The U.S. Department of Defense this week sent a letter to the House panel still investigating the 2012 attack in Benghazi and expressed frustration with the committee’s prolonged probe and exhaustive requests, which have persisted for nearly two years.
The letter was sent to Benghazi panel chair Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., from Stephen Hedger, the assistant secretary of Defense. It is dated April 28.
“I write in response to the Select Committee on Benghazi’s recent crescendo of requests of the Department of Defense,” Hedger wrote to start the letter, before identifying hundreds of pages of documents, several classified briefings and other cooperation given by the Pentagon over the past year to the Benghazi investigators.
In February, the committee members made a “final list” of requests which Hedger said was repeatedly added to in subsequent weeks. Last week, the letter said, it was further expanded to include interview requests for four service members who had never before been mentioned by the panel since its formation in May 2014.
“While we understand that investigations evolve over time, it is unfortunate that the committee has identified the need for these interviews only now,” Hedger wrote in the letter. “The number and continued pace of these requests since February 2016 are in tension with your staff’s statements that the committee expects to finish its investigation in the near term.”
“The Department is working diligently to accommodate your staff’s multiple and changing requests; however, we are concerned by the continuous threats from your staff to subpoena witnesses because we are not able to move quickly enough to accommodate these new requests.”
Hedger particularly criticized the committee, which has been accused of being a partisan attack on the Obama administration, for what he views as tactics that are a bit too heavy-handed and unnecessary.
“While I understand your stated intent is to conduct the most comprehensive review of the attack and response, Congress has as much of an obligation as the Executive Branch to use federal resources and taxpayer dollars effectively and efficiently.”
There has been much discussion, mainly over the past year, about whether or not this committee would ever wind this investigation up and produce any new information regarding Benghazi. We’ve often expressed our concerns and skepticism about learning the truth, but Gowdy has said numerous times that they are after the truth wherever it leads, however long it takes and whoever it involves. Hedger’s letter just begs the question as to whether or not he’s truly concerned about the time frame and expense of the investigation or if he’s more concerned about ‘partisan attacks’ on his president. Why is everything always partisan with these guys? Never mind – we know the answer to that already.
Who is this guy to chastise Congress, and Gowdy’s committee in particular, for the way they spend money, when the Pentagon is one of the most wasteful departments in the entire government?
From spending $150 million on private villas for a handful of personnel in Afghanistan to blowing $2.7 billion on an air surveillance balloon that doesn’t work, the latest revelations of waste at the Pentagon are just the most recent howlers in a long line of similar stories stretching back at least five decades.
Other prime examples would include the Army’s purchase of helicopter gears worth $500 each for $8,000 each and the accumulation of billions of dollars’ worth of weapons components that will never be used. And then there’s the one that would have to be everyone’s favorite Pentagon waste story: the spending of $50,000 to investigate the bomb-detecting capabilities of African elephants.
In March of last year, Budget Committee ranking member Bernie Sanders requested a meeting with new Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to discuss wasteful spending at the Pentagon. He said it’s “absurd” that the Pentagon cannot track its own spending, which the GAO has repeatedly warned about in conducting its audits.
If they can’t keep track of where the money goes, then they shouldn’t be trusted with a checkbook, and they certainly have no business berating anyone else for their spending.