Sens. Portman, McCain Send Letter to Secretary Panetta Requesting Defense Department's Review of the Support Provided to Protect U.S. Diplomatic Personnel

October 10, 2012 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee, and Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, sent a letter to Defense Secretary 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.

“As we’ve seen in recent weeks with attacks against our embassies in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, our diplomatic personnel are at the mercy of daily threats in hostile regions of the world, and their safety and security must be our top priority,” said Portman. “While the State Department is ultimately responsible for ensuring their protection, it's vital that we conduct thorough oversight of the Defense Department, which plays an important role in supporting the protection of our U.S. missions overseas.”

The recent attacks against American embassies in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen have called into question whether improvements are needed to ensure the State Department can fulfill its responsibility to protect American personnel and property overseas. In the letter, both Sens. Portman and McCain request that the Defense Department provide a thorough review of any additional support that can be provided for the State Department.

Letter included below. A signed copy of the letter can be found here.


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.