Washington D.C. – Congressman Eliot Engel, the senior Democratic Member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, delivered the below remarks as prepared for delivery at today’s full committee hearing “Benghazi: Where is the State Department Accountability?”
“Mr. Chairman, at the outset, I’d like to commend you again for the bipartisan way that you’ve presided over the Committee this year. We don’t necessarily see eye to eye on every issue, but unlike some other committees, our members have consistently conducted themselves with dignity and decorum. I hope we can continue that today.
All of us agree that the deaths of four brave Americans in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 were a terrible tragedy. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, Secretary Clinton convened an Accountability Review Board, or ARB, to determine what went wrong and to make recommendations to improve security at our diplomatic posts. Among those chosen to serve on the ARB were Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Admiral Mike Mullen, two men with impeccable reputations and unparalleled experience.
In its report, submitted last December, the Board found that there were, “Systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus at the State Department” that lead to inadequate security in Benghazi.
Secretary Clinton took personal responsibility for the attacks and accepted all of the recommendations of the ARB. The State Department, now under the leadership of Secretary Kerry, has implemented -- or is in the process of implementing -- all of the recommendations.
To supplement the work of the ARB and the efforts of the State Department, I introduced the Embassy Security and Enhancement Act of 2013. This non-controversial legislation, much of which was incorporated into the State Department authorization bill that the Committee recently passed, would help improve diplomatic security planning, strengthen physical security, and enhance security training.
Mr. Chairman, our Committee has a responsibility to ensure that our brave diplomats and aid workers have the security they deserve. At the same time, we must recognize – as Ambassador Chris Stevens surely did -- that there is a certain amount of risk inherent in these occupations, and that effective diplomacy cannot be conducted from behind the walls of a fortress.
I look forward to hearing from our distinguished witness, Under Secretary of State Pat Kennedy, on how we should best manage and mitigate risk at our diplomatic posts around the world.
I would also like to hear from him about the progress made in implementing the recommendations of the ARB, and about the Department’s decision regarding the employment status of the four State Department officials identified in the ARB.
Mr. Chairman, in closing, I’d like to reiterate my hope that we can maintain a high level of civility in our discussions today, and that we don’t engage in “gotcha” politics like some other committees.”