After the attack last year on the American consulate in Benghazi,Libya,in which four Americans died,the senator is pushing for changes to prevent future threats.
“Our diplomats cannot encase themselves in stone fortresses and remain effective,and disengagement is not an option. So,the solution must be multifaceted,” Menendez said.
Introduced in May,the bill would assign more Marine guards and provide $1.4 billion to build new embassies and training facilities.
Gregory B. Starr,acting assistant secretary for diplomatic security testified that the current training facility allows only about 2,500 Foreign Service officers to train per year,rather than the 8,000 to 10,000 needed.
“We are currently using a leased facility that is,on weekends,a racetrack facility in West Virginia,” he said.
The bill would make it easier for the secretary of state to take disciplinary action against State Department officials in cases of security lapses like the one in Benghazi.
Sen. Bob Corker,R-Tenn.,said he hopes the fate of the four senior officials put on paid leave after Benghazi will be decided soon by Secretary of State John Kerry.
“You build great facilities,you train well,but if people don’t execute,we still have breakdowns and people in situations they shouldn’t be in,” he said to Starr.
Corker,the senior Republican committee member,did not say he supports Menendez’s bill.
He said spending more to protect the embassies is not always the answer. He said too much money is being spent to secure embassies in low-threat countries such as Norway,rather than in more volatile countries such as Pakistan.
“Our priorities are not aligned with what it is we’re hoping to do for our outstanding foreign services officers,” Corker said.
Menendez’s bill would increase foreign-language training for officers,especially those working in Arabic-speaking countries,and require periodic reports from the State Department.
“I’m not going to sit here and tell you that the tragedy in Benghazi could have been avoided had we had this legislation,” he said.
Menendez disagreed,and said the changes would prevent another Benghazi-type attack.
“At the end of the day,if we fail to act,if we fail to address these issues there will be another incident,” said Menendez.
Reach Caleigh Bourgeois at [email protected] or 202-326-9866. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.