On Tuesday night, investigators were still trying to sort out just why Aaron Alexis showed up at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., and started shooting, and over a two-hour period killed 12 federal civilian employees.
At military installations across South Florida, there were questions about how Alexis was able to obtain a security clearance and what steps should be taken to prevent a similar tragedy here.
Commanders at the Homestead Air Reserve Base, Coast Guard air and sea installations, and at U.S. Southern Command in Doral all have procedures that allow those who possess the proper badge into what are designated as secure locations.
"I venture to say that no one thought someone would try to get into the building to do this kind of thing, that someone would try to get into the building to collect information – intelligence – but not to go on a rampage," said Frank Mora, former assistant secretary of defense. He heads Florida International University's Latin American and Carribean Center.
He is surprised that Alexis was able to get a secret level security clearance, even a temporary one to work on computers, with a record of three arrests. Two of them were for discharging firearms, once in Seattle for shooting the tires of a car and the other in Texas when the gun went off in his apartment and the bullet end up in the unit above.
"In this particular case had they done, or had gone through the process of providing the official clearance they would have run into some of the incidences and he would have been denied a badge to get into the building," Mora said.
Officials at Southern Command said it regularly trains for emergencies and earlier this year conducted a training exercise to handle just the kind of situation that developed Monday. Law enforcement said Alexis had serious mental issues, but was not declared mentally unfit during his time in the Navy, a factor that would have denied him getting a security clearance.
Mora says even with all of the proper security checks, nothing can predict the kind of violence that was seen in Washington on Monday. On Tuesday afternoon the Defense Department announced that every military installation, including those here in South Florida, will have to conduct a full security review.
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