State Department Will Likely Get $1.4B for Security Upgrades

Congress will likely dole out over a billion to help prevent another Benghazi-style incident.

A man walks near a charred vehicle at the entrance of the damaged American consulate building, in Benghazi, Libya, Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013. Sen. Lindsey Graham is determined to get more answers about the deadly Sept. 11 attack against the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
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The State Department will likely get the extra funding it says it needs to prevent another attack like the deadly September assault that killed four Americans in Libya.

Both the Senate and House versions of a bill that provides the funding to the State Deptartment includes $1.4 billion extra to revamp security at embassies and other facilities worldwide, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Wednesday. Just under $160 million would go toward upgrades to Diplomatic Security—the department's in-house bodyguards and law enforcement officers—and $1.3 billion is for upgrades to buildings.

[PHOTOS: U.S. Ambassador Killed in Libya]

The funding is aligned with the results of an Advisory Review Board report last year, which offered 29 recommendations to prevent a Benghazi-style attack from happening again.

"We here at the State Department very much appreciate the efforts of both the House and the Senate to craft a continuing resolution that provides funding for the remainder of the year. And we're also pleased that that funding includes quite a bit of flexibility for enhanced Diplomatic Security," said Nuland.

The Senate version of the Continuing Resolution bill would withdraw the $1.4 billion from the department's Overseas Contingency Operations savings fund.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was supposed to testify before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in December to discuss the department's efforts to tighten security. Two senior officials testified instead after Clinton suffered a concussion from collapsing due to illness.

[READ: Top U.S. General Says Benghazi Threats Were Not Unique]

The new funding will go toward a 5 percent increase in the number of Diplomatic Security staff, as well as deploying roughly 35 more detachments of Marine Security Guards, which are tasked with guarding classified materials, not people.

"The use of additional Marine detachments would be enormously helpful," said Deputy Secretary of State Thomas R. Nides. "They will serve as a visible deterrent to hostile acts."

"We'll also be asking to build barracks on our grounds so they actually live on the facility or close by," he added.

A Government Accountability Office official testified before Congress in November that the State Department had repeatedly ignored calls for help from an overworked Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Protecting embassies in Baghdad and Kabul drained funds from other endangered sites, the GAO official said.

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"Diplomatic Security, because of its report function, will salute smartly and continue to fulfill the mission whether it has the resources it needs or not," said Michael Courts, the GAO's acting director of international affairs and trade. "They are not in a position to say 'No' when they are asked to provide support."

The facility in Benghazi where Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans died was not an official U.S. embassy or consulate, but rather a "rented villa," according to sources familiar with the facility. It did not have many standard-issue security protocols for embassies, such as a roof hatch to allow escape.

Stevens died of smoke inhalation inside the building.

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