Pete Souza / The White House
President Barack Obama receives an update on the Washington Naval Yard shootings investigation by FBI Director James Comey, center, and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in the Oval Office on Tuesday. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, far left, and Lisa Monaco, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism also attended.
President Barack Obama has ordered a comprehensive review of government contractor and employee protections, according to the White House.
The move comes in the wake of the mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, which raised concerns about security procedures at U.S. military installations.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday that Obama has directed his Office of Management and Budget to closely inspect security measures for contractors and employees across federal agencies.
Military officials said that the shooter — Aaron Alexis, 34, a former Navy reservist who was working as a civilian contractor — had a security card that allowed him access to the Navy Yard but not to the office building where he later opened fire, killing 12 people and wounding several others Monday.
Obama's move also followed the public release Tuesday of a Defense Department Inspector General report which disclosed major flaws in security screening of contractors working on Navy installations.
The reports says some 52 convicted felons managed to routinely get on bases even though their felony convictions came before they were granted entry credentials.
“Numerous” contractor employees, according to the report, were issued such credentials without proper vetting through authoritative databases such as the National Crime Information Center and the Terrorist Screening Databases, the report found.
What’s more, contractors were too easily allowed to get local day passes without the mandatory screening, according to the report.
"While there may not be a direct link between the result of this report and the horrific loss of life, I am deeply concerned about the current security situation at Navy facilities,” U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, wrote to Mabus Tuesday after a briefing by the inspector general. "It is unacceptable that the Navy has granted installation access to individuals without performing thorough and complete background checks." He called for "immediate action to remedy all security gaps.”
Before the mass shooting, Alexis was working for a subcontractor for Hewlett-Packard Enterprises called The Experts, which does work in the Navy Yard complex. A company spokesman said Tuesday that Alexis had passed two background checks — most recently in June — and that the company confirmed twice through the U.S. Defense Department that Alexis had security clearance.
There was "no unadjudicated derogatory information" on Alexis when he received his secret security clearance in March 2008, a Defense Department official told NBC News.
In an emailed statement, the official said: "According to the Joint Personnel Adjudication System (JPAS), which is the department's management system for security clearance actions, the Office of Personnel and Management (OPM) conducted a National Agency Check with Local Agency Checks and Credit check (NACLC) scope investigation on Mr. Aaron Alexis."
According to the statement, the NACLC was completed in 2007. Then, in March 2008, the Department of Navy Central Adjudication Facility (DONCAF) found Alexis eligible for access to "secret" information.
The statement goes on to say: "According to applicable federal investigative standards, an individual with Mr. Alexis' non-critical level of eligibility would only need to be re-investigated once every 10 years."
In addition to the OMB inquiry, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus plans to order two reviews to examine security protocols at all Navy and Marine Corps installations, a senior defense official told NBC News.
The first of those reviews will be a “quick look” at physical security requirements of bases, the official said. The second will be a more in-depth look at both the physical and personal security requirement.
The personal requirements include whether someone is likely to protect classified information and adhere to standard security procedures. The physical review is a deeper look at physical security requirements on a base: swipe access, perimeter security, patrols, etc.
Meanwhile, in an interview with Spanish-language broadcaster Telemundo on Tuesday, Obama called on Congress to take swift action on ramping up background checks for gun purchases.
“The fact that we do not have a firm enough background-check system is something that makes us more vulnerable to these kinds of massing shoots,” Obama said, adding that “ultimately this is something that Congress is going to have to act on.”
NBC News' Erin McClam and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
First published September 17 2013, 5:38 PM