comments_image Comments

Pentagon orders global security review after base shootings

US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (C) arrives to lay a wreath at the US Navy Memorial on September 17, 2013
US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (C) arrives to lay a wreath at the US Navy Memorial on September 17, 2013 in Washington, DC, to honor the victims of the Washington Navy Yard shootings.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel plans to order a review of security at US military bases worldwide after a contractor gunned down 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard, a Pentagon official said Tuesday.

The move came as the Pentagon mourned the victims of Monday's shooting rampage and as officials faced tough questions over how defense contractors are vetted for security clearances.

"Secretary Hagel intends to order a review of physical security and access at all DoD (Department of Defense) installations worldwide," a senior Pentagon official said in an email to reporters.

"The secretary is collecting inputs from senior leaders today to define the parameters of this review, which could be formally announced as soon as tomorrow," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The US Navy's top civilian, Ray Mabus, earlier said he had ordered a review of security at all naval and Marine Corps bases.

Mabus said in a tweet that the review applied to bases "in the US to ensure we live up to our responsibility of taking care of our people."

Some lawmakers have asked how the alleged gunman in the shooting, Aaron Alexis, 34, who was killed in an exchange of fire with police, was granted access to military compounds even though he had a history of disciplinary problems as a sailor and run-ins with the law.

Alexis, a former naval reservist, was employed by an IT company that was hired by computer giant Hewlett-Packard to upgrade equipment for an intranet network for the Navy and the Marine Corps.

US authorities said Alexis entered the heavily-guarded Navy Yard on Monday morning with a valid security pass.

The Navy planned two "physical security reviews," a naval official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The first would examine installations "to ensure that the physical security standards currently in place are being maintained."

The second review will look at "physical security to ensure correct security requirements are being implemented."

US Navy security stand guard at the front gate of the Washington Naval Yard September 17, 2013 in Washington, DC
US Navy security stand guard at the front gate of the Washington Naval Yard September 17, 2013 in Washington, DC.

The security reviews coincided with an internal Pentagon audit that found serious shortcomings in how security clearances were handled for outside contractors.

The Defense Department inspector general's report, which was released to members of Congress on Monday, alleges the Navy botched security controls at many of its bases -- including the Navy Yard -- in a bid to save costs, said a defense official.

The audit, which was first reported by Time magazine, found 52 convicted felons had been granted access to naval posts due to faulty procedures, said the defense official, who asked not to be named.

At seven of 10 installations, the Navy failed to provide adequate resources to allow the bases to conduct proper background checks on outside contractors, according to the report, quoted by the defense official.

"The report details critical flaws in the practice of contracting access control for military installations to non-governmental personnel," said Buck McKeon, the Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Hagel "will likely order a review of the findings," the defense official told AFP.

Navy officials said the inspector general's report would be closely examined but might not be relevant to the Navy Yard rampage.

Even before the shooting, lawmakers had voiced concern over background checks for outside contractors after Edward Snowden, a former US intelligence subcontractor for Booz Allen, spilled National Security Agency secrets to newspapers that revealed America's far-reaching electronic surveillance of phone records and online traffic.

Critics have questioned why the young, relatively inexperienced IT subcontractor was allowed access to highly sensitive information.

Today's Top Stories