security legislation in the House version of the emergency supplemental bill [LINK: http://www.leahy.senate.gov/press/comment-leahy-embassy-security-amendment ]

Leahy continued to push for enactment of embassy security funding.  After months of foot-dragging by House leaders, they eventually consented to additional security funding, in the year-long FY13 Continuing Resolution (CR) that passed the Senate and the House (signed into law on March 26, 2013).  That legislation included Leahy’s additional funding and transfer authority for embassy security.  The CR included $4.2 billion for diplomatic and facilities security, which was $1.4 billion above the Administration’s initial request of $2.8 billion.  The additional $1.4 billion was for increased diplomatic security requirements worldwide, and was based on the initial security assessment that the Department conducted after the Benghazi attacks. The CR also included transfer authority between the Diplomatic and Consular Programs and the Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance Overseas Contingency Operations accounts.

DEFINITIONS:  There are two accounts within the State Department-Foreign Operations bill which fund the main programs for the security of Department of State personnel and facilities:

1.      “Diplomatic and Consular Programs” funds worldwide operating requirements for the State Department, and includes two security-related programs:

  • Diplomatic Security is the law enforcement and security arm of the State Department, protecting people, property, and information worldwide, conducting international investigations, threat analysis, cyber security, and counterterrorism.
  • Worldwide Security Protection includes the worldwide guard force protecting overseas diplomatic missions and residences.

2.      “Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance (ESCM)” funds all costs related to the construction and maintenance of the State Department’s overseas diplomatic facilities, including:

  • construction and maintenance of security-related diplomatic facility projects;
  • improved security at mission-related offices, schools and other off-post facilities;
  • maintenance and repair of buildings owned or leased by the Department with an emphasis on security and life safety; and
  • major rehabilitation of the Department’s overseas residential and other facilities, including to meet security standards.

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