Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is planning to order a review of physical security and access to all US military installations worldwide, a senior Pentagon official said Tuesday, one day after a Navy reservist with a troubled history killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard.
Secretary Hagel spent much of the day on Tuesday collecting input from senior officials to define the parameters of the review, which could be formally announced as soon as Wednesday, according to the official.
Word of the impending review follows news that a previously unreleased Department of Defense Inspector General (DOD IG) report detailed “critical flaws” in base security at Navy installations, including the practice of contracting out base guard duty to nongovernmental personnel.
The DOD IG report, dated for release on Sept. 16, the date of the Navy Yard attack, cites instances in which “52 convicted felons received routine, unauthorized installation access, placing military personnel, dependents, civilians, and installations at an increased security risk.”
This was the result of efforts on the part of Navy officials “to reduce access control costs,” according to the inspector general report.
The report leveled another critique as well – that the commander, Navy Installations Command was “non-responsive” regarding the recommendations of the Pentagon inspector general.
These revelations about the DOD IG investigation in turn prompted calls for change.
In the wake of the Navy Yard attacks, “I am highly concerned that the access control systems at our nation’s military installations have serious security flaws,” wrote Rep. Mike Turner (R) of Ohio in a letter to the acting inspector general requesting further information regarding the DOD IG investigation.
“Potentially numerous felons may have been able to gain unrestricted access to several military installations across the country due to the insufficient background checks, increasing the risk to our military personnel and civilian employees,” Representative Turner wrote.
The accused shooter, Aaron Alexis, a Navy Reservist who had a history of run-ins with the law, did have valid government identification that authorized him to have access to the Washington Navy Yard.
He was an appealing candidate for his job because he had a secret security clearance and received an honorable discharge from the military. A “general” discharge, by contrast, tends to be a red flag that a service member behaved in a way that forced him to leave the military.
But does the inspector general’s report mean that Navy bases are more at risk than, say, Army or Air Force installations across the country? Pentagon officials say they are not singling out the Navy, and point to Hagel’s decision to review security at all US military bases.
Other lawmakers point to the budget choices that all of the services are making in the face of mandatory financial cutbacks.
“While the timing of the delivery of this report was coincidental, I believe it to be relevant to physical security on military installations and to the committee’s hearing tomorrow on the impact of defense cuts,” said Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R) of Calif., in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.
While he worried aloud that the inspector general’s report in its current form “could expose vulnerabilities at military installations and it would be improper to release it publicly,” Representative McKeon added, “I believe that it is in the public’s best interest for the IG to publicly release a redacted version of their report.”