Following the Washington Navy Yard shooting that claimed the lives of 12 civilians Monday, Sep. 16, the defense department is looking into its policy on background checks and taking further steps to reform the process, Reuters reports.
Defense department officials told the news source that background checks for workers with "secret" security clearance are valid for a decade. The checks are only re-opened if new reports of misconduct are raised by the individual's supervisor or self-reported, officials said. While there is a self-reporting requirement, officials are skeptical that workers who participate in illegal activity would be inclined to report themselves.
The harsh reality
As safety concerns rise following Monday's mass shooting at a U.S. military installation, newly uncovered details of the shooter's former military life provide insight into the potential failings of the security clearance system, the news outlet reports.
Aaron Alexis, a Navy veteran, was initially given security clearance in 2008 during his service in the Navy Reserve. At the time of the shooting, Alexis was working for a defense contractor as an information technology specialist.
The background check highlighted a 2004 arrest, but Alexis was nonetheless granted clearance. That clearance held over to Alexis' current specialist job, because it was already tied to the military, an official told the news source.
"In national policy, there is a procedure which allows for reinstatement of that existing clearance, provided that there's no derogatory information known," the official said.
However, Alexis, an increasingly troubled individual, had recent issues. The Los Angeles Times reports that Rhode Island police warned the Navy just last month about Alexis' recent mental health developments, including his statement that he was allegedly hearing voices. A Navy official told the news source that the security department did not label Alexis as a threat after a "routine" review.
The news outlet also states that Alexis was treated by a Veterans Affairs hospital in late August for insomnia, and was discharged to his primary care provider.
A policy in flux
Defense department officials told Reuters that while security clearances were ramped up following 2009's mass shooting at Fort Hood in Texas, a new security process is still evolving.
"What we're doing is trying to make sure we have a system by which we are appropriately protecting [privacy], but providing information to the experts who need to know it," an official said.
According to defense officials, only 52 of the 89 security recommendations offered since 2009 have been fully implemented within the department. Among those recommendations still in development are information sharing between the FBI and local police jurisdictions, the establishment of threat-management units and active shooter training, the news source reports.
The defense department is also working on a program that would immediately notify security officials of recent arrests and criminal charges. Defense officials hope that program will help identify potential threats to military safety.