The U.S. Naval Academy has upgraded physical security and antiterrorism measures at its massive Bancroft Hall dormitory following a Navy investigation last year that found the building’s security setup was seriously lacking.
A Naval Audit Service probe of Bancroft Hall, released internally last year and recently obtained by Navy Times, reveals that the academy “did not have effective physical security controls in place at Bancroft Hall.”
The stately facility is considered the largest dorm in the country, according to the report, and houses more than 4,000 midshipmen in 1,700 rooms connected by nearly five miles of corridor.
The audit was conducted at the request of the academy’s commandant of midshipmen, with auditors investigating through 2021 and 2022.
“USNA personnel expressed concerns regarding the current security parameters at Bancroft Hall,” the audit states. “USNA is often viewed as a soft target for terrorist threats.”
That’s because of its collegiate environment, historic prominence and high-profile status as a military academy, according to the report.
And unlike other military installations, the academy grounds are generally open to the public and attract thousands of visitors a year “who are welcome to browse USNA at their own pace,” the audit states.
“These visitors are often brought into the Rotunda/Memorial Hall/Main Office center span of Bancroft Hall,” auditors wrote. “Because of this, USNA is vulnerable to threats from extremist nations seeking to cause damage and injury to U.S. military forces.”
The publicly released version of the probe obtained by Navy Times via a Freedom of Information Act records request is heavily redacted, including the portions laying out specific security shortcomings at Bancroft.
Academy spokeswoman Cmdr. Alana Garas said the academy has since implemented the audit’s 12 recommendations for change.
The audit was conducted to advance awareness of any physical security concerns as the academy prepares its 30-year recapitalization plans, Garas said in an email this week.
“The last Bancroft Hall renovations were initiated prior to 9/11,” she said. “While some changes were made during those renovations to address increased post-9/11 physical security risks, we recognized the importance of an updated review to best prepare for current circumstances and challenges.
“We take the security of the members of the Brigade of Midshipmen very seriously and we leverage our resources accordingly,” Garas added.
While heavily redacted under a FOIA exemption having to do with physical security, the audit notes a lack of management oversight and a lack of risk assessments, anti-terrorism drills and other measures that should have been in place.
“Also, there was a lack of clarity as to who was responsible for implementation of the physical security/(anti-terrorism) requirements as well as record retention,” the audit states.
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.