Letter to the Editor

Not enough money available for Benghazi

In his Jan. 27 Outlook commentary, “When should we risk the lives of our diplomats?,” former ambassador James Jeffrey wrote in regard to requested security upgrades to the outpost in Benghazi, Libya, that “lower-level workers at the State Department blocked the request.” He labeled this a “screw-up.”

Perhaps, but more likely than not, Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens’s request had to compete with a number of other appeals for funding.

This is a common theme in after-the-fact analysis. The real culprit is a finite amount of resources — read: money — and the enormousness of the burden to spend it in the areas most needed.

As a civil servant, I face these decisions daily in my work for a federal agency.

The fact is, we make the best judgment that we can with the money that Congress appropriates to us. The deaths at the diplomatic mission in September were a heartbreaking loss, but searching for someone to blame simply perpetuates the myth of the bureaucrat.

I worked for James Jeffrey in Albania in 2003, and I know that he was making a point in defense of better security for diplomats.

But it’s worth stating that civil servants are working hard in the State Department and all across government to ensure that taxpayer money is professionally spent in the best interests of the American public.

Michael Scherger, Washington

 
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