DOD targets ‘insider threat’ after Navy Yard shooting investigations

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Police respond to the scene of a shooting rampage at Washington Navy Yard that left 12 victims dead on Sept. 16, 2013.

WASHINGTON — The Defense Department issued new directives Tuesday to try to mitigate the “insider threat” to DOD personnel and facilities, based on the findings of three reviews of last year’s Navy Yard shooting.

The reviews were initiated after Aaron Alexis, a former sailor and contractor The Experts, Inc., shot and killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard in D.C. on Sept. 16. Four others were wounded in the attack, which lasted over an hour as Alexis roamed the halls of Building 197 with a shotgun. He was eventually shot and killed by emergency responders.

At the time of the attack, Alexis possessed a security clearance and gained access to the facility by presenting a valid access card. He was authorized to perform updates to classified computers at the base.

In September, the Navy launched an investigation into the full range of security, contractor, personnel, and other factors related to the incident, including a probe of Alexis’ history. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel also initiated a similar internal DOD review of the incident as well as an independent one led by former assistant secretary of defense Paul Stockton and retired Adm. Eric Olson. All three reviews were completed in November, and they included recommendations about steps DOD and the Navy should take to reduce the likelihood of such attacks.

On Tuesday, Hagel ordered DOD to implement the following measures:

  • Implement a continual evaluation program of personnel with access to DOD’s facilities or classified information, including DOD contractors, military and civilian personnel. Although individuals with security clearances undergo periodic reinvestigations, Hagel is directing the establishment of automated reviews of cleared personnel that will continually pull information from law enforcement and other relevant databases to help trigger an alert if derogatory information becomes available, such as an arrest of a person with a clearance.
  • Establish an inside-threat management and analysis center that can quickly analyze the results of these automated record checks, help connect the dots, and determine whether follow-up action is needed. It will also support DOD components to ensure appropriate action is taken on each case.
  • Centralize authority and accountability for physical and personal security under a single staff assistant located within the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence.
  • Accelerate the development of the Defense Manpower Data Center’s identity management enterprise services architecture to enable DOD security officers to share access, control information, and continuously vet individuals against U.S. government databases.

Hagel said DOD will also consider the following based on recommendations made by Stockton and Olson:

  • Reducing the number of personnel holding Secret-level security clearances by at least 10 percent.
  • Reducing DOD’s reliance on background investigations conducted by the Office of Personnel Management and undertake a comprehensive analysis of the potential benefits of returning the clearance review process to DOD.
  • Developing more effective measures to screen recruits, further destigmatize mental health treatment, and ensure the quality of mental health care within DOD.

Hagel has directed undersecretary of defense for intelligence Michael Vickers to develop an implementation plan based on the recommendations of these reviews and provide a progress report in June.

“I think we all understand that open and free societies are always vulnerable,” Hagel told reporters at the Pentagon. “But together, we’re going to do everything possible to provide our people as safe and secure a workplace as possible.”
Twitter: @JHarperStripes

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