Security professionals around the entire were shocked and dismayed when they turned on the news and saw the historic Washington Navy Yard locked down, surrounded by emergency vehicles, and looking for an active shooter.
All the shock, the outrage, the Defense Department reaction, the involvement of the overlapping law enforcement jurisdictions, has apparently been already forgotten by the public, moved to the virtual ‘old story’ pile by the latest news of a mall shooting in Kenya, meeting at the UN, and the politics as usual in Washington DC.
If you graph it online, you can see the dramatic spike and then the dramatic drop-off in interest by the general public. This highlights what the security community has to deal with, in the context of a 24 hour news cycle.
My perspective on the event was personal because one of my very best friends was in Building 197 that day, a former navy commander, now a contractor, who went to work at 5 am that morning, and finally returned home at 9 pm that night. Unlike many shootings, the PCs, smartphones were all up and operational during the event, so people were instantly able to communicate with friends and relatives as the event unfolded.
Rumors ran rampant that it was terrorism related, that there were three shooters, then that rumor switched to two shooters and eventually to only one shooter, Alexis Aaron, a mentally disturbed young man who had previous events of gun violence and yet had a top secret security clearance at the time of the shooting.
If we took a poll three weeks ago and asked people which facility would they judge to be the safest, the results
would probably look something like this:
1. Military Base in the U.S.
3. Regional Mall
4. Police Station
Unfortunately – this is more like a list of the places where a shooting is more likely to take place. As all the work in workplace violence statistics shows, a domestic Military Base has been the site of two mass shootings in only the last 4 years. This includes the twelve killed and eight wounded at the Washington Navy Yard, as well as the thirteen killed and twenty injured at the Fort Hood shooting in late 2009. That’s an average of 6 killed each year, and 8 injured, and doesn’t take into account any random shootings, training-related injuries, only the mass shootings.
Hospitals have increased in violent incidents every year for the last ten years, and we just witnessed a mass shooting at a Kenyan Mall.
However, the hospital and the mall are both completely OPEN, they want people to come in, they don’t control access at all.
This is what is so surprising about the Navy Yard shootings, the lack of security, lack of enough armed guards, lack of current background checks, lack of metal detectors, lack of retina scanners, and every other usual form of security control.
Speculation is that the key controls were missing because of budget cuts, which means that the Navy made the decision to reduce security controls, instead of cutting other, less critical programs. The incident makes a strong case for examining the potential Return on Investment for security controls!
Even if the shooter’s background check was “current”, it certainly had not been updated based on his own recent events, and brushes with the police, and, of course, the anger and mental health problems appears again, and is shrugged off as too tough to manage and track.
However, it is a wake up call for the U.S. Navy, the Department of Defense, the U.S. Capital Police, and a variety of other organizations who “Secure” the Washington DC Capitol zone, and it leads to more questions than answers.
Already, the questions are starting about what controls SHOULD be in place for all military bases, and, naturally, re-examining the background check process and how it could be updated and improved.
Let’s not forget this time.