(WASHINGTON) -- Outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday that cuts to State Department funding have hampered efforts to secure diplomatic outposts around the world.
Citing a report by the department's Accountability Review Board (ARB) on the security failures that led to the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, during an attack last year, Clinton said the board is pushing for an increase in funding to facilities of more than $2 billion per year.
"Consistent shortfalls have required the department to prioritize available funding out of security accounts," Clinton told the Senate Wednesday morning. "And I will be the first to say that the prioritization process was at times imperfect, but as the ARB said, the funds provided were inadequate. So we need to work together to overcome that."
Clinton became emotional up earlier while discussing the Benghazi attack. "I stood next to President Obama as the Marines carried those flag-draped caskets off the plane at Andrews," Clinton said, her voice growing hoarse with emotion. "I put my arms around the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters."
Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, of Wisconsin, questioned Clinton on statements made by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice days after the attack.
“We were misled that there were supposedly protests, and then something sprang out of that, assaults sprang out of that,” Johnson said. “And that was easily ascertained that that was not the fact. And the American people could have known that within days, and they didn't know that.”
Clinton fired back, “With all due respect, the fact is, we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest? Or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go and kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?”
Clinton is the only witness giving long-awaited testimony before the Foreign Relations Committee, and will appear before the House Foreign Affairs Committee at 2 p.m.
The secretary, who postponed her testimony in December while she recovered from a fall and a resulting concussion and blot clot, began Wednesday by providing context to the terrorist attack.
"Any clear-eyed examination of this matter must begin with this sobering fact," Clinton began. "Since 1988, there have been 19 Accountability Review Boards investigating attacks on American diplomats and their facilities."
But the outgoing secretary did not deny her role in the failures, saying that as secretary of state, she has "no higher priority and no greater responsibility" than protecting American diplomats abroad like those killed in Benghazi.
"As I have said many times, I take responsibility, and nobody is more committed to getting this right," Clinton said. "I am determined to leave the State Department and our country safer, stronger and more secure."
More than four months have passed since the attack killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Libya.
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