After the House select committee investigating the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya conducted its daylong hearing today, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) released this statement on the need to move forward on the State Department’s preferred location for a Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC) at Fort Pickett near Blackstone, Virginia.
“Rather than trying to exploit the Benghazi tragedy for partisan political gain, the House should be focusing on ways we can better protect the safety of America’s diplomats so it doesn’t happen again.
“Well before the tragic attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, the U.S. Department of State identified the need for a dedicated facility to provide enhanced security training to U.S. Embassy personnel assigned to high-threat posts overseas. In 2011, after a highly competitive search process that included consideration of more than 70 sites, the State Department selected Fort Pickett, a National Guard base in Blackstone as the best location for the Foreign Affairs Security Training Center to train diplomatic personnel headed to dangerous assignments abroad. But even as our diplomatic personnel in places like Tunisia, Turkey, and Libya have continued to face down threats to their physical safety, Congress has continued to delay construction of this critically important facility.
“We all know we live in a very dangerous world. Instead of playing politics with diplomatic security, Congress needs to get serious about protecting the Americans who risk their lives to support our diplomatic mission by moving forward with the Fort Pickett project. Enough is enough.”
For several months now, members of the bipartisan Virginia congressional delegation have fought back against efforts to derail the location of FASTC at Fort Pickett. According to the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office, in addition to making financial sense, Fort Pickett meets four requirements deemed critical in the selection of a diplomatic security training site, including: 1) consolidation of training venues; 2) proximity to Washington, D.C; 3) exclusive use of the facility for State Department diplomatic security training; 4) use of the facility 24 hours/7 days a week to allow for nighttime training missions.
In her testimony before the Benghazi Committee today, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Congress to move forward on the facility, saying, “One specific recommendation that I would like to see the Congress act on expeditiously is the training facility that would be set up in order to train diplomatic security officers specifically for these high-threat situations and I think this is overdue. I know that on a bipartisan basis, representatives from Virginia, which is the state where the site that has been identified is found, have urged in a recent op-ed that the Congress act on this. I would certainly echo that as well.”