Army chief nominee endorses arming troops at home

Army chief nominee endorses arming troops at home
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Gen. Mark Milley, President Obama's nominee for Army chief of staff, said Tuesday that he endorses arming troops at home under certain circumstances. 

"I think, under certain conditions, both on military and in out-stations, recruiting stations, service centers, that we should seriously consider it, and in some cases I think it's appropriate," he said at his confirmation hearing. 

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The fatal shooting of four Marines and a sailor at a Navy and Marine reserve center last week in Chattanooga has sparked a debate over whether troops should be armed at home amid a growing threat from Islamic extremist-inspired attacks. 

The FBI said it was treating the shooting as terrorism, but there is no link to outside terrorist groups so far. 

Currently, troops are limited in carrying arms in the U.S. under federal law that restricts them from acting as domestic law enforcement.

On Sunday, Adm. William Gortney, commander of U.S. Northern Command, issued other measures to tighten security at recruiting offices and other military facilities, The New York Times reported.

A Northcom spokesman told the Times the measures were ordered “because we have concerns about homegrown violent extremism and the opportunities there may be for future violent attacks.”

On Friday, Gen. Ray Odierno, the current Army chief of staff, said he expected lone-wolf attacks on troops to continue due to a threat from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. 

A handful of lawmakers have introduced or are working on legislation that would allow troops to be armed under certain conditions, and six governors have signed orders to allow National Guard troops to carry loaded guns on base and at military recruiting centers. 

Milley acknowledged there are "complicated" legal issues with arming troops. "The legal part of it can be resolved," Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) responded. 

Milley also said there's a "wide variety" of active and passive measures that can be taken, including using bulletproof glass,  increasing patrols and working closely with law enforcement. 

"Force protection is a key task for any commander," Milley said.