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National News

September 17, 2013

Navy Yard shootings put spotlight on base security nationwide

WASHINGTON — The shootings at one of the region’s largest military facilities Monday reopened the debate about whether officials have done enough to secure domestic bases.

At least 12 people were killed and several more were wounded, authorities said, when a 34-year-old Texas man and former Navy reservist opened fire from inside the Washington Navy Yard in one of the most violent incidents ever on a U.S. military installation. The presumed gunman also died.

National security analysts say the Pentagon has improved security at its posts since the 2001 terrorist attacks and, more recently, the 2009 shootings at Fort Hood, Texas. In that case, a radicalized Army psychiatrist shot 13 people to death and wounded more than 30 others.

But the analysts say more could be done to screen military personnel for mental health problems — though it’s not clear that such action would have prevented Monday’s rampage.

“Given the task at hand, they’ve done remarkably well,” said Jeffrey Addicott, director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary’s University in Texas. “If you think about the thousands of people who go on to military bases, it’s impossible stop and search every car.”

But Addicott said Pentagon officials also need to improve their advance screening of military personnel for signs that they could become violent.

“If you’re trying to stop them at the gate, you’re too late,” he said. “We need to have better screening processes.”

Authorities are well aware of the challenge. Just last month, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus ordered the creation of a program to counter “insider threats.”

The program, which calls for better training and increased scrutiny of Navy and Marine Corps personnel, is aimed at thwarting not only violent attacks, but also security breaches such as those carried out by Army Pfc. Bradley Manning and National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

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