Media, The Navy and the DC Shooter: A Retired Navy Security Officer’s View

RickWardIf you are watching the news in the early stages of the Navy Yard shooting, you may not be surprised that you hear one thing and hours later hear something totally different. It seems the media gets focused on things like, how many shooters were there, what kind of gun was used, how did he get a security clearance with his background and so on. Many of these are valid questions but the demand put on Navy officials for facts quickly impacts on those with boots on the ground, leading to nothing but misinformation.

I reminisce of the frustration I often encountered when a major incident occurred. The media was all over everything as soon as it happened, demanding facts. The Admirals exercising power would insist in real time to get active, factual reports. I also reminisce of my days learning to fly airplanes. My instructor would always insist on flying the airplane. Even during an emergency, you would like to report your problem and position over the radio. However, regardless of all else, fly the plane. That’s what we needed to do in the Navy. We needed to handle the situation at hand. Obviously the public wants to know but there has to be a line drawn. We had a saying that we whispered to each other “If you want it bad, you’ll get it bad.”

That’s why we first believed there were 3 shooters, then 2, now 1. That’s why we still don’t know how many or which guns were used. Supposedly there is a shotgun, a Glock pistol and an AR-15. It was first reported that he bought an AR-15 in Virginia but later determined he rented in during a practice session. Now they don’t even know if there was an AR-15 on the scene or if that is just typical hype. They now have determined he bought a shotgun at the place he rented the AR-15. They wouldn’t sell him the AR-15, but it may not have been for sale. As far as the military weapons, it would only take about 10 minutes to determine ownership of them. They have not determined that one of them was a gun taken from a guard he shot.

Now there is a focus on his security clearance and they are questioning it based on his arrest record and past behavior. They are even reporting that everybody who goes on the base has to have a security clearance (not true). As far as his clearance goes, he most likely had an “interim” clearance awarded by the contractor’s Security Manager approved by the Defense Investigative Service. It took me 5 years to get a Secret Clearance. It only took me one year after that to get a Top Secret Clearance. However, the older you are and the more places you have lived, the longer it takes for them to investigate you at each place. We know he was in NY, WA, TX, GA and wherever he may have been stationed. He was not 18 like the new recruit getting a clearance. He was 34 years old. They are talking about his “Honorable Discharge.” But he had a pattern of misconduct that led to his release from active duty. A pattern of misconduct usually results in an Honorable under General Conditions which is no more than an Administrative Discharge. There were other reports of civilian misconduct but no felonies and we don’t know the disposition of any of the cases. Arrests alone don’t bar you from clearances. There must be convictions.

There is also focus on the entry procedures of the base and security. Well, anybody with an authorized ID can get on the base, including family members and contractors. They can’t possibly stop every car and inspect it. They have done that but only when the highest threat level exists like 9-11. If they did that, workers would never get on the base in time for work. The two main gates for that facility are on the main thoroughfare. The gates are within a 100 feet off the street. If you stop cars and search them for about 20 minutes, especially during peak hours of traffic, you will create major traffic jams. All it takes is for one Admiral to be late for work and that inspection routine stops. We were limited to “RAM’s” (Random Access Measures) but they would almost never be done during peak traffic hours. We know now that the shooter entered the building at about 8:15 and had just driven in which would have been during peak hours.

This whole situation just reinforces a problem that we are seeing right here in Mississippi.

  1. Signs don’t keep criminals out – “No weapons” signs are posted at all gates
  2. Unarmed people are at the mercy of mass shooter – Arm yourself
  3. Unarmed people cannot expect the police to be there in time – No requirement
  4. Other people with guns limit the number of people killed – In mass shooter incidents
  5. Nut cases are the problem – Not the gun

The Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) had their own internal armed security at building 197 and their other two buildings on the base. I have been to many meetings inside and security at the front door was sufficient. I have no idea about the security of back doors or basement doors. I suspect the shooter knew of an alternate access point that bypassed security with the gun.

Rick Ward reported for duty at the Navy Yard in May 2004 at the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) Headquarters, just two buildings east of building 197. The Navy had recently stood up a command called “Commander Navy Installations Command” (CNIC) responsible for oversight of all shore installations first located across the river at Anacostia, MD, but relocated to the Navy Yard. Since CNIC was a new command, they did not have a Navy Security Officer so Ward was later reassigned to provide Security oversight to all Navy shore installations on behalf of CNIC as their subject matter expert. The Security Officer at the Navy Yard reported to CNIC administratively and operationally to the base commander.


  1. The five points you listed are totally correct. Glad to see someone out there has some common sense!!!

  2. Anyone who is determined or crazy enough to instigate a mass shooting, especially on a military base has no realistic expectation of surviving. Often times when the shooter runs out of victims he turns the gun on himself. We have seen this scenario play out numerous times and more often than not the shooter dies at his own hand before the police get there. A person on a suicide mission will not be deterred by any law. A law abiding citizen will. All law really amounts to is a threat of future punishment for an act committed in the present. To a person who is planning to die, any threat of future consequences is meaningless as he has no future.

    With only one exception, all of the mass shootings that have happened in the last three decades have all happened in “gun free zones” Mental illness is not the same thing as stupidity and these deranged murderers, as crazy as they are, want to take as many people with them as possible so in order to maximize the carnage they choose soft targets where they will not risk being stopped by a random armed person. Even though there were a couple of armed guard present at this latest episode, They were easily identifiable by their uniforms so it appears they were shot first and used as a gun store. Once the killer got past them he knew that no one there could shoot back. This is the reason that a uniformed guard at the door of the school building is not nearly the deterrent that an unknown number of potentially armed teachers, staff or visiting parents would be.

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