How Sequestration Would Impact the Benghazi Consulate and Other U.S. Diplomatic Posts

Sequestration, expected to kick in on March 1, would result in $85 billion in cuts in financial year 2013 and a total of $1.2 trillion spread out over ten years.  The sequestration is almost a certainty.

The approach of potentially disastrous cuts to the military did not stop Congress from authorizing $60.2 billion in additional deficit spending for Hurricane Sandy relief–a pork-filled measure which includes billions of dollars for road construction, FBI salaries, Head Start, Smithsonian roof repairs, the National Park Service and the Kennedy Space Center.

And now, President Obama is now pushing a $50 billion stimulus plan as automatic budget cuts while at the same time blaming Republicans for the looming sequester; the sequester that was his idea.  Obama has had plenty of opportunities to avert sequestration, but has failed to do so.

The GOP has also been criticized in its handling of the issue.  Jonathan Tobin, writing for Commentary Magazine, opines:

“… the idea that Republicans are better off abandoning their principles is not one that will ensure their political survival. A lot of the discussion about the GOP future rightly revolves around the need to put forward new ideas rather than to keep pounding the talking points of the past but a Republican Party that no longer possesses the ability to stand up to Obama’s demagoguery of these issues is not going to win in either 2014 or 2016. A defeat on the sequester after the fiscal cliff collapse could presage even worse to come as the president pursues the rest of his liberal agenda this year. If Republicans are incapable of mounting a spirited defense of their position that rejects the president’s false choices in which they are depicted as defending millionaires at the expense of the middle class and the poor, they might as well pack up and go home right now.”

So, how will the sequester affect U.S. diplomatic posts?  According to Secretary of State John Kerry: “These cuts would severely impair our efforts to enhance the security of U.S. government facilities overseas and ensure the safety of the thousands of U.S. diplomats serving the American people abroad.”  Similarly, State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland warned at a press briefing that “cuts of this magnitude would obviously severely impact our ability to execute all of our vital missions overseas, particularly in the areas of national security, diplomacy, development.”

The following is a partial list of how diplomatic posts will likely be impacted by the sequester:

  • Efforts to ramp up diplomatic security abroad would be delayed
  • $500 million would be cut from global security accounts
  • Unspecified cuts would be made to international peacekeeping operations
  • Counter narcotics programs, counterterrorism efforts, and non-proliferation activities would be reduced
  • The State Department might not be able to effectively provide emergency services to Americans in trouble abroad
  • Inability to properly vet visa applications
  • Inability to issue passports to Americans in a timely manner
  • With the recent uprisings in the Middle East and Africa, for example, U.S. personnel located in those countries would be much more vulnerable
  • Benghazi is only one of several dangerous U.S. diplomatic posts and the U.S. Embassy in Turkey was recently attacked.

Additionally, according to Undersecretary of State Pat Kennedy, over half of U.S. diplomatic posts around the world may not fully meet security standards. Speaking before a House appropriations subcommittee, he elaborated, saying that, “many of these facilities were built or acquired prior to the establishment of the current security standards, and others are subject to authorized waivers and/or exceptions.”

Under reciprocal treaty obligations, host nations have an obligation to provide security for the diplomatic facilities of the sending states. But, sometimes host nations are unable or not completely committed to fulfilling this responsibility, which can leave a U.S. facility profoundly vulnerable.