Admiral Warned Budget Cuts Would Chop Navy Yard Security Response Times

Physical security and explosive inspections also reduced, the Navy’s installations chief…

Admiral Warned Budget Cuts Would Chop Navy Yard Security Response Times Admiral Warned Budget Cuts Would Chop Navy Yard Security Response Times

Uncategorized September 16, 2013 0

Washington Navy Yard. Tim Evanson/Flickr photo Admiral Warned Budget Cuts Would Chop Navy Yard Security Response Times Physical security and explosive inspections also reduced,... Admiral Warned Budget Cuts Would Chop Navy Yard Security Response Times
Washington Navy Yard. Tim Evanson/Flickr photo

Admiral Warned Budget Cuts Would Chop Navy Yard Security Response Times

Physical security and explosive inspections also reduced, the Navy’s installations chief instructed months before mass shooting

Six months ago, the admiral in charge of naval base security across the U.S. homeland said that funding cuts were reducing physical security inspections and emergency response times at naval bases.

The obscure instruction, dated March 21, 2013 from Vice Adm. Bill French who heads the Navy Installations Command, was reported then by Army Times. The instruction noted that security forces and emergency crews at naval facilities in the Washington D.C. area, including Naval Support Activity Washington D.C., which includes Washington Navy Yard, “will have slower response times because they will not be able to repair vehicles.” It added: “Physical security and explosive safety programs will not be able to do inspection preparations,” the newspaper reported. Adm. French, however, noted in the instruction that “anti-terrorism and force-protection standards” would be maintained across the United States.

There’s still much that’s unclear about a mass shooting at Washington Navy Yard on Sept. 16. At least 12 people were killed in an attack that brought the horror of a mass shooting to the nation’s capital and a center for many of the Navy’s most sensitive operations. The Department of Defense and the Navy’s Installations Command could not be reached for comment before deadline, but the extent of the Navy’s security protocols will likely come under increasing scrutiny in the coming days.

The suspected gunman in the Navy Yard attack is deceased — suspected to be 34-year-old Aaron Alexis of Texas — after he stormed the premises of Building 197 at Navy Yard with multiple weapons including an AR-15 rifle [Sept: 17 2:09 p.m.: the AR-15 may have been mistaken by law enforcement]. Building 197 serves as the headquarters for Naval Sea Systems Command — one of the Navy’s five commands and the one responsible for overseeing the construction of many of the Pentagon’s largest vessels.

Alexis, a Navy reservist from May 2007 to Jan. 2011, has a criminal record involving firearms. He was arrested in Sept. 2010 for discharging a firearm into his upstairs neighbor’s apartment, and in 2004 for shooting out the tires of a car in Seattle. Alexis may also have worked as a contractor for the Navy-Marine intranet network.

Building 197 — like the rest of Navy Yard — went on lockdown after the shooting began this morning. Navy and civilian workers texted and tweeted. “Still under lockdown and ‘shelter in place’ instruction in my little corner of the Navy Yard,” wrote Bill Paisley, a retired Navy flight officer on Facebook from the Navy Modeling and Simulation Office at the base. “I’m safe. Our personnel are all present or accounted for. We are sheltering in place,” wrote Commander Jerry Hendrix; a Navy historian at the base’s Naval History and Heritage Command.

The response has now turned into a major security operation. Initially, both Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police and Navy Yard police responded to the shooting. Two officers were shot — one base officer was shot, and a D.C. Metro police officer was shot twice in the leg, according to the Washington Post. The D.C. officer is reportedly in good condition at an area hospital. The response and investigation has since expanded to include the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

Navy Yard is not like a typical naval base, and is notable for its concentration of civilian workers and offices inside and in the surrounding neighborhood. The “base” is also integrated into the city in a way unlike that of a military fort.

Still, there are several layers of security. Today, the Air Force Times walked readers through getting access to Navy Yard. Access to the proper base itself requires a photo ID. The NAVSEA building itself requires a badge; and no cellphones, cameras or audio records are allowed. These security rules are comparable with those at the Pentagon. “However, the Pentagon appears to have more armed guards, including those carrying assault rifles and monitoring those who access the building,” the Air Force Times noted.

Families of personnel and employees at Navy Yard were asked to gather at the Washington National Stadium parking lot. All Navy personnel assigned to commands in the D.C. area — including civilian employees — have also been ordered to sign in to NFAAS, the Navy’s online personnel monitor used during catastrophes. Metro Police have also beefed up security around the Capitol building.

NAVSEA, where the shooting took place, is essentially the Navy’s shipbuilder. Vessels, like the under-construction Gerald R. Ford-class carriers, to heads-up displays and torpedoes are managed by NAVSEA.

If the Navy needs circuit boards, machine parts or electrical wiring, then many of those contracts — among thousands — are signed off by its officials. The command oversees the Navy’s Aegis missile-defense system which is used aboard warships. It handles mothballed ships and builds submarines, along with managing four of the Navy’s shipyards including Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Norfolk Naval Shipyard.

Additional research for this piece was done by Kelsey D. Atherton.

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