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Marine Corps tight-lipped about plan for barracks security cameras

Initiative could cost millions, but execution is slow to roll

Dec. 7, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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Marine Corps officials are saying little about the costs and timetable for implementing a plan, pushed by the service’s commandant, to install security cameras in barracks bachelor housing complexes throughout the fleet.

Gen. Jim Amos announced the initiative in September as part of a broad effort to tighten Marines’ discipline in garrison. While most changes were implemented immediately, such as requiring Marines on duty to wear service uniforms and assigning senior officers and enlisted Marines to patrol the barracks regularly, the camera requirement was described as “near-term” when Amos briefed attendees at the General Officer Symposium in Quantico, Va.

But more than two months later, officials say it is still too early to say much about the worldwide barracks camera installation plan.

“The matter is being addressed but still on the drawing board,” Marine Corps Installations Command spokesman Rex Runyon said via email in response to a list of detailed questions. “We are way early in the process and do not have much more we can say at this point.”

Some of the work is already done: In 2010, Marine Corps Times reported that cameras were being installed at barracks aboard Quantico, Camp Lejeune, N.C., and other bases as part of new installation security requirements. Across the Corps today, of the 631 barracks facilities occupied by Marines ranked sergeant and below, 75 buildings have some kind of closed-caption television camera system in place, Runyon said.

He declined to address questions about which installations already have cameras installed, and how much the previous installations projects cost.

Outfitting the remaining 556 barracks facilities with CCTV cameras could be pricey, however. A survey of federal contracts over the last year showed contract awards ranging from $10,000 to more than $150,000 for single-facility CCTV installation projects aboard military installations. Conservative estimates based on these figures would put costs for the remaining installation work at more than $5 million.

Of all the changes identified in Amos’ “reawakening” plan, the camera installation strategy may be the greatest source of friction, both in the ranks and in public opinion.

On Foreign Policy’s The Best Defense blog, a retired Marine who blogged anonymously said the barracks crackdown, including the cameras initiative, threatens to harm morale and discipline in garrison.

“Unfortunately in my view, the commandant, by introducing security cameras in the barracks and having the barracks roamed by seniors beyond the normal staff duty and officer of the day routinely after hours, can create a climate that the Corps doesn’t trust its corporals and sergeants to maintain authority along with good order and discipline,” the blogger wrote.

But Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy, who spoke with Marine Corps Times following Amos’ brief at the symposium, said the cameras will ultimately mean more peace and quiet for Marines who aren’t causing trouble.

“Most people have said, ‘Sir, it keeps the a--holes from keeping me awake at night,’ ” said Kennedy, the deputy commanding general of III Marine Expeditionary Force in Japan. “All the drunks who used to be out ... drinking at night now have to get their game on somewhere else. And the Marines who have to get up at 6 a.m. and do a shift turning a wrench somewhere, or going to the field or whatever, they appreciate the opportunity not to have their private time screwed with by a bunch of loud-mouthed fools.”■

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