Getting into a military base is about to get tougher even for well-credentialed individuals, as the Defense Department implements a new screening system that will subject people to FBI background checks every time they enter a facility.
The new system will mark a first for the Defense Department, which previously screened people – currently enlisted troops, veterans, relatives, and others – against its own database only. Beginning on Friday, identification cards handed out by the department will be automatically linked to the FBI’s criminal database, and any time a background check brings up violations lie arrests or felonies, the individual in question will be taken aside and questioned.
According to the federal technology website NextGov.com, DOD have been working on this feature for some time now, but decided to fast-track implementation after the tragic shooting at the Washington Navy Yard in 2013, which saw the deaths of 12 people. Three others were injured in the incident, which only ended after the shooter was killed by police.
Earlier this year, another shooting unfolded at Fort Hood in Texas. Four people were killed during this attack, and sixteen were injured.
"This all comes back to the Washington Navy Yard process, which was a big deal -- but the real change that happened was the physical security community and the IT guys talked to each other and said, ‘You know what, it’s not a physical security problem; it’s an identity problem," Michael Butler, deputy director for identity services at the Defense Manpower Data Center, said to NextGov. "When you look at it that way, it completely changes the game."
The project was also given a boost by an independent review of the Navy Yard shooting, which suggested the screening system – known as IMESA – be implemented at all DOD locations in order to protect against similar attacks going forward. Notably, the Navy Yard shooter was able to gain access to restricted areas with his ID card even though he had been arrested previously and had other violations on his record.
In its report, the review panel found that current security methods at military bases are lacking and need to be improved.
“The systems and processes for admitting cleared and uncleared personnel through the gates to DOD facilities are insufficient to ensure on-base security,” the report stated. “Currently, each service is implementing its own automated system for its own facilities . . . We recommend the joint approach of the Identity Management Enterprise Services Architecture effort.”
In addition to connecting ID cards to the FBI database, the DOD is also planning on adding records from state and local law enforcement agencies in the future. The Pentagon stated that on August 8th, all facilities capable of handling the screening system will have it up and running.