WASHINGTON (AP) — Navy Secretary Ray Mabus ordered two security reviews Tuesday to look at how well the Navy protects its bases and how accurately it screens its workers, following the mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard.
A senior defense official said that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel also intends to order a review of physical security and access at all department installations worldwide as questions swirled Tuesday about the quality of the Pentagon's security systems and how well the military screens uniformed and civilian workers who have access to some of the country's most secure buildings.
Armed and with a "secret" level security clearance, a Navy contractor was able to enter the Washington Navy Yard and swipe an access card to get into the headquarters building where he shot and killed 12 people and wounded several others.
A draft Defense Department audit criticizes one of the Navy's security review programs for lower level contractors. It said that in order to save costs, not enough is done to properly screen workers. Although that system was not the one used to evaluate Aaron Alexis, the 34-year-old information technology worker involved in the shooting, it underscores persistent problems with the screening processes.
Those worries prompted Mabus to order two security reviews Tuesday and the plans for Hagel to order a broader one. The Defense Department Inspector General found that one of the Navy's security programs, which is more often used to review contractors who do not require security clearances, did not vet the workers well enough to eliminate the risks of allowing them access to Navy facilities..
Officials described the audit on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss a draft report. Rear Adm. John Kirby, a Navy spokesman, said officials are in the process of reviewing the IG report, "but it does not appear that the findings of the report could have in any way prevented the shootings yesterday."
Alexis, a former Navy reservist, was put through a more extensive, detailed security review process in order to get his "secret" level clearance — that he had while in the military and then later for his contracting job.
The federal government investigated Alexis in 2007 and he was given his security clearance in March of 2008, a defense official said. Alexis got a clearance to handle "secret" information, a level that is good for 10 years before it has to be renewed.
According to Navy officials, the reviews ordered by Mabus will take two tracks. The first one is due by the beginning of October and will be a quick assessment of security at Navy bases around the world. The second one will be longer and more detailed, and will look at how well the Navy protects its installations and screens its personnel.
Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, said that the IG report raises serious concerns about access to military installations, including whether felons may have been able to gain access to some bases due to insufficient background checks.
Associated Press writer Pauline Jelinek contributed to this report.