Defense and White House officials pushed forward on a nationwide review of security policies as criticism continued to pour in after a troubled contract employee carried a shotgun into a naval installation in Washington, D.C., on Monday and killed 12 workers.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said his department would closely review security policies in all branches of the military and the White House said it would examine security clearance policy for contractors and employees across federal agencies.
But even as the Pentagon broadened its efforts to a service-wide investigation into security flaws, officials denied that the current Navy security system was put in place in order to save money.
“The budget issue did not degrade the security at the Navy Yard and in any way contribute to this,” said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey.
Added Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of Naval Operations: “We didn’t cut corners for security.”
Their comments came one day after a Defense auditor released a report finding that the Navy had in 2009 changed the system that provided access to contractors. The gunman in Monday’s shooting, Aaron Alexis, was a contractor with the Navy with a history of mental health problems and run-ins with police over gun violence.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, sent a letter to Patrick McFarland, inspector general of the Office of Personnel Management, asking questions about how Alexis received a security clearance that gave him access to the Navy Yard.
Specifically Portman, in a letter also signed by Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Jon Tester, D-Montana, asked why Alexis was given security clearance after being arrested on charges related to firearms in 2004 and 2010. Alexis was reportedly also arrested for disorderly conduct in 2009.
“There are real questions with regards to the effectiveness of our security process,” Portman said. “We need to figure out what went wrong and how we can fix the faults in the system to make sure that we improve the effectiveness and efficiency of this process.”
On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, said he was concerned that a cost-cutting climate at Defense led to a loosening of security.
The 38-page Defense Inspector General report, released to lawmakers the day of the shootings and to the public one day later, found that the new system often gave people access to Navy installations without vetting them with databases such as the National Crime Information Center and the Terrorist Screening Database.
Because of that, 52 convicted felons were able to routinely gain access to Navy installations, the report found.
Hagel on Wednesday said the military would devote itself to reviewing security at all bases in the United States.
“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.
At the same time he acknowledged, “We don’t live in a risk-free society.”
In all 13 people — including Alexis — died in the attacks. The Federal Bureau of Investigation said Alexis used a “valid pass” to gain access to the site, despite the fact that he had had been arrested at least twice in gun-related incidents and once for disorderly conduct.
He reportedly purchased the shotgun from a Virginia gun store, disassembled parts of it so it could fit in a bag and then reassembled it in a bathroom. Police believe he also used a .45-caliber handgun that he may have taken from a wounded officer.
Last month, Alexis reportedly contacted the Rhode Island police, telling them he was hearing voices in his head. According to news reports, the Rhode Island police reached out to the Navy.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.