Washington, D.C. – This week, legislation co-sponsored by U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Ranking Member on the Armed Services Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee, to expand the Marine Corps Embassy Security Guard (MCESG) program to help increase the number of Marines assigned to diplomatic missions worldwide was adopted as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), currently pending before the Senate.  The amendment directs the Secretary of Defense to develop a plan to increase the size of the program by up to 1000 Marines to meet State Department requirements.  It also requires funding for this program to be identified separately in future budgets as well as reporting for the implementation of the plan and a review of the roles and missions of the MCESG.   

“We must ensure that we have sufficient Marines at diplomatic missions, but also that we review the Marines’ mission and what resources they need to succeed.  By requiring the Secretary of Defense to plan for an increase in the number of Marines as well as to review their mission, I hope that our amendment will enhance our diplomatic security efforts.”  Portman said.  “The Marines are only one part of our diplomatic security, but they are an important asset that must be tailored to today’s threats.”

In October, Portman and Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Ranking Member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta directing the Defense Department to review the support provided to the U.S. mission in Libya and take the necessary steps to ensure improvements are made where necessary to best support American diplomatic security worldwide.

You may read a signed copy of the letter here.

Full text of the letter is below.

October 10, 2012

The Honorable Leon Panetta
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301

Dear Secretary Panetta:
We write to you today concerning the security of U.S. diplomatic personnel and facilities around the world.  As the recent events in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 tragically reminded us, the threats confronting our diplomats remain both real and deadly.
            We recognize that the State Department is ultimately responsible for the security of U.S. diplomatic personnel and facilities.  We also recognize that the Defense Department plays an instrumental role in providing support to the State Department in this endeavor.  As investigations by the Justice Department and the State Department into the attacks in Benghazi progress, we feel it is appropriate and necessary that the Defense Department thoroughly reviews the support it provided to the U.S. mission in Libya and takes the necessary steps to ensure improvements are made where necessary to best support diplomatic security worldwide.

To better understand these issues we request responses to the following:

1.    Prior to the attack on September 11, 2012, did the Defense Department conduct any security assessments in support of the diplomatic mission in Libya, and if so, what were the findings and recommendations of those assessments?
2.    Did the State Department request the fielding of a Marine Corps Embassy Security Group (MCESG) Detachment to assist with security in Libya, and if so, what was the planned timeline for fielding that detachment?  What factors determined the planned timeline and structure of that detachment?
3.    Beyond assessment teams and a MCESG Detachment, did the State Department request any other Defense Department resources to aid in diplomatic security in Libya?  If so, what resources were provided and what was not provided?
4.    What, if any, intelligence existed from Defense Department agencies regarding threats to U.S. personnel or our diplomatic mission in Libya and what intelligence was disseminated to the intelligence community?
5.    In light of the recent threats to our U.S. personnel and missions abroad, what changes do you plan for Defense Department support for diplomatic security?

Thank you for your attention to this matter.  We look forward to continue working with you to ensure effective Defense Department support for this important mission.