Panetta: Benghazi was a 'problem of distance and time'
Defense secretary delivers remarks at Senate hearing on attack
- Duration 23:58
- Date Feb 7, 2013
Defense secretary delivers remarks at Senate hearing on attack
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I would take you back to Leon Panetta as secretary of defense speaking on -- -- Let's listen in friendship that I had.
-- with with all of you on both sides of the -- I've had the honor.
In many ways live the American dream -- the him as a son of Italian immigrants.
And in the various capacities that I've had.
To serve this country the greatest privilege I think that that is to -- service elected member in the house.
And had the opportunity to work with many of you in that capacity and then as.
Member of the executive branch had the opportunity to work with you as well I thank you for your dedication.
To the country and I thank you for your willingness to serve.
The United States.
On that tragic day as always.
The Department of Defense.
Was prepared for a wide range of contingencies -- just to remind you that the NC TC.
Interest in the six months prior to.
To that attack.
Identified some 281.
Threats to US diplomats diplomatic.
Facilities embassies ambassadors and consulates.
And obviously been -- she was one of those almost 300 areas of concern.
There was no specific intelligence or indications of an imminent attack.
On that the US facilities -- been -- And frankly without an adequate warning.
There was not enough time given the speed of the -- track for our military assets.
That's not just my view.
Or general Dempsey -- it was the view of the accountability.
Review board that studied to what happened on that day.
In the months since the tragedy.
At the -- temporary mission facility and the nearby annex in been -- We've learned that there were actually two short duration attacks that occurred.
Some six hours apart.
There was no specific intelligence that indicated that a second attack would occur.
At the annex which was located some two miles away.
The the bottom line is this.
-- that we were not dealing with a prolonged -- continuous assault.
Which could have been brought to an end -- US military response very simply.
Although we -- forces deployed to the region.
The lack of an adequate warning.
Events that move very quickly on the ground.
Prevented a more immediate response.
Despite the uncertainty at the time.
The department of defense and the rest the United States government spared no effort to do everything we could.
Try to save American lives.
Before during and after the attack every request the Department of Defense received.
We did we accomplish.
For americans' lives were lost.
And we all have a responsibility.
To make sure that that does not happen again.
The four Americans who perished in been gutsy.
Information management officer Sean Smith in the security personnel.
All were heroes an all were patriots.
I had the opportunity join the president Secretary Clinton and other officials.
At Andrews Air Force Base for the dignified transfer ceremony.
-- in those bodies of those heroes -- returned home and I had the opportunity.
To meet with their families.
All right I believe we all have a solemn responsibility to these families.
Into all the diplomatic personnel who put themselves at risk.
Find out exactly what happened to bring those involved.
In -- make sure that we're doing everything possible.
To prevent it from happening again and to ensure the safety of our personnel.
And facilities worldwide.
To that in the department of defense's fully supported efforts by congress and State Department.
To review the events and decisions surrounding the attraction being gutsy.
We have made every effort to respond promptly to numerous requests for additional information.
To provide briefings to provide testimony members and committees in the congress in fact general Dempsey NI.
Were among the very first US government's senior officials.
To brief congress on this tragedy.
We appeared before this committee on September 14.
When he 123 days after the attack.
And -- provided the best information we had at that point as to what -- taken place.
The Defense Department participated in classified briefings and answer questions.
From the intelligence foreign affairs homeland security oversight committees.
Even when we were not called to -- -- to fought.
We've also provided all requested support to the accountability review board that was co chaired by ambassador Pickering.
And by admiral Mullen.
Based on the information we compile and the reviews that we've conducted.
Let me describe for you DOD's response to the events on September 11.
Sullivan of the lessons that we've learned in the adjustments we are making.
Tour a global force -- -- given continuing unrest throughout North Africa.
And the Middle East.
In many places.
If we get their heads up that we need.
The changes we've made have already resulted in early decisions to deploy additional security.
Or withdraw diplomatic staff in advance of a crisis.
From Central America to Khartoum.
From Tunisia Italy to Yemen from Egypt -- -- and others.
Does not have the primary responsibility.
For the security of US diplomatic facilities around the world.
We do work closely with the State Department and support them as requested.
In the months prior to the -- does -- attractive sort of set.
We had received.
From the intelligence community.
Almost 300 reports on possible threats to American facilities around the world.
Over the course of the day on September 11.
General Dempsey and I received a number of reports of possible threats to US facilities.
Including those in Cairo Egypt.
But there were no reports of imminent threats the US personnel or facilities in Ben -- By our best estimate.
The incident at the temporary mission facility and then -- she began at about 3:42 PM.
Eastern daylight time on September 11.
He ever see in Tripoli.
Was notified of the attacks almost immediately.
And within seventeen minutes of the initial reports about 3:59 PM.
Effort com directed.
An unarmed and unmanned surveillance aircraft that was nearby.
To reposition overhead.
The -- -- facility.
My understanding is that that UAV arrived about an hour eleven minutes after -- -- be attracted begun.
And was focused.
On the primary facility there just to try to determine what was taking place.
Soon after the initial reports about the attack.
In -- because -- were received general Dempsey and I met with President Obama.
And he ordered all available DOD assets to respond to the attack and Libya.
And to protect US personnel and interest in the region.
It's important to remember.
That in addition to responding to the situation in Ben -- We were also concerned about potential threats.
Two US personnel in tunis and Tripoli Cairo so knock.
And elsewhere that could potentially require a military response.
In consultation with general Dempsey.
In Africa on commander general ham.
Are directed several specific actions.
First we ordered a marine fleet anti terrorism secure team a fast team.
Station in Spain.
To prepare to deploy to -- Gaza.
A second fast platoon.
Was ordered to prepare to deploy.
To the embassy in Tripoli.
A special operations force which was training in Central Europe.
Was ordered to prepare to deploy to and an intermediate staging base in Southern.
Europe -- and -- And a special operations force.
Based in the United States.
Was ordered to deploy.
To an intermediate staging base.
In Southern Europe as well that's -- and -- Some have asked why other types of armed aircraft were not dispatched.
To -- -- The reason simply is because our -- A -- AC 130 gunships are fixed wing fighters.
With the associated taking.
You've got to provide air refueling.
Abilities armaments you got to arm all the weapons before you put him on the war on the planes targeting and support facilities.
We're not in the vicinity of Libya.
And because of the distance.
It would have taken at least nine to twelve hours if not more to deploy these forces to being gutsy.
This was pure and simple in the absence as I said of any kind of advance warning a problem of distance and time.
Frankly even if we were able to get the F sixteens are the AC 130s over the target in time.
The mission still depends on accurate information.
About what targets are supposed to hit.
And then we had no Forward Air controllers there.
No come all -- communications with the US personnel on the ground in as a matter fact we had no idea where the ambassador was at that point.
To be able to kind of conduct any kind of attacks on the ground.
The quickest response option available.
Was a -- Tripoli based security team that was located.
At the embassy in Tripoli.
And to their credit within hours.
The six man team including -- US military personnel.
Chartered a private airplane deployed to been -- Within fifteen minutes of arriving at the -- facility.
They came under -- by mortar and rocket propelled grenades.
Members of this team along with others at the -- facility provided emergency medical assistance.
And supported the evacuation of all personnel.
Only twelve hours after the attacks had begun.
All remaining US government personnel had been safely evacuated.
From being -- Looking back our actions in the immediate aftermath of these attacks.
Have been subject obviously to intense scrutiny and review.
But let me share with you the conclusion of the account accountability review board.
Which I believe accurately assess the situation.
And I quote.
The interagency response was timely and appropriate.
But there simply was not enough time given the speed of the attacks.
For armed US military assets.
To have made a difference.
Senior level interagency discussions were underway.
Soon after Washington received initial word of the attacks.
And continued throughout the night.
The board found no evidence of any undue delays in decision making.
Or denial of support from Washington or from the military combatant commanders.
Quite the contrary the safe evacuation of all US government personnel from being gutsy twelve hours after the initial attack.
And subsequently to Ramstein air force base was the result of exceptional US government coordination.
And military response.
And help save the lives of two severely wounded Americans.
After all of that it is clear.
That there are lessons to be learned here.
And steps that must be taken to ensure.
There were doing everything possible to protect our personnel.
And our facilities abroad.
So in concert with the State Department in the intelligence community.
We are in the process of developing enhanced security.
For US persons in facilities in the wake of being gutsy.
There will always be attention.
Between mission effectiveness.
For personnel -- ability to get out.
And do what they're supposed to do in these countries.
And their physical security.
We're committed to steps that avoid a bunker mentality.
And yet we still must afford greater protection.
From armed attack.
We're taking steps along three tracks.
First post nation capacity.
We have been.
Able to better assess and build up the capabilities of host governments to provide security.
Three US personnel and facilities the fact is as you all know.
That our embassies and consulates depend on host country personnel.
To provide -- the first line of security.
And this episode raises concerns.
About the ability of some newly established -- fragile governments.
To properly secure US diplomatic facilities.
To address these concerns.
We are working with the State Department.
And considering how DOD can better help host nations enhance the security provided to a diplomatic facilities.
Where permissible and appropriate in collaboration with the secretary of state in the US chief of mission in the affected country.
We believe that the Defense Department can assist in their development.
Using a range of security assistance authorities to train.
And equip those forces in the host country and we are doing exactly that.
Secondly we have to enhance diplomatic security we've got a -- these facilities and we again are working with the State Department.
After try to reassessed diplomatic security overall.
To determine what changes may be required.
We assisted the State Department in the deployment of -- inner agency security assessment team.
To evaluate the security level at nineteen vulnerable diplomatic facilities.
Including our embassy in Libya.
And we're in the process of developing recommendations on potential.
Security increases as this require.
That's part of this review we have also considered how the role mission in resource in of the marine security guards.
Could be adapted to respond to this new threat environment.
In the near term we've agreed with the Department of State.
To add 35 new marine security guard detachment that's almost a thousand Marines.
Over the next two with three years.
In addition to the 152 -- attachments that are placed today.
We're working with state to identify those specific locations.
For the -- attachments.
And we will identify any necessary resource in force structure adjustments.
In order to support this initiative.
Although there was not a marine security guard detachment posted to the Ben -- temporary mission facility.
Based on our review of all embassy security incidents that occurred in September.
In tunis in Cairo in Khartoum and -- -- We have initiated coordination with Department of State to expand the marines' role beyond their primary mission.
-- protecting classified information.
As some of you know their primary mission is not providing outside security their primary mission is to protect.
A classified information.
But we believe that we can try to augment.
They're rolled into the terms of providing greater security protection as well.
This could include the expanded use of nonlethal weapons additional training and equipment to support.
The embassy regional security officers response options -- host nations security force capabilities.
Our risk of being overwhelmed.
The third areas enhanced intelligence in military response capacity.
We are focused on enhancing intelligence collection and ensuring that our forces throughout the region.
Are prepared to respond to crisis if necessary.
The united states military.
As I've said it's not.
And frankly should not be a 911 service.
Capable of arriving on the scene within minutes -- every possible contingency.
Around the world.
Has neither the resources.
Nor the responsibility.
To have a fire house next to every US facility in the world.
We have some key bases.
Particularly in this region.
We have some key platforms.
From which we -- But our ability to identify threats.
To adjust posture.
To prevent plots and respond to attract store personnel at home and overseas.
Depends on actionable.
And it always will.
Therefore we're working with the State Department in the intelligence community to ensure.
That our collection and analysis is linked with military posture.
We're working to enhance her intelligence collection to improve the responsiveness of contingency assets.
And to adjust the location of in extremist reaction forces.
At the same time working closely with state to ensure.
They have our best estimate of response times.
For each that -- diplomatic facility.
So that they can make the best informed decisions about adjustments.
To their staff presence in areas of increased security threat.
We've deployed key response forces abroad.
We have reduced their response time.
But let me again say to you that even those.
Those forces that are on a tight alert time move in plus two noticed plus two hours to be able to get on a plane.
Once those forces are put on airlift.
It still requires many hours in that part of the world the flight distances long distances.
In order to be able to respond.
I firmly believe.
That the Department of Defense in the US armed forces.
It all we could do in the response to the attraction being gutsy.
We employed every asset at our disposal.
It could have been used to help save lives of our American colleagues.
We will support efforts to bring those responsible.
To justice and we are working.
With the task force involved and headed up by the FBI.
To do just that.
As I said going forward we intend to adapt to the security environment.
To ensure that we're better position prepared to support the Department of State.
In securing our facilities around the world.
But in order to be able to effectively protect the American people in our interests abroad.
At a time of instability.
We must have an Agile.
And ready force.
Able to quickly respond.
And above all.
And forgive me for being repetitious.
We have got to end the cloud of budget uncertainty.
That hangs over the Department of Defense.
In the entire US government.
I've got to use this opportunity -- express again my greatest concern.
And frankly one of the greatest security risks we are now facing as a nation.
That this budget uncertainty.
Could prompt the most significant readiness military readiness crisis.
In more than a decade.
Department of Defense.
Faces the prospect of sequestration on March 1.
If congress fails to act sequestration is trigger.
And if we also must operate under a year long continuing resolution.
We would be faced.
With having to take about 46.
Plus billion dollars out of the defense budget and we would face a 35 billion dollar shortfall and operating funds alone.
For active forces.
With only a few months remaining in the fiscal year.
Protecting the war fighters protecting critical deployments we have.
We're going to have to turn to the one area.
That we have in order to gain the funds necessary and that's readiness its maintenance.
This -- badly damaged -- national defense and compromise our ability to respond to crises in a dangerous world.
Responsibility of dealing with this crisis.
Obviously -- -- leadership of the nation.
I know the members of this committee -- the deep concerns.
That I've -- about sequestration.
And obviously -- urge you to do whatever you can't.
Try to avoid this threat to our national defense.
State Department in the intelligence community.
Obviously also must be provided the resources they need in order to execute the -- the missions that we expect of them.
Including the enhancements that I've described today -- -- steps are required to be taken to properly posture.
US forces for possible emergency response operations.
Would be seriously impacted by the readiness crisis.
-- play on certain resources.
We have a responsibility.
And I take that responsibility seriously.
To do everything we can to protect our citizens.
However rests with both the executive branch and the congress.
If we work together.
We can keep our American say.