National News

Dec 20, 2012 7:36 PM by NBC News

Benghazi: Laying blame

The State Department is publicly acknowledging its mistakes and promising to do better after a blistering report accused it of systemic problems that left the U.S. Diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya vulnerable to the deadly September 11th terrorist attack that claimed four American lives.

Department representatives testified before two Congressional hearings Thursday.

"We learned some very hard and painful lessons in Benghazi," Deputy Secretary of State William Burns admitted.

State officials testified in two back-to-back Congressional hearings in place of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is at home recovering from a concussion.

They were responding to the report examining the attack that found poor leadership in the State Department and woefully inadequate staffing and security at the international post in Benghazi.

Four state officials resigned in response.

"The board's report takes a clear-eyed look at serious, systemic problems for which we take responsibility and have already begun to fix," said Deputy Secretary of State Tom Nides.

Secretary Clinton is asking for more than a billion dollars, in part to increase security staffing and make security related construction improvements overseas.

Leading Republicans were critical.

"Budgetary constraints were not a factor in the department's failure to recognize the threats and adequately respond to the situation in Benghazi. The problem was, and is, about misplaced priorities," argued Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Senator John Kerry, who's likely to take over as Secretary of State, said the department's priorities aren't the only ones needing review.

"Congress also bears some responsibility here. Congress has the power of the purse," he pointed out.

Democrats acknowledged the State Department has done more with less for years...now they're calling on Congress to stop the "funding squeeze" they say contributed to this tragedy.

The White House has also accepted the report and said it wants the State Department to implement all 29 recommendations.

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