Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Starving The (Security) Beast

In a memorandum (text, here) yesterday, staff to the minority on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee wrote Democratic members "The fast pace and lack of clarity surrounding the attacks leads some to wonder if Republican Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa and his majority are prioritizing election-year gains over uncovering the truth behind the violence in Libya."

Do you really have to wonder?    The House committee chaired by Representative Issa (R-Ca) today began its hearings into the recent attack on the American consulate which left Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead.   Issa has promised an investigation conducted on a "bipartisan basis" but

The Chairman and his staff failed to consult with Democratic Members prior to issuing public letters with unverified allegations, concealed witnesses and refused to make one hearing witness available to Democratic staff, withheld documents obtained by the Committee during the investigation, and effectively excluded Democratic Committee Members from joining a poorly planned congressional delegation to Libya.

The staff to the Democrats on the Committee explained that funding for security had been cut by the GOP-controlled House, with a portion of the reduction restored by the Democratic Senate.   As Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank wrote yesterday

For fiscal 2013, the GOP-controlled House proposed spending $1.934 billion for the State Department’s Worldwide Security Protection program — well below the $2.15 billion requested by the Obama administration. House Republicans cut the administration’s request for embassy security funding by $128 million in fiscal 2011 and $331 million in fiscal 2012. (Negotiations with the Democrat-controlled Senate restored about $88 million of the administration’s request.) Last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that Republicans’ proposed cuts to her department would be “detrimental to America’s national security” — a charge Republicans rejected.

Ryan, Issa and other House Republicans voted for an amendment in 2009 to cut $1.2 billion from State operations, including funds for 300 more diplomatic security positions. Under Ryan’s budget, non-defense discretionary spending, which includes State Department funding, would be slashed nearly 20 percent in 2014, which would translate to more than $400 million in additional cuts to embassy security.

Even now, Republicans are loathe to admit they made a mistake in exposing American diplomatic personnel to a terrorist attack.  Asked by CNN's Soledad O'Brien whether it (is) true that you voted to cut the funding for embassy security," Utah's Jason Chaffetz responded

Absolutely.  Look we have to make priorities and choices in this country.   We have... 15,000 contractors in Iraq.  We have more than 6,000 contractors, a private army there, for President Obama, in Baghdad.  And we're talking about can we get two dozen or so people into Libya to help protect our forces.  When you're in tough economic times, you have to make difficult choices.  You have to prioritize things.

That's quite a sacrifice for Republicans- supporting private contractors in a combat zone to supplement a war begun and waged by a Republican President.   They're doing it "for President Obama" as something of a favor to him.

But provide security for living human beings- worse yet, public employees?  That, we cannot have.

The FBI or Issa's witch hunt committee may uncover serious malfeasance on the part of State Department employees on some level.  Meanwhile, the GOP gets its wish, a government which failed to prevent a tragedy and thereby opened the public sector to criticism, which Republicans will gleefully exploit to cut essential government spending further.

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