The GOP's embassy security problem

A fire burns at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi last month.
A fire burns at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi last month.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, has scheduled a fairly high-profile hearing today on security lapses at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. There's one nagging problem, however, that might cause Republicans some trouble.

For example, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), a member of Issa's committee, told Soledad O'Brien this morning that he expects to hear testimony about security that "didn't meet the basic, minimum standards required for a facility such as the one we had in Benghazi." Chaffetz added that policymakers have to "make sure it doesn't happen in other places around the world."

Asked if he'd voted to cut federal funding for security at U.S. embassies and consulates, Chaffetz responded, "Absolutely. Look we have to make priorities and choices in this country.... When you're in tough economic times, you have to make difficult choices. You have to prioritize things."

Hmm. Those "priorities" apparently don't include security at U.S. diplomatic outposts abroad.

Dana Milbank picked up on the same problem: inadequate diplomatic security is the direct result of Republican budget cuts.

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.

A little something to keep in mind during Issa's pre-election p.r. stunt on Capitol Hill today -- and when Romney/Ryan tries to use this to their advantage.