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OCTOBER 10, 2002

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Source: House Armed Services Committee  http://www.house.gov/hasc/openingstatementsandpressreleases


Good morning Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee.  I am pleased to have the opportunity to discuss with you, from a policy and operational perspective, the partnership between the United State Marine Corps' and Department of State regarding the development, implementation and oversight of security procedures at U.S embassies, lessons learned from past terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies, the current terrorist threats to our embassies, and the role of host nation security guards.

History, Organization, and Background

The U.S. Marine Corps has participated in the internal security and protection of United States embassies and consulates on a formal basis with the Department of State since 1948. The program has grown from an initial 300 Marines to its current strength of more than 1100 officers and enlisted Marines assigned to the Marine Security Guard Battalion.

Marine Security Guard (MSG) Battalion is commanded by a Marine Colonel and is headquartered in Quantico, VA.  The current commander is Colonel Boyette S. Hasty, who has previously served as an enlisted Marine Security Guard and as an MSG company commander.  The battalion consists of the Headquarters Company (HQ) located in Quantico, and eight regional MSG Companies.  The HQ Company consists of approximately 95 officers and enlisted personnel who provide administrative, logistical, and legal support to the Marine Security Guards at post.  The eight regional MSG companies oversee the 131 detachments in 121 countries around the world.  While the MSG companies are commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel, the individual embassy detachments are commanded by Marine Staff Non-Commissioned Officers (SNCO's).  The majority of the detachments consist of one Detachment Commander and five Marine Security Guards (MSG's).  The largest, Cairo, has two SNCOs and twenty-seven Marines.

Duties of MSGs and the Relationship with Department of State 

The Commandant of the Marine Corps is the sole provider of Marine Security Guards and Detachment Commanders.  The Marine Corps assigns detachments to those US Diplomatic and consular facilities as identified by the Department of State.  The Department of State exercises operational control of MSG Detachments through both oral and written instructions as appropriate.

The terms, relationships, and conditions for the Marine Security Guard Program are set forth in a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Department of State and the United States Marine Corps, signed in January of 2001.  .  This agreement, which has been in force since August 1, 1967, is renewed every two years.  This 41-page document allows the Secretary of State to fulfill his/her responsibilities to provide for diplomatic security under 22 U.S. Code § 4802.  Likewise, the MOA allows the Secretary of the Navy, via the Marine Corps, to fulfill his/her responsibilities to provide custodians to foreign embassies when requested by the Secretary of State, pursuant to 10 U.S.C. § 5983.  Responsibility for the payment of costs associated with the MSG program is divided under the terms of the MOA.  The Department of State is entitled to reimbursement from the Marine Corps for expenditures related to operational support of the MSG Program, for MSG equipment, and other costs associated with this program.  The Economy Act, 31 U.S.C. § 1535, governs interagency purchase of goods and services associated with this program. 

The mission statement of the Marine Security Program is the foundation of our relationship.  As stated in the MOA:

"The primary mission of Marine Security Guards is to provide internal security services at designated U.S. diplomatic and consular facilities to prevent the compromise of classified information and equipment vital to the national security of the United States.  The secondary mission of Marine Security Guards is to provide protection for U.S. citizens and U.S. Government property located within designated U.S diplomatic and consular premises during exigent circumstances (urgent temporary circumstances which require immediate aid or action).  These detachments will be prepared to execute plans for the protection of the mission or principal officer.  Under certain emergency situations defined herein, they will provide special protective services to the chief of mission or principal officer."

Protection of Government property is not, in itself, adequate justification for the assignment of Marines to a post.  

It is important to re-emphasize that mission security is the responsibility of the Chief of Mission or Principal Officer, who exercises control and supervision of the MSG Detachments through the Regional Security Officer (RSO) or Post Security Officer (PSO).   While US Marines are responsible for the protection of classified material, government property and personnel inside an embassy or consulate, they are not responsible for external security. This responsibility lies with the host nation in coordination with the Department of State.  I would defer to the Department of State in regard to the security agreements made with host nations and their procedures for vetting and hiring of foreign-service national security personnel.

Implementation and Oversight of Security Procedures at U.S. Missions

The Marine Security Guards and Detachment Commanders are trained at the Marine Security Guard School, Quantico, Virginia.  This is a joint Marine Corps and Department of State school under the direction of the Commanding Officer, MSG Battalion.  The Marine Corps, in concert with the Department of State, will select and train the Marines assigned to this program.  MSGs undergo an eight-week, joint USMC and Department of State Program of Instruction (MSG School) to prepare them for duty with the Department of State.  This syllabus and the selection process have both undergone a complete review and revision since September 2001.  The curriculum focuses on:

1) Access control and security of controlled spaces; training in inspection procedures; identification and safeguarding classified materials; and the destruction of classified documents and equipment;

2) Foreign country conduct and defensive counter-espionage;

3) The application of deadly force and the security measures necessary for internal security, including the use of various weapons employed by the Department of State.

Funding for the MSG Program

On 10 Feb 96, Program Budget Decision (PBD) 097C3 was signed by the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller).  The PBD directed transfer of funds of  $24.2 million in FY 1997, and a total of $128.4 through FY 2001 for the Department of Defense to assume full funding responsibility for the Marine Security Guard (MSG) program at U.S. Embassies around the world.  The amount approved was based on the Department of State's estimate for funding the program during FY-94.  Funding requested in the President's FY03 budget to support the MSG program is $36.6 million.

Today, the Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service, Marine Security Guard Branch manages the disbursement of the Procurement, Operation and Maintenance and Ammunition Procurement funding categories through the individual RSO's and PSO's.  The United States Marine Corps maintains oversight and policy for distribution through the Commanding Officer, MSG Battalion and the Commanding General, 4th MEB (AT).  This process eliminated the requirement for the Marine Corps to establish purchasing agents for its 131 detachments, worldwide, a prohibitively expensive alternative.  In general these funding categories support the purchase of emergency response vehicles, pay short term lease #osts for Marine Houses, salaries for Foreign Service Nationals in support of the Marine Security Guard program, and travel expenses for Marine Security Guards in support of the President, Vice President, and Secretary of State. These initiatives have substantially increased the effectiveness of the Marine Security Guard Program.

Marine Houses

Quarters for MSG Marines are provided at Marine Houses that are jointly selected during the initial site visit to a proposed detachment activation site.  The location of the Marine House is critical to the 24 hour armed response capability provided by the Marine Security Guard Detachment.  It should be located to allow the Detachment to respond to the Embassy within 20 minutes as stated in the Memorandum of Agreement between the United States Marine Corps and U.S. Department of State.  At many detachments the response capability is diminished by the location of the Marine House.  It is cost prohibitive in many countries to obtain Marine Housing near Embassies due to a lack of setback requirements.  The Department of State's Overseas Building Operations has agreed to include Marine Houses on all new Embassy Compound projects.  An additional issue is the restriction in many countries that Marine weapons only be maintained inside the embassy compound.  This complicates the ability of the react force at remote Marine House locations to react to an alarm at the actual embassy.  

The Current Terrorist Threat

US Embassy's and Consulates remain highly lucrative targets for attack by terrorists.  In the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Commandant of the Marine Corps recognized the need for a unit dedicated to the anti-terrorism mission.   On October 29, 2001, the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade was reactivated at Camp Lejeune, NC and re-designated the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (Anti-Terrorism).  This brigade is composed of the Brigade Headquarters, the Marine Corps Security Force Battalion (MCSFBN), the Chemical Biological Incident Response Force (CBIRF), an Anti-Terrorism Battalion (ATBN), and the Marine Security Guard Battalion (MSGBN).  These units have been placed under a single command element designed specifically to combat terrorism.

The benefits with regards to embassy security are substantial.  Through the MSG Battalion, the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (AT) already has Marines forward deployed to embassies worldwide under the operational control of the Department of State.  Should additional internal security be required, the Secretary of Defense, at the request of the Secretary of State, can dispatch MCSFBN Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Teams (FAST).  Three of these teams are at forward deployed locations under the operational control of theater combatant commanders, normally through the naval component commander.  Two more remain on alert in Norfolk, VA, for worldwide deployment.  If directed by the theater combatant commander, these FAST platoons can rapidly reinforce the internal security of an embassy in the event of an increased terrorist threat, or provide additional security following a terrorist attack, as was the case in the Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam bombings in 1998.

In high-threat environments, the Anti-Terrorism Battalion can provide an even more robust security force.  Currently, an anti-terrorism task force, built around a security company from the ATBN, is on duty at the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. This unit brings with it more capabilities than FAST Platoon and includes an intelligence section, military working dogs, explosive ordnance disposal personnel as well as heavy weapons, and an increased communication capability.  From within the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (AT), the Marine Corps can provide a scalable anti-terrorism force to reinforce US embassies and consulates as required.


The United States Marine Corps remains committed to its long-standing relationship with the Department of State in providing Marine Security Guards for US Embassies and Consulates around the world.  The Marines of the Marine Security Guard Battalion are the best our Corps has to offer. They are proud of the role they perform at overseas missions, and I am immensely proud of them.  In conjunction with our partners at the Department of State, we will continue to man, train and equip the Marine Security Guard Detachments in order to continue their important mission.  Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today.  This concludes my testimony and I stand ready to take your questions.

House Armed Services Committee
2120 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515


Gen O'Dell Statement to the House Armed Services Committee
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