The office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today released Norton's letter to President Obama urging him to form an independent panel to investigate the many security issues raised by the mass shooting inside the secure facility at the Washington Navy Yard yesterday. She recommends the panel be comprised not only of law enforcement, intelligence, military and security experts, but also experts from such disciplines as technology, psychology, and city and land use planning.
In her letter, Norton wrote, "The tragedy at the Naval Sea Systems Command offers a virtual invitation to use fresh post-9/11 eyes to evaluate how to secure federal employees who work in facilities like the Navy Yard that are a part of a residential or business community."
The full text of Norton's letter follows.
September 17, 2013
President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
As we remember the victims and families of yesterday's mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, I write to urge you to form an independent panel to investigate the variety of issues raised by a shooting inside a secure facility located in a mixed-use community. I have every confidence that the appropriate congressional committees and the Department of Defense, the Navy and federal and local law enforcement agencies will conduct a thorough investigation of the shootings. In addition to the security failures, however, we need to understand the changing composition of facilities like the Navy Yard, which have been converted from military bases to secure office space for federal employees and are part of larger civilian communities. Such an investigation can help clarify how these facilities should fit into our open, democratic society.
The Navy Yard has long been a part of the Washington, D.C. community, and the renovation of the historic Navy Yard to accommodate the Naval Sea Systems Command, among others, has helped reinvigorate private development along M Street SE, while making itself accessible to the D.C. community. Yesterday's events, which apparently did not involve the outside community, should not change this relationship or lead to an overreaction that does not address the security concerns. As a result of the Base Realignment and Closure process, we increasingly have federal civilian and contract employees and military officials working in the same facilities, often in urban areas, such as the Navy Yard and Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C. These new facilities are often more like office parks than traditional military installations, but must be every bit as secure.
I recommend a panel composed not only of law enforcement, intelligence, military and security experts, but also experts from such disciplines as technology, psychology, and city and land use planning. To date, questions of security most often have been left almost exclusively to security and military experts. They are indispensable participants, but these experts cannot alone resolve all the new and unprecedented issues raised by security threats to facilities that are a part of an open society. In order to strike the security and access balance required by our democratic traditions, a diverse group of experts need to be at the same table.
Following the unprecedented terrorist attack on our country on 9/11, Americans expected additional and increased security adequate to protect citizens against this frightening threat.
With no vehicles for leadership on issues of security and openness, we have been left to muddle through, using blunt 19th-century approaches that do not always take into account the nature of the facility matched to the risk assessment. The tragedy at the Naval Sea Systems Command offers a virtual invitation to use fresh post-9/11 eyes to evaluate how to secure federal employees who work in facilities like the Navy Yard that are a part of a residential or business community.
Eleanor Holmes Norton