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.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs