WASHINGTON — The State Department on Thursday acknowledged major weaknesses in security and errors in judgment exposed in a scathing independent report on the deadly Sept. 11 assault on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya. Two top State officials appealed to Congress to fully fund requests to ensure diplomats and embassies are safe.
Testifying before two congressional committees, senior State Department officials admitted that serious management and leadership failures left the diplomatic mission in Benghazi woefully unprepared for the terrorist attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
We clearly fell down on the job with regard to Benghazi, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Earlier, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Burns said: We learned some very hard and painful lessons in Benghazi. We are already acting on them. We have to do better.
Burns and Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides testified in place of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was recovering from a concussion she suffered last week. Burns and Nides reiterated Clinton's written acceptance of the panel's report and vowed to implement each of its 29 recommendations.
The White House on Thursday also made its first comment on the damning findings of the report. Spokesman Jay Carney said that what happened in Benghazi was clearly unacceptable, and that problems had to be fixed.
The report found that ‘systematic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels of the State Department meant that security was inadequate for Benghazi.
In an opening statement, Senate committee chairman, John Kerry, D-Mass., faulted Congress for failing to provide sufficient money to protect facilities worldwide.
The State Department is seeking about $1.4 billion in next year's budget for increased security; the money would come primarily from funds that haven't been spent in Iraq.
Since the attack, Democrats have complained that Republicans cut $300 million from the Obama administration's budget request of $2.6 billion for diplomatic and embassy security this year.