Honoring State’s ‘Can-Do’ Seabees on their 50th Anniversary

As we celebrate the 50th birthday of the Department of State’s Naval Support Unit (NSU) Seabees this year, we are deeply grateful for all our Seabees who serve as Diplomatic Security’s “can-do” construction security force across the globe.

The Navy established combat-trained Construction Battalions (“CBs,” which became “Seabees”) in 1941 after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Their mission was to build bases and Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals, bulldoze and pave roadways, and construct bridges, tunnels, and airstrips for U.S. air and ground troops during military conflicts.

In the 1960s, the Department’s Office of Security looked to the Seabees for construction, installation, renovation, maintenance, and repair projects in sensitive areas of Department of State facilities abroad.  Members of Navy Mobile Construction Battalion eleven successfully deployed to American Embassy Jakarta in 1964 during a period of civil unrest in which our embassy was badly damaged and in need of repair. Later that year, one officer and 49 enlisted Seabees, known as “Detachment November,” deployed to American Embassy Moscow. They removed an extensive hidden wired microphone system the Soviet Union was utilizing to eavesdrop on U.S. diplomatic conversations.

By 1965, about 37 Seabees were informally attached to the State Department, lending their expertise to thwart technical espionage, in order to complete construction projects. The Seabees in the program were divided into two groups. One group was assigned to specific construction projects and then restored to the Navy when their work was done. The second group was divided amongst four regional technical centers located in Frankfurt, Beirut, Panama City, and Tokyo, where they underwent more training and began their assignments. Their tasks included setting up secure conference rooms, assisting technical security officers, providing labor and supervision for renovations of sensitive areas, and repairing damage incurred when digging out surveillance devices.  

A draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) made the Navy Support Unit a permanent part of the Department’s operations. On April 21, 1966, the Secretary of the Navy officially detailed NSU to support the State Department.

The Bureau of Diplomatic Security works with NSU to provide the State Department with specialized skills in construction and technical security countermeasures to reduce risk and ensure a safe and secure environment for U.S. diplomatic missions throughout the world.

The reception following the graduation ceremony of Naval Support Unit Seabees on April 21, 2016 included a cake to honor the 50-year collaboration of the Seabees and the Department of State in April 1966. [State Department Photo]

As we reflect on the 50-year partnership between the State Department and NSU Seabees, we thank our Seabee colleagues both past and present. We warmly welcome the newest crop of Seabees as they join our team. They bring valuable skills and their famous “can do” attitude to perform their essential work anywhere in the world. Our partnership has a profound impact on the lives of U.S. diplomats and our foreign partners every day. We salute them!

About the Author: Special Agent Bill A. Miller serves as Director of the Diplomatic Security Service and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security.

For more information:

  • Visit the Diplomatic Security website for more on how DS supports the State Department's diplomatic mission.
  • Learn more about the centennial Diplomatic Security Service and the organization's history.
  • Check out the Diplomatic Security Facebook page.



jhon i.
Iowa, USA
May 2, 2016
Great... I listened to the first podcast ("History of U.S. Ambassadors") and it was very informative and well done. Statistically speaking nearly 40 percent of all ambassadors are unqualified political appointees who were vital campaign donors. <a href="http://doktersipilis.com/obat-sipilis-tradisional-ampuh/">This is historically </a>true for all administrations regardless of political party. I hope this series will only include interviews with the other 60 percent of highly qualified career foreign service officers.
Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Gregory Starr addresses the graduating class of Naval Support Unit Seabees on the 50th anniversary of the collaboration of the Seabees and the Department of State in April 1966. [State Department photo]
Posted by Bill A. Miller
April 21, 2016


Latest Stories

January 19, 2017

What We Got Right

With a new administration taking office this week, it is natural to assess the inheritance it will receive from the… more