Flash your common access card (CAC). The guard matches your CAC with your mug (Tom Selleck mustache? no mustache – hm-m-m), checks to ensure your Department of Defense decal is still valid, and waves you in.
Wait in traffic, park your car and hang your parking lot decal (God forbid someone tows your car away).
Swipe your CAC or building badge (once, maybe twice if the magnetic stripe is getting a little worn out), wait again, and step inside.
Aside from a few extra steps, entering a military installation isn’t very different than arriving for work in any office building. Monday’s terrible shooting at the Washington Navy Yard will prompt an outcry to overhaul physical security procedures at DOD facilities. Yet the truth of the matter is that if someone is willing to trade his own life to inflict carnage on others in a secure government facility, s/he can do so.
This mass shooting hits close to home. The Washington Navy Yard is about a 5-minute drive from Capitol Hill and a 5-minute walk from Barracks Row, where the wife and I sometimes dine or meet friends for drinks. I’ve previously attended meetings at the Yard, walking through a pedestrian gate marked by a massive ship’s anchor. If we park at Capitol Hill for Nationals baseball games, we walk past the Yard on our way to Nationals Park, which is about a half-mile away.
The shooter looks like Mr. Every Man, one of the many IT contractors who swarm around fixing our mundane computer network problems. His employer apparently services government contracts at Stafford and Arlington, and he bought the shotgun he used during Monday’s shooting in Lorton, a town I drive past on my way to work.
Three talking points will emerge – all familiar refrains. First, the anti-gun lobby will question how a guy with such a checkered past could so easily purchase a firearm (even though two of the pistols he used during the shooting were taken off law enforcement officers he had just shot). Second, many people will second-guess the Yard’s physical security procedures (which I believe are reasonable considering the tens of thousands of people who have to get to work every day across the D.C. Metro region).
The third talking point is my pet peeve, especially in the wake of the Edward Snowden/NSA debacle: How the hell did this guy – with two firearms-related arrests over the past 10 years and treatment for mental issues – maintain a SECRET security clearance and gain approval to work at military installations as a contractor?