Ten months after a gunman opened fire on a Marine Corps recruiting center and a U.S. Navy reserve center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the Corps is still working to bolster the security of its recruiting officers around the country.
During a budget hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee's subcommittee on defense Wednesday, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said the Corps' estimated costs to improve the physical security of its recruiting centers and provide added safety training to staff totaled about $44 million.
"It's going to take us some time to get to that; that's where we are," Neller said.
Four Marines and a sailor were killed July 16, 2015, when shooter Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez embarked on his shooting rampage. All five troops were killed at the reserve center; one Marine recruiter was wounded at the recruiting office where Abdulazeez committed a drive-by shooting to begin the string of attacks.
Following the deadly shootings, some in Congress called for recruiters to be armed for self-defense. But officials with Marine Corps Recruiting Command quickly decided against such a move, saying they were looking to other security measures to guard against future attacks.
"There are things we need to do; a lot of it's force protection," Neller said Wednesday. "Bullet-proof the windows, harden the doors, reinforce the training. Do a better job of passing information using just simple cell phone technology."
The Marine Corps requested a budget of $756 million for training and recruiting for fiscal 2017, an increase of $27.3 million from enacted for the current year. It's not clear how much of that might be designated to begin the security upgrades the Marine Corps has planned.
Neller said he was confident in current security measures at Marine Corps bases and stations, where additional law enforcement personnel had been hired and new training implemented to account for current threat levels.
At the 161 Marine Corps reserve centers across the country, he said, armed personnel were present whenever Marines were drilling.
Neller told the panel that the fact that more personnel were not wounded or killed at the recruiting office in Chattanooga was a testament to the training the office's staff had received before the mass shooting took place.
"They were trained and executed their plan in order to safety egress the recruiting center," he said.
Ultimately, the shooting was determined to be "motivated by a foreign terrorist organization," FBI officials said in December. This determination allowed the Navy to approve Purple Heart medals for the five troops killed in the shooting and for the Marine recruiter who was wounded.
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