WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff declared at the Pentagon today that lessons learned from the Fort Hood massacre lessened the potential death toll at the Navy Yard mass shooting Monday.
The Fort Hood shooting prompted the Defense Department to “thoroughly review its approach to force protection and to broaden its force protection policies, programs, and procedures to go beyond their traditional focus on hostile external threats,” according to the Aug. 18, 2010, final recommendations memo from then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
That memo pledged the department would “strengthen its policies, programs, and procedures in the following areas: addressing workplace violence, ensuring commander and supervisor access to appropriate information in personnel records, improving information sharing with partner agencies and among installations, expanding installations’ emergency response capabilities, integrating force protection policy and clarifying force protection roles and responsibilities, and ensuring that we provide top quality health care to both our service members and our healthcare providers.”
“Force protection, although critical, is not a substitute for leadership,” Gates continued. “…The Department will continue to enable military leaders with the tools and discretion they need to take appropriate action to prevent and respond to potential problems, whatever their cause.”
At the first Pentagon press briefing since former Navy reservist and contractor Aaron Alexis opened fire at the Navy Yard, killing 12, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel acknowledged “obviously, something went wrong.”
“The fact is, starting with the tragedy of what happened Monday — and you mentioned other tragedies — we don’t live in a risk-free society. And every day, all the millions of DOD employees, whether they’re uniformed or civilian, that come to work, help this country, contribute to the security and safety of this country, there’s always some risk to that. And that isn’t a good answer. That’s not good enough. They deserve the security of a safe environment,” he added. “We will find those gaps, as I said, and we will fix those gaps.”
Hagel ordered two reviews — one of security and access procedures at DoD installations worldwide and the other focusing on the DoD’s security clearance practices — to be led by Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. Hagel also directed that an independent review panel be established to “strengthen Secretary Carter’s efforts, and they will provide their findings directly to me.”
“The Department of Defense will carefully examine the assessments, the conclusions, and recommendations of these reviews, and we will effectively implement them. As you know, the Navy is also conducting its own review, and those results will feed into the broader DOD review worldwide,” Hagel said.
“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.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said that changes made after the Bradley Manning leaks and Nidal Hasan’s killing of 13 people at Fort Hood helped.
“Early indications” that changes led “to a less horrific outcome” include “alert notices, coordination in advance of crises with other agencies of government, training for employees and law enforcement on active shooter scenarios,” Dempsey said.
“So, I mean, some of the things we did as a result of those earlier incidents, we believe, actually reaped the benefit we intended,” the general added. “The clearance piece of this is one I think we very clearly have to take another look at, and the secretary’s directed us to do so.”
Hagel said the “quick answer” of whether the Navy has explained Alexis’ security clearance despite problems with the police is “no.”