WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) — Armed guards stand at the gates. IDs are needed to pass through electronic barriers. And uniformed members of the American military — trained and battle-tested to recognize the enemy and kill — are everywhere, smartly saluting as they come and go.
And yet, twice in less than four years, a person with permission to be there passed through the layers of protection at a U.S. base and opened fire, undermining the sense of security at the installations that embody the most powerful military in the world.
"It is earth-shattering. When military bases are no longer safe, where is safe if that even doesn't exist anymore?" said Col. Kathy Platoni, a reservist who keeps a gun under her desk after witnessing the shooting at Fort Hood in Texas in 2009, when Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan killed 13 people.
In the wake of this week's deadly rampage at the Washington Navy Yard, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the Pentagon to review security at all U.S. defense installations worldwide and the issuing of security clearances that allow access to them.
"We will find those gaps and we will fix those gaps," Hagel vowed on Wednesday.
After Fort Hood, the military tightened security at bases nationwide. Those measures included issuing security personnel long-barreled weapons, adding an insider-attack scenario to their training, and strengthening ties to local law enforcement, said Peter Daly, a vice admiral who retired from the Navy in 2011. The military also joined an FBI intelligence-sharing program aimed at identifying terror threats.
Then, on Monday, Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old former Navy reservist who held a security clearance as an information technology employee at a defense company, used a valid pass to get into the Washington Navy Yard and killed 12 people before dying in a gun battle with police.