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“Guys, we know mistakes were made and we’ve got to learn from that,” said committee Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss, Georgia Republican.

In its public hearing Thursday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee heard testimony from Government Accountability Office investigator Michael J. Courts, who testified that diplomatic security received a tremendous surge of funding from 1998 to 2008, but one-third of the money went to protect sites in Iraq, and much of the rest was spent in ways “more reactive than strategic.”

He said in 1998 that about $200 million was spent on diplomatic security worldwide, a number that had increased ninefold, to about $1.8 billion, by 2008.

He also said there was a serious shortage of skills in overseas posts. In 2009, fewer than half of the State Department’s regional security officers could “speak and read foreign languages at the level required by their positions,” he said.

He said the more rigorous security requirements introduced after the bombing of U.S. facilities in Lebanon in the 1980s and East Africa in the 1990s – and the State Department’s decision to continue operating in dangerous environments it previously would have evacuated – had combined to “greatly expand” the mission requirements of the diplomatic security bureau.