Could another Benghazi loom? A State Department official has testified that some 158 diplomatic posts "have facilities that may not fully meet current security standards." That's out of 283 total, undersecretary Pat Kennedy said yesterday. Many "were built or acquired prior to the establishment of the current security standards, and others are subject to authorized waivers and/or exceptions." Some 97 secure posts have been built following a 1999 law to fund improvements, he told the House Appropriations Committee.
Since that law, Congress has directed $10 billion to the effort and has 37 projects in the works. Meanwhile, $1.1 billion approved by the Senate is awaiting House confirmation. By way of explaining slow upgrades, another official tells Reuters that seven to 10 acres of "buildable land" are needed for posts. "These can be challenging to find in a capital city," the source says. Another issue: "A good number of our embassies ... are right at the street," says Rep. Nita Lowey, ranking Democrat on the committee. That's a dangerous place to be. "Ideally, you'd want to find new land to move them."