News / USA

    US Government Shutdown Delays Security Upgrades, Iran Sanctions Monitoring

    FILE - A statue of former Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin stands outside the Treasury Building in Washington.
    FILE - A statue of former Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin stands outside the Treasury Building in Washington.
    U.S. officials say the partial government shutdown is delaying security upgrades to embassies abroad and cutting staff in offices that monitor sanctions against Iran.

    Deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf says the shutdown is delaying training for Diplomatic Security agents and has put on hold embassy security upgrades including new construction, major renovations and new leases.

    "These include some of the same enhancements recommended by the Accountability Review Board that followed the Benghazi attack," she said. "So I think for a Congress that has never missed an opportunity to talk about embassy security, this is a result of its inability to do its job."

    Harf says there is no money for security assistance for Israel or the peacekeeping mission in the Sinai Peninsula.

    "So again, for a Congress that talks about its commitment to Israel, here's the impact of its inability to do its job," she said

    Harf says the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control has furloughed nearly all of its staff, raising questions about Washington's ability to monitor sanctions against Iran.

    "So we think this is an unhelpful, contradictory message to send at a time when everyone is looking to see whether a combination of tough sanctions on the one hand and equally tough diplomacy can push Iran to address the world's concerns about its nuclear program," she said.

    It's a question that Republican Senator Ron Johnson put to Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman at a Senate hearing on Iran Thursday.

    "Why would the State Department and the Treasury Department not deem the people in charge of enforcing the sanctions against Iran as essential services of the federal government?  Why wouldn't they do that?," said Johnson.

    Sherman responded, "Well, we only have limited budgets available to us. So I know that you would believe that there are many things that Treasury must do to make sure that U.S. currency, U.S. monetary and fiscal policy is protected. They have a whole variety of things that are essential to U.S. national security and foreign policy."

    "So it's a matter of prioritizing spending," Johnson said.

    At that hearing, Democratic Senator Tim Kaine placed the blame for the shutdown squarely on Republicans in the House of Representatives.

    "It is not the Department of State's fault and it is not the administration's fault that Congress hasn't passed a budget," said Kane.

    At the State Department, deputy spokeswoman Harf says people around the world do not understand why the United States cannot keep its house in order.

    In Sri Lanka - where the Obama administration is urging authorities to more aggressively pursue reconciliation and accountable government - Harf quoted from a press account saying Sri Lankans should package that good governance advice and return to sender.

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