Expert: Navy Yard security is poor

Evan Vucci | Associated Press A police boat patrols near the scene of a shooting at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday in Washington.

Evan Vucci | Associated Press
A police boat patrols near the scene of a shooting at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday in Washington.

By James Rosen

McClatchy-Tribune

WASHINGTON – The Washington Navy Yard, a former shipyard where Monday’s fatal shootings occurred, has a history of weak security, with past reports citing poor entrance controls, video dead spots, inadequate lighting, malfunctioning alarms and other problems.

Building 197, which houses the Naval Sea Systems Command headquarters on the 65-acre campus along the Anacostia River, was the main site of the gunfire in which 13 people died, including the killer identified by police as Aaron Alexis, 34, of Fort Worth, Texas.

James Atkinson, a former military intelligence officer who heads Granite Island Group in Gloucester, Mass., said the Navy hired his surveillance security firm in 2009 to test newly installed electronic security gates and other access controls inside Building 197.

The “controlled penetration” test revealed that a tamper sensor wasn’t working because of a design defect and that hardware-store-variety screws had been used to secure the main access-control panel instead of more expensive screws that could be loosened only with a specific screwdriver, Atkinson said.

In two dozen investigations over previous years, Atkinson’s firm found major security lapses throughout the facility, such as doors jammed open with pieces of cardboard, “crisscrossed” video cameras pointed at one another, too few cameras and bad lighting at night.

Mo Schumann, a Pentagon spokesman, declined to discuss security at the Washington Navy Yard, but he said there have been broader security upgrades at military facilities.

“Since the shootings at Fort Hood, the Department of Defense has taken a number of steps to harden our facilities and establish new systems to prevent and respond to active shooter threats,” Schumann said, referring to a 2009 shooting at an Army base in Texas in which 13 people were killed and 31 were wounded.