WASHINGTON — Lawmakers including U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine raised questions Tuesday about whether military contractors are being vetted adequately for security clearance at federal facilities.

“It is clear from both the Edward Snowden case and for the shooter at the Navy Yard that the process is deeply flawed,” said Collins, a Republican. “For the shooter to have received a security clearance despite having an arrest record in apparently three different states defies belief.”

The security clearance review was one of several actions announced by the Obama administration on Tuesday, one day after federal contractor Aaron Alexis killed 12 people and wounded several others at the Washington Navy Yard. Alexis, a former Navy reservist reportedly battling mental health problems, was killed by police after a lengthy firefight.

Earlier Tuesday, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus ordered an expedited review of security procedures at all Navy and Marine facilities. Mabus set an Oct. 1 deadline and indicated that a longer-term review will follow the initial study.

“Our sailors, Marines and civilians are familiar with the dangers of service, but our security is something we can never take for granted,” Mabus said in a statement. “I ordered a review of every Navy and Marine Corps base in the United States to ensure that we live up to our responsibility of taking care of our people.”

Numerous news reports suggested that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is expected to expand Mabus’ directive by ordering a review of security measures at U.S. military sites worldwide.


Officials at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery — a high-security facility where an estimated 4,700 civilian employees work on nuclear submarines — declined to comment on the review ordered by Mabus.

“Certainly we are vigilant and will continue to be vigilant, but we don’t discuss security measures,” said Danna Eddy, public affairs officer for the shipyard.

The Navy announcement happened on the same day that the Pentagon’s Office of Inspector General released a draft report — under development for a year — that said that Navy cost-cutting attempts led to riskier “access control” policies for contractors at naval facilities. As a result, 52 convicted felons had routine, unauthorized access to secure facilities, the report stated.

Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, a California Republican who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, said the report revealed “critical flaws” in the Navy’s system.

Details of Monday’s mass shooting less than two miles from the U.S. Capitol only raised more questions about why Alexis had a security clearance enabling him to land a contractor job with access to the Navy Yard.

The 34-year-old had multiple run-ins with police, including an incident in Seattle during which he shot three tires of a car and another in Texas in 2010 when he fired a gun through a neighbor’s ceiling. His Navy record showed eight citations for misconduct, and just last month he told police in Rhode Island that he was hearing voices and accused individuals of sending “microwave vibrations” into his hotel room to deprive him of sleep, according to The Associated Press.


Alexis apparently first was given a security clearance while in the Navy and was able to keep it after he requested and received an honorable discharge from the Navy. He was never charged with either gun offense.

Tuesday afternoon, White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Barack Obama had directed the Office of Management and Budget to review security clearance policies for contractors and employees throughout the federal government. The broader review is on top of an earlier, more limited review prompted by the Snowden leaks.

“So this is obviously a matter that the president believes and has believed merits review,” Carney said during a press briefing.

But Collins, who is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said earlier in the day that she would like to see both the Government Accountability Office — the independent watchdog agency for Congress — and the Pentagon Inspector General conduct reviews.

Collins questioned whether the Office of Personnel Management — the agency responsible for reviewing applications for security clearances — had “contracted out too much of the security clearance duties” to companies that were not doing a thorough job.

“That raises questions about the thoroughness of the review and whether we are paying outside firms to do security clearances that are worthless,” Collins said in an interview. “Even a cursory review should have pulled up (Alexis’) arrest records and the problems that he had in the Navy where he came very close to a general discharge and had a record that was replete with problems.”


Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., requested that the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hold a hearing on the issue of security clearances for contractors working at military facilities.

While many details of Monday’s shooting are still unknown, “we must move quickly to fully understand contracting hiring practices at military installations to ensure that federal contractors are qualified, fit to serve, and don’t pose a danger to the workforce, or our national security,” Ayotte wrote in a letter to the committee leaders.

Alexis reportedly had sought and received some treatment from a Veterans’ Affairs facility for his mental health problems. The two leaders of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs — Republican Chairman Jeff Miller of Florida and ranking Democrat Mike Michaud of Maine — sent separate letters to the VA on Tuesday seeking the details of all inpatient and outpatient care Alexis received.

U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, welcomed news that Defense Secretary Hagel was likely to order a security review of all military facilities.

“The reality is that we live in an age when threats confront us in many forms — both abroad and here at home, as we tragically witnessed yesterday at the Washington Navy Yard — and I believe it’s appropriate for us to try to determine if there is more we can do to better protect our citizens,” King said in a statement.

Kevin Miller — 317-6256


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