Panetta: 'Time, Distance, the Lack of Adequate Warning' Prevented 'Immediate Response' in Benghazi

By Susan Jones | February 7, 2013 | 11:07 AM EST

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

( - "The bottom line is this," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told the Senate Armed Services Committee at Thursday's hearing on Benghazi:

"We were not dealing with a prolonged or continuous assault which could have been brought to an end by U.S. military response very simply, although we had forces deployed to the region.

"Time, distance, the lack of an adequate warning, events that moved very quickly on the ground, prevented a more immediate response. Despite the uncertainty at the time, the Department of Defense and the rest of the U.S. government spared no effort to do everything we could to save American lives.  Before, during and after the attack, every request that the Department of Defense received, we did -- we accomplished. But again, four Americans lives were lost. We all have a responsibility to make sure that doesn't happen again," Panetta said.

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Sen. Rand Paul, appearing on Fox News after Panetta's opening statement, questioned why security in Benghazi was inadequate to begin with, especially when Libya was one of the most dangerous places in the world -- and when the late Ambassador Chris Stevens had requested more protection, which never happened.

"The person I second-guess is not the Defense Department; I second-guess Secretary Clinton for not having adequate security, for tuning down security," Paul said.

"I really think there has not been enough made of the lapse or lack of security in advance of the attacks -- not the response after the attacks, because I think that will always be difficult. But really, in advance of this, there was a huge judgement error not to have more protection for our consulate and our embassy."

In his testimony Thursday, Panetta made another plea for Congress to avoid sequestration, the deep, across-the-board spending cuts that will happen on March 1 unless Congress can agree on an alternative plan to cut spending.

"We must have an agile and ready force" that can quickly respond to the world's hot spots, Panetta said. "Above all, we have got to end the cloud of budget uncertainty that hangs over Department of Defense and the U.S. government."