Republican Claims Not “New”: “Revelation” on Changing Uniforms Three Years Old

Jun 28, 2016
Press Release

WASHINGTON—Republicans are touting as a significant new revelation in their partisan report that a Defense Department embassy security team headed to Tripoli was ordered to change out of their uniforms and into civilian clothes several times the morning after the attacks.

Although news outlets are reporting this as a new revelation, it was actually disclosed three years ago during a hearing in February 2013 with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In addition, the Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee previously discussed this issue in the report they issued in January 2014:

This was apparently done upon the request of the Libyan government, conveyed by the Department of State.  Presumably, warfighters changed out of uniform because of concerns that the arrival of combat-ready troops might unduly alarm or inflame Libyan observers.  Although General Dempsey acknowledged to the Senate that this action delayed the platoon’s arrival in Libya, he said it was not enough to prevent it from getting to Benghazi before attack survivors departed.    In sum, “[o]nce we started moving forces,” General Dempsey told the Senate, “nothing stopped us, nothing slowed us.”  However, at least in the case of the FAST platoon, there seem to have been some challenges in proceeding expeditiously.

Democrats issued their report yesterday along with all the available transcripts so the American people—and reporters—can see the underlying evidence first-hand to ensure the accuracy and integrity of our work. 

The Democratic report explained: 

The request for the Marines to wear civilian clothes when they entered Tripoli came from Embassy Tripoli, with the intent of preventing them from becoming a target of a potential enemy force in Libya.  

Admiral Kurt Tidd, the Director for Operations for the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, described his conversations with State Department officials that night, in which they all agreed that the priority was for the FAST team to get to Tripoli as quickly as possible:

A:     And that was—my recollection was that was the phone call we [Admiral Tidd and a senior State Department official] were having over whether or not uniforms, no uniforms, how—what’s the fastest you can move. And we just all agreed that the key thing is to get them there as quickly as possible, the Marines, the FAST Marines. 

Q:     Thank you.  So it was your sense, then, in that discussion and other discussions you may have been briefed or informed about with the State Department that the State Department wanted forces there instantaneously?  That was—that continued throughout the evening? 

A:     Yes. That was correct. 

Q:     And in your discussions with the State Department about changing into civilian clothes and other things, was—was the request from the State Department—were those all subordinate to the interests from the State Department that the forces get there as quickly as possible?

A:     That was my sense.  It was from a security perspective that, I think, they were thinking of not moving uniformed marines at night in buses through the—you know—or, actually, in the early hours of the morning through downtown Tripoli to the embassy.  And so I think that the only question I had was, okay, if it comes down to a question of with uniforms or without uniforms, is it more important to move them quickly?  The answer was, yes, get them there quickly. 

Q:     And that’s the answer from the State Department? 

A:     Correct.

114th Congress