Thursday, September 19, 2013

Navy Security in trouble

As a lifelong Navy devotee (I even play taps and fly my flag at half mast on those rare occasions when West Point beats Annapolis), I was very upset when I ran across a new story on CNN reporting that a Federal Audit found dozens of convicted felons had gotten unescorted access to Navy installations for weeks and even years because an outside company hired to save money issued temporary credentials to contractors before completing proper background checks. 

The Navy used to take security very seriously. I have been through the background mill for security clearance more than once and they had delved so deep into my personal history that they knew the names of relatives I did not know even existed. They even discovered some unreported high school pranks I had been involved in and a cracked anklebone I had gotten in a school play and kept secret so I could play football. 

The idea that they have changed so radically (for the worse), especially when we are coming off of a decade of war and are in an ongoing war with terrorists, is more than disappointing. It is unforgivable

To add insult to injury, the Pentagon inspector generals audit also found the program intended to save money  wound up costing tax dollars instead. 

Coming a day after a "contractor" opened fire at the Washington Navy Yard, killing 12 people and getting killed himself, the audit amounted to a powerful indictment of security measures at the Navy Department. 

One small piece of good news was that there is no connection between the Navy Commercial Access Control System (NCACS) and Aaron Alexis, the IT contractor who was killed during the shooting spree at the Washington Navy Yard. Alexis had a different kind of pass that was not issued through the NCACS. 

However, the audit revealed security loopholes that potentially put personnel at risk at 10 Navy installations around the country that were studied as a sample of the more than 60 located in the continental United States. 

In its response to the audit, the Navy accepted some recommendations for further review and analysis of the NCACS program but rejected the call to end it, saying it met all federal requirements for background checks (if it is issuing passes before completing the background checks that claim sounds absolutely ludicrous). 

Discontinuing the program that handled more than 14 million safe visits would result in "unnecessarily long lines" at access points to Navy installations, the Navy response said. 

Called Rapidgate by its operating company, Eid Passport, the NCACS began screening and credentialing for most contractors and other commercial workers at Navy bases more than two years ago. 

While the military issues credentials to its personnel, NCACS handles workers from government contractors who choose to pay a fee for credentials in a process that includes a background check. Contractors unwilling to pay the fee can apply for day passes, while the Rapidgate system offers up to a year of unfettered access. Am I the only one who sees a small conflict of interest here? People paying  private companies for thier own security clearances???? Really?

According to the audit, there were 9,657 companies and 64,924 individuals enrolled in Rapidgate near the end of 2011. As of March 1 of this year, the numbers had grown to 30,702 companies enrolled with 298,204 individual participants. 

Many of the contractors got interim passes while Eid Passport was still conducting a background check required by military regulations, and others got full credentials without having been fully vetted as required through the National Crime Information Center database and the Terrorist Screening Database.

In addition, seven of the 10 bases visited by auditors lacked sufficient resources to conduct the required background checks for contractors seeking day passes instead of paying to take part in the NCACS. 

Hey, you guys at the Navy Department, get your damned act together! Stop playing politics and giving out contracts to civilian companies to do things this important. Do it yourself. Do it right.

If the Navy's base security is really this lax, we are all lucky this guy at the Navy Yard wasn’t a real terrorist or a forgein agent who knew his stuff. The body count would have been much worse. Next time it may be.

Todays Reflection:
Just remember...if the world didn't suck, we'd all fall off.

Live Long and Prosper....

No comments: