In the wake of the terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, U.S. Reps Scott Perry (R-PA) and Grace Meng (D-NY) announced today that they have introduced legislation that would reform U.S. State Department bureaucracy to better protect the lives of American diplomats serving overseas. The Securing Accountability in Foreign Embassies (SAFE Embassies) Act (H.R. 925) is a bipartisan bill that aims to increase accountability of State Department employees by providing the Secretary of State with more power to discipline personnel who put diplomats in danger.
"Our diplomatic personnel serve our country on the front lines of democracy," said Congressman Perry. "This legislation implements common-sense reforms that will better protect our citizens overseas and help ensure that security lapses like those that occurred at our embassy in Benghazi will never happen again."
"The attack in Benghazi was a horrible tragedy that took the lives of brave Americans serving our country," said Meng. "If passed, this legislation will be a huge boost towards better protecting U.S. citizens serving abroad, and it will help ensure that this type of attack never occurs again. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked for this bill when she testified before Congress in January. Now it's time for us to pass it."
After the attack in Benghazi, Secretary Clinton appointed an independent Accountability Review Board (ARB) to examine the facts and circumstances related to the attack. The ARB found that in the months preceding the incident, senior employees at the State Department were not performing their jobs sufficiently and demonstrated a serious lack of management and leadership ability. The ARB found that this poor performance contributed to inadequate security at Special Mission Benghazi.
But despite these conclusions, the ARB could not recommend disciplinary action against a single employee because the panel is not legally allowed to do so since it could not find that there was a breach of duty, a standard which is extremely high and very unclear. Appearing before Congress in January, Secretary Clinton testified that a legislative remedy would be required to allow future ARBs to make disciplinary recommendations, and she requested that Congress make the fix. Perry and Meng's legislation would allow an ARB to recommend disciplinary proceedings if it finds that a State Department employee's unsatisfactory performance left a diplomatic facility vulnerable to a security incident.
Since 1988, there have been 19 ARBs assigned by the State Department to investigate attacks on American diplomats and diplomatic facilities worldwide.
The terror attack in Benghazi, Libya took place on September 11, 2012 and killed four Americans including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Both Perry and Meng are members of the Foreign Affairs Committee.