US Defense secretary can't label US base attack 'terrorism' at this point

Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperLawmakers push back at Pentagon's possible Africa drawdown Overnight Defense: Book says Trump called military leaders 'dopes and babies' | House reinvites Pompeo for Iran hearing | Dems urge Esper to reject border wall funding request Senate Dems urge Esper to oppose shifting Pentagon money to border wall MORE said Saturday that he is not characterizing a Friday attack on a U.S. naval air base as terrorism at this time. 

Asked whether he could definitively call the incident, in which a Saudi national allegedly killed three people, terrorism Esper said "No."

"I can't say it's terrorism at this time. I think we need to let the investigators, the FBI do its work, and get us the facts, and we'll move out from there," he said at the the Reagan National Defense Forum in California.


He did categorize the Pensacola, Fla., shooting as a "tragic incident" and said "we extend our condolences to all the families affected by it."

Esper also said that he has ordered a look into the Defense Department's vetting procedures for foreign nationals who come to train. Officials have said the shooter in Friday's incident was receiving aviation training at the base. 

“Yesterday, I directed that we look at our security precautions across the services and all of our installations and bases and facilities to make sure that [we’ve] got the appropriate degree of security to protect our service members and their families and our communities,” Esper said.

“At the same time, I also directed that we look at our vetting procedures within DoD for all the many foreign nationals that come, for good reason, to our country to train,” he said.

The Associated Press reported Friday that officials were investigating whether the incident was terrorism-related.

The FBI declined to say whether the shooting was being investigated as terror-related. A spokesperson told The Hill Friday afternoon that the probe was "still in the preliminary stages."


Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzGaetz in Twitter battle with Florida House Republican Apple under pressure to unlock Pensacola shooter's phones Conservatives slam Warren's call to put transgender women in women's prisons MORE (R-Fla.) has also said that it is "my that this is unequivocally an act of terror," according to The New York Times. The shooting occurred in his district.