Lawmakers agree military base security must be reviewed
FORT HOOD, Texas — Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agreed Sunday that everything from security procedures to budget cuts must be reviewed in light of last week’s shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, which left four dead and 16 wounded.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul said he’d like to have more military police on bases but doesn’t see how that’s possible with budget cuts like sequestration.
“I think the best way to do it would be to have more military police on our bases. But the fact is the President’s budget takes us back to World War II levels, so I don’t see an increase in that kind of funding,” McCaul said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, said he thinks perimeter security needs to be improved in attempting to prevent tragedies like this from happening again.
The assailant in last week’s Fort Hood shooting, Army Spc. Ivan Lopez, legally purchased his soon-to-be deadly weapon off base but illegally brought it onto the base without registering it.
Last month in Virginia, a civilian contractor killed one sailor before security personnel shot and killed him on board the USS Mahan, which was docked at Naval Station Norfolk.
And in September, another civilian contractor killed 12 people and wounded four others at Washington’s Navy Yard after going through a checkpoint and walking into the facility with a disassembled shotgun in his backpack.
“I think stopping these at the gate is the place where we should most focus our attention,” Kaine said.
Another area mentioned was mental health screening. Both lawmakers pointed out that 13 years of war have put an incredible strain on the military and many service members are coming home suffering from mental illness.
McCaul said he’s sponsoring a bill to increase mental health screening for military personnel.
“We’re good at healing broken bodies but not good at healing broken minds,” McCaul said.
“There’s a physical check, but there’s not a mental health evaluation when people enter the service. I think this would be a good idea, No. 1, to screen out individuals that may have mental illness problems and No. 2, have a baseline so when they return home, we can compare that to where they are when they come back.”
But that wouldn’t affect the civilian contractors who are on bases. And while Lopez was deployed to Iraq, Maj. Nidal Hasan, the 2009 Fort Hood shooter, didn’t spend any time in combat.