Pentagon: Current policy allows arming of troops at recruitment sites

Pentagon: Current policy allows arming of troops at recruitment sites
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Defense Secretary Ash Carter has signed a memo clarifying that commanders can arm qualified troops at recruiting and other off-base sites, and directing the military services to develop plans to improve security at those sites, the Pentagon said Thursday.

"Existing DOD policy authorizes commanders to arm qualified personnel based on the threat," said Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis

The plans would apply "particularly with recruiting that exists outside of actual bases," Davis said. "So this is recruiting stations, ROTC units, and reserve centers, and there are about 7,000 of these throughout the United States."

ROTC is the Reserve Officers' Training Corps program, a training program for college students to become commissioned officers after graduation. 

Carter in the memo said "The tragic shooting on July 16 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, illustrates the continuing threat to DOD personnel in the U.S. homeland posed by Homegrown Violent Extremists." 

"This incident and the ongoing threat underscore the need for DOD to review its force protection and security policies, programs, and procedures, particularly for off-installation DOD facilities," he said. 

The memo, signed July 29, comes after the fatal shooting earlier this month of four Marines and a sailor at an off-base reserve center in Chattanooga, Tenn., by a lone gunman. 

The gunman, 24-year-old Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, drove to an armed forces recruitment center, opened fire, then drove to the reserve center where he crashed through the parking lot gate and went on a shooting rampage. 

At that time, it was not clear whether Pentagon policy allowed troops at off-base sites — other than commanders and those in law-enforcement — to be armed. 

Carter's memo clarifies that those not involved in law enforcement and other similar duties are allowed arms. 

"The policy does allow for the arming of qualified DOD personnel who aren't regularly engaged in law enforcement duties, based on the threat and the immediate need to protect DOD assets and lives," Davis said. 

The services, as well as the National Guard Bureau and combatant commands, are directed to develop those action plans no later than the end of next month, by August 21. 

The memo specifically directs them to develop plans to improve security and force protection of personnel, addressing three areas. 

The first is augmenting security, which "includes the option of arming additional personnel," Davis said. 

The second is improving the physical security of military installations, and the third is utilizing mass-warning notification systems and regional alert systems. 

The memo also directs all components to consider any additional protection measures, including changes to policy and procedures, Davis said.