Sequestration Threatens Embassy Security Additions

Plans to increase the number of Marine security details at U.S. embassies is in danger because of budget cuts, Marine leaders said.

Sequestration is expected to weaken readiness across the U.S. military, but it’s also likely to thwart plans to beef up security at vulnerable American embassies around the world, a top Marine Corps official said Thursday.

The Marine Corps is slated to report to Congress by Oct. 1 on its plans to add hundreds of Marine guards to embassy posts in an effort to prevent another incident like the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

The Marine Corps’ proposed fiscal 2014 budget funds 1,635 Marines that support 152 embassies and consulates worldwide.

“We are working with the Department of State, the Department of Defense and the Joint Staff and we seek your support as we determine the additional manning of approximately 1,000 Marines and the associated funding to support them” to increase embassy security, Marine Gen. John Paxton Jr., told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee during an April 18 hearing on readiness.

Right now, the plan is to select Marines with combat experience that have recently reenlisted or plan to reenlist and begin training them at Quantico Marine Base at Quantico, Va.

“That’s the talent pool that will go to the school, so we will ask the commands as they look at reenlistments and to send that talent to Quantico,” Paxton said.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., wanted to know how the mandatory defense spending cuts under sequestration will affect the effort.

In the short term, the effort is protected from sequestration, Paxton said, explaining that the additional Marine security falls under the fully-funded, next-to-deploy category.

“We have a good model. We can predict the number of people we need. We can predict the facilities we need,” he said. “Consequently, when you get to the resources piece, with sequestration in effect, it is going to be” a challenge.

There is a growing demand for more Marine guards from “both consulates that have not been protected or embassies that need additional protection that we feel obliged to support; that are ready to support operationally,” Paxton said. “But it’s going to require extra end strength or if we take it out of existing end strength, then those are other missions that we may not be able to do.”