State Dept. hikes security, Marine guards for high-risk diplomatic posts

Windsor Genova – Fourth Estate Cooperative Contributor

Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The State Department plans to hire more security staff and Marines to protect American diplomats abroad.

Thomas Nides, deputy secretary of state for management and resources, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Friday that an additional 150 diplomatic security personnel will be hired while Pentagon will deploy 225 more Marine Corps guards for high-risk diplomatic posts.

The use of Marines in U.S. embassies and consulates will be a change in norm of relying on host countries for security, according to Nides.

The deputy secretary said the capability and commitment of host countries to secure embassies and consulates will be re-examined especially when “national security forces are fragmented and political will may be weak.”

The security plan was an offshoot of a report on the findings of an independent review board that investigated the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11. Poorly skilled Libyan militia and unarmed security guards were apparently at the Benghazi mission failed to prevent the attack on the consulate that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

The review board recommended upgrading security for embassies and consulates for the next 10 years at a cost of $2.3 billion. Senator John Kerry (D-Massachusetts), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is endorsing the proposed move.

Outgoing Rep. Howard Berman (D-California) said during the other hearing by the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Congress is partly to blame for the deaths in the Benghazi incident because it cut the budget of the State Department forcing it to reject requests for improved security in the consulate to save money. However, committee chair Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) disagreed saying the department had wrong priorities.

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