Senator Warner demands change after USS Mahan shooting

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Senator Mark Warner is demanding change after a civilian opened fire at Naval Station Norfolk earlier this week and killed a Sailor.

The Navy says Jeffrey Savage gunned down Master At Arms 2nd Class Mark Mayo on the USS Mahan. The Navy told 10 On Your Side Mayo used his body to block the bullet Savage fired at someone else. Security killed Savage on the quarterdeck.

There are still many unanswered questions.

“Something went horribly wrong in Norfolk the other day and we’ve got to get an answer to that,” Warner said.

Warner is asking for answers from both the Secretary of the Navy and Homeland Security. He has serious doubts the process of allowing civilians on military installations is working well.

“It is hard enough that we ask our men and women serving in the armed service to go into combat in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Warner added. “They ought to be able to go to and from work when they are home ported in safety.”

Warner crafted a letter asking for a briefing on security issues, including information about how the Transportation Worker Identification Credential program works. He said the program has been plagued with problems from its inception in 2002.

“We are almost a year after the tragedy at the Washington Navy Yard and a lot of us asked for answers,” Warner said. “We were assured the system was going to be reviewed, and I have some real open questions whether that improvement has been made.”

We now know Jeffery Savage was a professional truck driver and had a TWIC card. We know he shot a sailor after he used the card to get on Naval Station Norfolk through Gate 5. We also know he was once convicted of manslaughter for the shooting death of his best friend.

“I was shocked to think that — how could someone who’d been convicted of manslaughter get access to a secure facility?” Warner said.

The Senator is asking for a complete review of the TWIC process and asks if the qualifications to get a card should be tightened.

“It just seems to me that these were senseless deaths that could have been prevented if the system had worked,” he said.

The full text of Senator Warner’s letter is as follows:

March 28, 2014

The Honorable Jeh Johnson
Secretary of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20528

The Honorable Ray Mabus
Secretary of the Navy
1000 Navy Pentagon
Washington, D.C. 20350-1000

Dear Secretaries Johnson and Mabus:

I write to express my deep concern about the tragic March 24 shooting on Naval Station Norfolk that killed Petty Officer Mark Mayo. Initial reports indicate that a truck driver with a long and violent criminal record was able to pass through multiple security checkpoints and gain access to the secure piers where many of our most valuable warships and their crews are located. The alleged shooter was apparently granted an access card despite a previous conviction for manslaughter.

This is the second shooting at a Navy installation in the last several months. In September 2013, Aaron Alexis shot 16 people at the Washington Navy Yard, killing 12. After the Navy Yard shooting, the Department of Defense conducted an internal review and proposed several changes, including a coordinated physical security approach that leverages technology and trained manpower to reduce risk and mitigate potential threats. The intent of this report was to reform base security procedures, yet seven months later, another violent incident on a Navy base led to loss of life perpetrated by individuals who had federal credentials allowing them base access.

At Naval Station Norfolk, the alleged shooter, Jeffrey Tyrone Savage, was carrying a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) card, granted by the Transportation Security Administration. I have grave concerns about the safety and effectiveness of the TWIC program. Prompted by legislation passed in 2002, TWIC was established by the Department of Homeland Security to provide a secure credentialing system for merchant mariners, port facility employees, long shore workers, truck drivers, and others requiring unescorted access to secure areas of facilities regulated by the Maritime Transportation Security Act. However, the program has been plagued by problems since its inception. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports from 2009, 2011 and 2013 have all documented concerns with the program, ranging from ineffective data collection to weaknesses in the background check system to problems with the card readers. In fact, the 2011 GAO report (GAO-11-657) notes that weaknesses in the program’s enrollment, background checking and use, “limit the program’s ability to provide reasonable assurance that access to secure areas … is restricted to qualified individuals.”

Given this well-documented history of concerns, and in light of a second shooting perpetrated by individuals vetted and cleared by the federal government, I request a briefing as soon as possible to address the following questions:

    1. Is there a mechanism within the TWIC system that would highlight unlawful or other derogatory information in a person’s history, such as criminal activity, that an appropriate official would review before determining whether base access was warranted?
    2. What is the process for re-evaluating proper thresholds for whether or not an individual is eligible for the TWIC program based on criminal history? How often is that re-evaluation process conducted?
    3. What specific coordination is done between DHS, other national security agencies and the Office of Personnel Management in aligning security clearance processes and sharing best practices? Have the results from the DoD internal review following the Navy Yard shooting been shared with other federal agencies?
    4. Has DHS done internal assessments as to the overall effectiveness of the TWIC program, including analysis if the security objectives could be achieved through other means or through coordination with other, more effective existing clearance programs?
    5. While the loss of human life alone is a significant and compelling reason to review these procedures, the Naval Station Norfolk shooting also jeopardized the security of the ships on Pier 1, where the USS MAHAN was in port. Lapses such as this one could potentially lead to a terrorist attack. Did naval security personnel appropriately clear this person, and was there inadequate attention paid to security protocols?

After the Navy Yard shooting in September, I successfully introduced a security clearance amendment to the FY2014 National Defense Authorization Act that requires the DoD to begin developing a risk-based approach to continuous monitoring and investigation of individuals who have already been given a clearance. The amendment, which is now in law, modified the previous approach to security clearance review known as “perimeter security.” Once an employee is investigated and granted a clearance, he or she may not again be scrutinized for five years or longer, even if the person routinely handles huge volumes of classified data, or has access to highly sensitive areas. Suspicious changes in lifestyle or personality might not be noticed until it is too late. The law stipulates that certain cleared personnel – like those with access to installations such as the Navy’s ships – be monitored and/or reinvestigated especially closely.

Our military men and women who willingly serve in harm’s way overseas should have a reasonable expectation of safety on a U.S. military facility here at home. I urge you to schedule a briefing with my office as soon as possible. I look forward to working with you to ensure we provide a safe and secure environment at our military installations.


United States Senator

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