Today U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) continued her efforts as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee to learn from the mistakes that were made in Libya in order to implement policies to prevent and protect diplomats overseas from future attacks. Since the attacks in Benghazi, Senator Shaheen has used her position as a member of the Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees to call for more accountability from federal officials and ensure that they are taking proper steps to prevent future attacks. Shaheen also was a lead cosponsor of legislation that cleared the Senate earlier this week that would bolster security at high-threat diplomatic posts around the world.
At today's hearing, Shaheen questioned Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey on the Pentagon's ability to identify and address current and emerging threats in North Africa, particularly in light of intelligence gaps and the lack of intelligence and military assets in the region revealed during the Benghazi attack. Shaheen voiced concern about these gaps while also noting that the Pentagon had no forces that could be quickly deployed to Benghazi in a timely, effective fashion.
In addition, Shaheen cited systemic failures and deficiencies in leadership and management in the lead-up to the Benghazi attack when questioning Secretary Panetta and General Dempsey at today's hearing. Moving forward, Shaheen repeated her call for officials to learn from the mistakes that were made in Libya and implement policies that can prevent future tragedies.
"In the wake of this terrible tragedy it became clear that we did not do enough to protect our people on the ground, and we must do better," said Shaheen, who has questioned Administration officials in seven public and classified intelligence briefings and committee hearings on the attacks in Benghazi.
Earlier this week the Senate passed a bill Shaheen cosponsored that bolsters security at high-threat diplomatic posts around the world. The bill, S. 227, authorizes the State Department to transfer up to $1.1 billion in surplus funds from the scaled back American mission in Iraq to improve security at U.S. diplomatic and consular programs. The bill includes no new spending and has moved to the House of Representatives for its consideration.
"We must address security and emerging threats in a fact-based, bipartisan fashion. American lives are at risk and we must live up to our responsibility to protect them when they are serving our country overseas," Shaheen added. "Congress and the Administration share this responsibility, and it's important that we address security challenges head on. My focus will remain on learning from the mistakes that were made in Libya and pushing for solutions that can prevent future attacks, starting with the bipartisan legislation that cleared the Senate last week. That bill is a smart use of resources for the purposes of embassy protection, and I'm hopeful that the House quickly acts on this legislation because it is imperative to the security of Americans serving abroad."