Before 2 a.m. Benghazi time Sept. 12, Mr. Panetta ordered two Marine FAST teams to deploy from Rota, Spain. One arrived in Tripoli that night long after the siege ended. The second team took 96 hours to get ready.
Since then, the Pentagon has positioned one of those FAST teams closer to North Africa, on the island of Crete.
Mr. Panetta also deployed two special operations teams, one in Europe and one in the United States. They did not arrive in a staging area in Sigonella, Italy, until 10 hours after the crisis ended.
Gen. Dempsey has said no combat aircraft were available in time to provide help.
In closed-door testimony before the House Armed Services subcommittee on oversight and investigations, Gen. Dempsey said: “I didn’t receive any specific reports of imminent threats to U.S. personnel or facilities in Benghazi.”
The panel released a declassified version of his October testimony last week.
Gen. Dempsey quoted the State Department’s accountability review that, he said, “concluded that the interagency response was timely and appropriate but there was simply not enough time given the speed of the attacks for armed U.S. military assets to have made a difference.”
The congressman said he could not understand why the emergency special operations team in Croatia did not take off for Italy until 4:17 p.m. on Sept. 12, 16 hours after Mr. Panetta gave the order and six hours after the last Americans were evacuated from Benghazi to Tripoli.
“They were in a training exercise,” Gen. Dempsey replied.