Procedures for regulating contractor access to military bases are receiving heightened attention from policymakers after a defense contractor committed a deadly mass shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.
The Pentagon announced Sept. 17 that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is expected to order a review of physical security and access to all military installations worldwide following the mass shooting at Washington Navy Yard. Earlier in the day, the Navy indicated that Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has directed a “rapid review” of security procedures at all Navy and Marine Corps bases. The review is to be completed by Oct. 1, two weeks after the Navy Yard shooting.
A total of 13 people died at the Navy Yard Sept. 16 when Aaron Alexis, a former Navy reservist who worked for an information technology firm, entered the yard and opened fire. Alexis reportedly had a “secret” security clearance and access to the facility despite having a history of behavior problems involving guns.
Access to Navy installations might have faced increased scrutiny even if the shooting had not occurred. In a 56-page report posted online Sept. 17, DOD’s Inspector General said a recent audit found that the Navy “did not effectively mitigate contractor access control risks,” and allowed 52 convicted felons to enter Navy installations routinely.
“This placed military personnel, dependents, civilians and installations at an increased security risk,” the report says.
To access Navy bases, contractors are supposed to undergo background checks and, if approved, receive credentials. But the IG found that seven of the 10 Navy installations it visited lacked the resources or capabilities needed to vet all contractors through “required authoritative databases,” including the National Crime Information Center database, which contains criminal records, and the Terrorist Screening Database.
The IG report, which attributed the security shortfalls to attempted cost cutting, was originally labeled as “for official use only,” but it was released in redacted form following the urging of Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. The report is expected to be among the topics discussed at a hearing McKeon plans to hold Sept. 18 on the impact of defense budget cuts.