Defense Secretary Ash Carter has amplified his call for better security at military recruiting stations and other small, remote facilities, issuing a new directives aimed at preventing another attack like this summer's deadly shooting in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Efforts will include more training alongside local law enforcement, accelerating use of extra "physical security enhancements," and improving mass notification alerts meant to inform local authorities and other nearby military personnel when there are specific threats or attacks already are unfolding.
Carter's orders are detailed in an October memo to the military's top uniformed and civilian leadership, including all of the service chiefs and heads of the military's joint combatant commands, and they underscore his desire to prioritize funding for facilities most vulnerable to attacks. The clock is ticking, too. Carter's memo stipulates that all changes must be implemented before April — with some benchmarks occurring before the new year begins.
The Chattanooga shooting left five service members dead — four Marines and a sailor — along with the gunman, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez. On July 16, the 24-year-old pumped dozens of rounds into a storefront recruiting station, wounding one Marine, before crashing the gate and opening fire on a thinly protected Navy reserve center across town, where all five of the fatalities occurred.
Carter immediately authorized select additional personnel to carry firearms at smaller facilities, and some state governors approved similar rules for more National Guard personnel. But the Pentagon has strenuously resisted calls from members of Congress and others to arm recruiters, saying it could alienate prospective recruits and their families.
Moreover, some commanders have been reluctant to allow more of their troops to carry firearms while on duty, wary, they say, of how much training would be required to ensure such a move doesn't backfire and create unintended safety concerns that don't exist now. Senior military officials also have said allowing all troops to carry guns would be cost prohibitive from a training standpoint.
Carter's memo makes clear that "appropriately qualified" personnel assigned to off-base facilities that "require further protection" should have authority to carry concealed firearms. This includes military security details, law enforcement, criminal investigators and counterintelligence personnel. Contracted security personnel who meet the Defense Department's qualifications also will be considered, the memo says.
Carter's memo does not elaborate on the use of extra physical security enhancements, but said each of the services and combatant commands should expedite implementation of any additional safety measures they consider an immediate need. The Marine Corps, for exampleinstance, has indicated it will add security cameras at recruiting centers, outfit doors with remote-locking mechanisms and provide offices with movable shields and desk partitions capable of stopping bullets.
"The measures that DoD components have taken thus far, along with those approved by this memorandum, will mitigate the risk we face," Carter said. "I ask commanders and leaders at all levels to work closely with their local communities to implement solutions."
Individual units have less than three months to work with local law enforcement and first responders to develop training, and personnel have been given until April to complete security surveys and prioritize funding for safety upgrades. All of the department's satellite facilities must have a mass warning system in place early next year as well, the memo says.
"To perform our mission," Carter said, "we must protect our people, installations, and facilities from threats."