Susan's Feed
Feb 15, 2013

More than half U.S. diplomatic posts may not meet security rules

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – More than half the U.S. diplomatic posts overseas may not fully meet security standards, a senior U.S. official told a hearing on Thursday that follows an attack on the mission in Benghazi in which the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans died.

Pat Kennedy, the under secretary of state for management at the State Department, told a House of Representatives appropriations subcommittee that the United States had a diplomatic presence at 283 locations around the world.

Feb 13, 2013

U.S. should hit the “pause” button on Afghan aid: watchdog

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. government should reconsider whether to spend more on reconstruction aid in Afghanistan, the U.S. watchdog who monitors the funds said on Wednesday, citing Afghanistan’s persistent corruption and inability to manage projects as U.S. troops withdraw.

John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghan reconstruction, said $20 billion in U.S. assistance for Afghanistan had been appropriated but not yet spent. Nearly $10 billion more in aid may soon be approved by Congress.

Feb 12, 2013

Afghanistan can’t handle direct aid, U.S. watchdog says

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Afghanistan’s government does not appear able to manage the large amounts of direct aid that the United States and other countries have pledged, the U.S. watchdog monitoring funds spent on Afghan reconstruction said.

John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, raised a red flag over U.S. plans to give Kabul billions of dollars more in direct aid instead of providing assistance through contractors and non-governmental organizations operating on behalf of the American government.

Feb 12, 2013

Automatic spending cuts would hit U.S. embassy security: Democrats

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Funds to beef up security at U.S. diplomatic posts would be slashed by an estimated $168 million this year under spending cuts due to kick in shortly, congressional Democrats said.

The funds would be axed from the State Department’s budget for embassy and diplomatic security if the across-the-board cuts to the U.S. budget, known as “sequestration,” go ahead on March 1, said Matt Dennis, spokesman for the Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee.

Feb 7, 2013

Some U.S. diplomatic posts violating security standards: report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Some U.S. diplomatic posts are violating security standards for overseas buildings and the State Department is not keeping track of the exemptions to the rules it does grant, the department’s inspector general said in a review released after the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi.

“Inspectors … found conditions of noncompliance with security standards for which posts had not sought exceptions or waivers,” the report by Deputy Inspector General Harold Geisel said.

Feb 1, 2013

Defense industry in late surge to stop spending cuts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – An anxious U.S. defense industry has launched a new push to galvanize lawmakers who are doing little to stop the massive federal spending cuts due to kick in on March 1.

Defense contractors started a fresh surge of letter-writing campaigns and meetings with U.S. officials to plead their case about why the billions of dollars in cuts known as sequestration would harm not only the defense sector but the larger economy.

Jan 31, 2013

Republican maverick Hagel forged bond with Obama over Iraq

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – From his lonely position as an early Republican critic of the Iraq war, former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel sometimes lectured his more timid Senate colleagues. “If you wanted a safe job, go sell shoes,” he told them.

President Barack Obama’s nominee for defense secretary began a Senate confirmation process on Thursday that revived the contentious relations the fiercely independent Vietnam war veteran had with fellow Republicans over his political career.

Jan 30, 2013

Some lawmakers on panel reviewing gun control are gun owners

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican Senator Lindsey Graham keeps an AR-15 at home, a semi-automatic rifle similar to the weapon used recently in the mass shooting at a Newtown, Connecticut, school. But he is far from the only U.S. lawmaker who has a gun.

At least seven of the 18 members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is considering gun-control legislation, own firearms, according to senators and their staffs.

Jan 29, 2013

NRA head to Congress: Don’t blame gun owners for violence

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The National Rifle Association will argue that greater restrictions are not the answer to gun violence at a Senate hearing on Wednesday, which is likely to stoke skepticism that legislation to tighten controls will advance very far this year.

NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, in testimony released on Tuesday on the eve of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, showed no signs of backing down from opposition to gun controls advocated by President Barack Obama and Democratic lawmakers after a mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school in December.

Jan 25, 2013

Exclusive: NRA senior lobbyist says attack ad was “ill-advised”

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – One of the National Rifle Association’s senior lobbyists said an ad by the nation’s leading gun-rights group after a school shooting in Connecticut that refers to President Barack Obama’s children was “ill-advised.”

Jim Baker, head of the federal affairs division at the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, said he had made his views known to others at the powerful gun-rights organization.