Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Review Of Washington Navy Yard Shooting Recommends Big Changes In Installation Security

Jim Garamone at the American Forces Press Service offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, March 18, 2014 – Representatives of review panels that looked at last year’s shooting rampage that left 12 workers dead at the Washington Navy Yard briefed Pentagon reporters today on their recommendations.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel appointed an independent panel co-chaired by retired Navy Adm. Eric Olson and former Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Stockton to take a bigger-picture look at the challenges of revamping the security clearance process in the United States.

The panel recommends that the Defense Department replace the underlying premise behind installation and personnel security. “For decades, the department has approached security from a perimeter perspective,” Stockton said during a Pentagon news conference. “If we strengthen the perimeter, build our fences, if you will, against threats on the other side, we will be secure. That approach is outmoded, it is broken, and the department needs to replace it.”

Whether threats come from active shooters or online, they already are inside the perimeter, Stockton said. “What the Department of Defense should do is build security from within,” he added.  Another panel, chaired by Navy Adm. John M. Richardson, director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, came to similar conclusions.

His team reported 11 major findings in five areas and made 14 recommendations. The findings address the personal security program, the Washington Navy Yard force protection program, the Washington Navy Yard incident response and emergency management programs, and the post-incident response.

“The 14 report recommendations encompassed immediate actions to improve the personnel security program execution by Navy organizations and contractors, to improve the Navy’s capability against all threats, with the focus on the insider threat to fill critical gaps in the force protection and emergency management programs on the Navy Yard,” Richardson said. 

Another panel focused on installation security and the role of security clearances and security investigations.  Investigators on both panels that briefed their findings today agreed that too many people in DOD have a security clearance.

“Since 9/11, the number of those eligible for security clearances in the Department of Defense has tripled,” Stockton said. “And the department has gotten away from determining that personnel have a need to know -- that they need access to security clearance in the positions that they occupy.”

Stockton’s panel recommended that DOD reassess whether people in particular jobs actually need those security clearances. “We believe significant reductions can be made in the overall size of the cleared population in the Department of Defense,” he said. 

The Olsen/Stockton panel also recommended that the department do more to reduce the stigma associated with seeking mental health help. “We need to do everything we can to ensure that personnel who want such care get access to it and are not punished for it,” he said.

The panel also believes DOD should reassess whether it should continue to farm out the clearance process to the Office of Personnel Management, Stockton said. “There are big structural advantages to walking down that path, and so we’ve urged that the Department of Defense consider taking back to itself responsibility for conducting background investigations as the key step forward in granting security clearances,” he added.

Note: The above photo of Defense Secretary Hagel and Navy Secretary Mabus was released by the Defense Department.


  1. Perhaps I am wrong, but it seems to me that far too many people have security clearances now. When I was a CT in the 60s, things were much more limited to "need to know" boundaries. Perhaps the DOD needs to consider at least three issues: (1) too many people with access; (2) too many people with too much access; (3) too much classified material available. The bottom line for me is this: I'm glad I am no longer in the CT business -- there are too many problems there.

  2. It is complicated.

    Yes, perhaps too many people have security clearances (I've been hearing that since I was a entry-level Defense Department civilian so many years ago), but since 9/11, the idea has been to do more, not less, sharing of information in order to "connect dots" and thwart terrorist operations.

    Having worked in the security field in the U.S. Navy and Defense Department for more than 37 years, the key, it seems to me, is better and more frequent background investigatons.

    The Washington Navy Yard shooter would not have been a Navy contractor if a background investigation had discovered his mental health issues.


  3. In the past (60s through 90s -- the period with which I am familiar), there were so many disqualifiers for clearances that only the most squeaky clean people were granted access. Risky people simply were never given access. I suspect there are fewer disqualifiers now, which means we take more risks with the large numbers of people who are entrusted with secrets.