Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks during a news conference at the Pentagon on Sept. 18. Hagel is ordering the Pentagon to review the physical security of all defense facilities worldwide and the security clearances that allow access to them. (Charles Dharapak/The Associated Press)
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In the wake of Monday’s Navy Yard mass shooting that left 12 dead, the Pentagon chief has ordered sweeping reviews of security on all military bases world-wide and the rules for granting security clearance, in light of revelations that the suspected gunman had a secret clearance despite a history of arrests and mental health issues.
“We will do everything possible to prevent this from happening again,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a Pentagon press conference Wednesday, where he said his No. 2, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, will lead the reviews that he had directed Tuesday. Findings from the Navy’s own security assessment, also ordered Tuesday, will feed into the DoD-wide review.
The Pentagon is weighing its base security rules after the former Navy sailor and contractor, Aaron Alexis, was able to get onto Washington Navy Yard and into the guarded headquarters of the Naval Sea Systems Command, allegedly carrying a shotgun.
“Where there are gaps, we will close them. Where there are inadequacies, we will address them. And where there are failures, we will correct them,” Hagel said. “We owe the victims, their families and all our people nothing less.”
Hagel also said an independent panel would conduct its own assessment of base security rules, which some lawmakers had called for, but did not name who will head it.
DoD will coordinate its reviews of base security and security clearances with other federal agencies as new evidence emerges on how Alexis carried out the attacks. Alexis, who served for four years on active-duty, maintained his security clearance despite a number of run-ins with police and some mental health issues, included one reported a month ago in Newport, R.I.
Still, the military’s top officer cautioned that more details are needed to assess security clearance rules — including the “secret” clearance that Alexis had, which is held my millions of service-members, contractors and government civilians — and that these systems may not be watertight against those who commit mass murder.
“This particular individual, of course, wasn’t a simple matter,” said Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, in the Pentagon press conference. “I don’t know what the investigation will determine. But he committed murder. And I’m not sure that any particular question or lack of question on a security clearance would probably have revealed that.”