Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Embassy Security Bill Comes Due, And It's A Bargain

Typical U.S. Embassy Command and Control Hub, I think

I'd be willing to pay more than $1 million for a Command and Control Hub like that, the kind they have in every Tom Clancy-esque movie. On the other hand, I wouldn't want to pay more than a few thousand for a simple guard booth.

Whoever it was who came up with the term "command and control hub" for today's New York Times story (Additional Embassy Guards Will Come With a Steep Price) has a promising future in real estate sales.

I've noticed that the public imagination runs wild when it comes to Marine Security Guards. Almost everyone I know outside the Department, especially including those who have never visited a U.S. embassy, believe every embassy is protected by one or two platoons of Marine infantry who encircle the place to keep foreigners away.

Where do they get these crazy ideas? From movies like The Bourne Identity, in which about 100 Marines chase Matt Damon around the U.S. Consulate in Munich (an exceptionally unrealistic scene, but please enjoy), and Zero Dark Thirty, in which Marines in combat gear are shown outside the gate of the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, rifles at port arms, shoving back any Pakistanis who come too close. Those are depictions of a normal day, not a riot or attack, or an emergency evacuation. Just the day-to-day for Marine Security Guards.

No matter how inaccurate that image may be, it will come in handy now that the taxpayers are getting the bill for setting up 35 new MSG Detachments. I predict there will not be one peep of discontent, since the taxpayers know they're getting $1.6 million worth of foreign-ass-kicking value from each of those Marines.

I see two take-aways and one bit of real news from the NYT story. First, the facilities needed to support this expansion - new Post 1 booths and Marine Houses - are where 90+ percent of the costs are. And second, the first new Detachment won't be in place until more than one year after the Benghazi attack, the incident which prompted the build-up. Lesson to be learned: nothing like this happens quickly or cheaply.

The story's last paragraph has the real news, which the Times might not have realized is news. SecState Kerry is quoted as saying that the priorities for Marine Security Guards have shifted, and their first responsibility is now to protect people, not classified information.

Most people probably thought that was always their first priority, but actually, it wasn't. (Indeed, the website of the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group still reflects the former, traditional, mission statement with its emphasis on protection of classified materials.) So now, maybe the public's high expectations of embassy ass-kicking will finally be met.

WASHINGTON — When the State Department fields the first of 350 additional Marine security guards at high-risk embassies and consulates around the world later this year, the price tag will be steep: about $1.6 million per Marine.

Why so much?

It turns out that about $525 million of the $553 million that Congress approved this year to deploy more Marine guards — fulfilling a recommendation of the independent review panel that investigated the attacks last year on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya — is going toward building new command-and-control hubs in the posts and living quarters for the Marines.

The department plans to send 35 new Marine detachments, with about 10 Marines each, to diplomatic posts over the next few years. The first 90 are expected to arrive by the end of the year, officials said.

-- snip --

The financing for the new facilities also covers living quarters, which would include bedrooms and common areas, as well as small gyms and cafeterias. The department prefers that the Marines live on the compound when possible, officials said.

-- snip --

[Department officials] said each of the new command centers and additional housing would be custom-designed, either as part of brand-new embassies or leased housing. The department is in the process of developing specific project plans for each of the new Marine detachments, with the first new facilities to be included in embassies under construction in Laos and the West African country of Benin.

-- snip --

Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday in outlining the recommendations from the investigative panel that the additional Marines would be added to the diplomatic posts that face the highest threats. “We’re making sure that their first responsibility is protecting our people, not just classified materials,” he said.


James said...

You know sometimes you gotta wonder about our "leaders". Number 1 on the list of security enhancements has always been reputation, something we've apparently lost, misplaced, or thrown away. If at the very least they are not a little scared of us then there will a price to pay.

leochen24551 said...

Blame whom we wish, but the objective isn't to scare away possible terrorists; if for no other reason than the terrorists don't scare easily.

But James should already know that.

Blame whom we wish, but embassies are not designed to be staging points for going on the Military Offensive.

Instead, they are buildings where the conduct of international and intergovernmental commerce, visits, and other functions take place.

Blame whom we wish, but embassies are militarily defensive by design.

Blame whom we wish, but the U.S. Marines Embassy Security Guards must respond to the surprise attack, which if 9/11 taught us anything, it taught us that we are vulnerable.

BTW, the average number of U.S. Marines stationed at a U.S. Embassy is 6 -- Six -- not sixteen, not twenty six -- just 6.