Sen. John McCain says "the security environment confronting American personnel serving in U.S. embassies and consulates abroad is as dangerous as any time that I can remember."(Photo: J. Scott Applewhite, AP)
The Senate voted Wednesday to authorize a 1,000 person increase in
the size of the Marine Corps to provide additional protections for U.S.
embassies and consulates, a direct response to the September attack on a
diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, which resulted in the death of a
U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.
The additional Marines
would be assigned to regional commands and detachments at embassies,
consulates and diplomatic facilities. The extra personnel would be
authorized beginning Oct. 1, 2013, and would be available for three
It's not immediately clear how this would affect the Marine
Corps' ongoing personnel drawdown. Current plans call for shedding
about 5,000 Marines from active duty each year through 2016 as the
service works toward a new authorized end strength of 182,100. Officials
at Marine Corps headquarters could not immediately address the
Because there is no similar provision in the House
version of the defense bill, the fate of this effort will be determined
by negotiations involving the House, Senate, Defense Department and
White House as they hash out final details of the measure. Those
negotiations won't begin until the Senate passes its full version of the
$648.5 billion bill, something not expected before Friday.
John McCain, R-Ariz., who offered the amendment, said the Benghazi
attack was "a stark reminder that the security environment confronting
American personnel serving in U.S. embassies and consulates abroad is as
dangerous as any time that I can remember."
The additional 1,000
Marines are needed, he said, because there are many diplomatic
facilities that have no Marine Corps personnel providing security and
many facilities that have Marine security guard detachments of only six
"Today, there are 126 U.S. diplomatic missions outside the
United States without Marine Corps security protecting (them),
including parts of Asia and Africa where we suspect that al Qaida is
expanding its presence," McCain said.
The Benghazi attack killed
the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, foreign service officer
Sean Smith and security officers Tyrone S. Woods and Glen A. Doherty.
The incident has been heavily scrutinized, and numerous questions have
been raised - on Capitol Hill and beyond - once it became clear there
was no Marine Corps presence at the compound.
guard detachments are deployed based on requests made by the State
Department. An official there told Marine Corps Times last month that an
independent review board was convened to examine the Benghazi assault
and make recommendations for improving security at its facilities.
Marine Corps embassy security group is expected to add detachments over
the next five to 10 years, but Marine officials insist that growth
effort has been in place since 2004 - and that it's not a knee-jerk
response to recent events. They have, however, declined to say what the
group's projected size will be when that growth is complete.
Currently, more than 1,200 Marine security guards are assigned to more than 130 countries.
Rick Maze, Marine Corps Times