December 27, 2012
By Scott Stewart
On Dec. 18, the U.S. State Department's Accountability Review Board released an unclassified version of its investigation into the Sept. 12 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack, so the report was widely anticipated by the public and by government officials alike.
Four senior State Department officials have been reassigned to other duties since the report's release. Among them were the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security; two of his deputy assistant secretaries, including the director of the Diplomatic Security Service, the department's most senior special agent; and the deputy assistant secretary responsible for Libya in the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.
The highly critical report and the subsequent personnel reassignments are not simply a low watermark for the State Department; rather, the events following the attack signify another phase in the diplomatic security funding cycle. The new phase will bring about a financial windfall for the State Department security budgets, but increased funding alone will not prevent future attacks from occurring. After all, plenty of attacks have occurred following similar State Department budgetary allocations in the past. Other important factors therefore must be addressed.
The cycle by which diplomatic security is funded begins as officials gradually cut spending on diplomatic security programs. Then, when major security failures inevitably beset those programs, resultant public outrage compels officials to create a panel to investigate those failures.
The first of these panels dates back to the mid-1980s, following attacks against U.S. facilities in Beirut and Kuwait and the systematic bugging of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. These security lapses led to the formation of the Secretary of State's Advisory Panel on Overseas Security, chaired by former Deputy CIA Director Adm. Bobby Inman. The law that passed in the wake of the Inman Commission came to be known as the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorism Act of 1986, which requires that an accountability review board be convened following major security incidents.