In the wake of the mass shooting Monday in which 12 civilian and contract employees were gunned down at the Washington Navy Yard, President Barack Obama has ordered a review of security standards for contractors and federal employees.
White House spokesman Jay Carney announced Tuesday that Obama has ordered the Office of Management and Budget to examine security-clearance standards for contractors and employees across federal agencies.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has similarly directed the Pentagon to review security procedures at all DoD installations worldwide, a senior Pentagon official confirmed Tuesday. A formal announcement of that effort could come Wednesday. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus previously directed a review of security at all Navy and Marine Corps bases nationwide.
But agencies across government should expect to see immediate changes as well, experts told Federal News Radio.
Wendell Shingler, the former director of the Federal Protective Service, the agency responsible for safeguarding federal facilities, predicted a “step up” in security at agencies across Washington, D.C., in the coming days.
“You might see a little more canine activity, officers on patrol — they will be a lot more visible as will virtually everybody else in protecting their facilities,” Shengler said in a recent interview on In Depth with Francis Rose.
Shingler, who has since retired from the federal government, also helped develop the Justice Department’s vulnerability assessment for federal facilities following the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.
The ongoing investigation into the shooting will likely determine the types of security changes agencies plan to implement, Shingler said.
The FBI has said 34-year-old Aaron Alexis, a former Navy reservist, had “legitimate access” to the Navy Yard facilities where he shot and killed 12 employees because of his employment with a Defense subcontractor.
“For the most part, I think you’ll see that the determinations that result from the investigation will focus or at least give clarity to which way the agencies are going to go as far as what measures are incorporated,” Shingler said.
Agencies more adept at crisis mode
In the meantime, experts are giving high marks to the initial response to the shootings.
Shingler said the Federal Protective Service, “along with a number of other federal agencies that protect federal facilities and people have been aggressively proactive in not only training their officers to respond to a situation like that, but actually training their tenants, which is a vital part now,” Shingler said.
Agencies have become more alert to potential dangers in the dozen years since the 9/11 attacks, said Charlie Allen, former undersecretary for intelligence and analysis at the Homeland Security Department.
“Every federal facility has an emergency plan, an evacuation plan, shelter-in- place plan,” Allen said in an interview on the Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Emily Kopp. “We are a whole different government from where we were on Sept. 11 … where we did not have this kind of structure and organization and rapid response.”
Federal response efforts have also incorporated best practices learned from the shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007 and other recent mass shootings.
“An active shooter (event) is one that, fortunately, the federal government and a lot of private-industry law enforcement and agencies have trained for, for some time now,” Shingler said.
For example, DHS provides multiple resources for “active shooter preparedness,” including courses and workshops. DHS also recently provided funding for a video released by the city of Houston providing tips for how to survive an “active-shooter” event
“This is a bad event, and the more we are prepared for those bad events … the less lives will be lost,” Shingler said. “Sadly, the active shooter has become part of the new norm.”
Francis Rose is the host of In Depth, which airs weekdays from 4-7 p.m. on 1500 AM in the Washington, DC metro area and online everywhere. Francis has covered all three branches of the federal government as a broadcast journalist since 1998. He joined Federal News Radio in 2006 as the producer and news anchor of the station’s morning drive program, the Federal Drive. He launched In Depth in 2008 as a daily show focused on connecting federal executives to the information they need to do their jobs better.