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Civilians Lived on Bases Without Full Background Checks: IG

Members of Team Barksdale trick-or-treat during Halloween on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., in 2012. Airman 1st Class Benjamin Gonsier/Air Force
Members of Team Barksdale trick-or-treat during Halloween on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., in 2012. Airman 1st Class Benjamin Gonsier/Air Force

Sloppy background checks at three bases allowed 120 members of the general public to live in on-base housing without proper vetting, according to Pentagon investigators.

The report, published in April by the Defense Department's inspector general office and released Thursday under the Freedom of Information Act, looked at civilians who weren't employed by the department but who lived in on-base housing at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana; Fort Detrick, Maryland; and Naval Station Mayport, Florida.

Of the 128 who lived on those bases, 110 were given unrestricted access without complete background checks, while 10 residents had no background check conducted at all, according to the document. Additionally, 61 residents received access passes that expired after their leases terminated.

Army and Air Force rules require bases to screen all non-employee ID card holders, including temporary visitors and tenants, through an FBI and interstate index for criminal histories, presence on the terrorist watch list and outstanding warrants. The Navy uses only the FBI program to access those files. Those with felony convictions over the last 10 years are denied base access, according to the report.

The lack of screening created a national security risk, the report states.

"As a result DoD assumed a higher security risk to military personnel, their dependents, civilians and assets," it states. "For example, Fort Detrick is home to the Chemical Biological Medical Systems Joint Project Management Office and elements of the Naval Medical Research Center. The consequences of unauthorized access to these types of facilities could be catastrophic."

Investigators blamed the lapse on inadequate guidance on how to handle those leasing homes on base, despite the overall standard that was already in place.

"This occurred because Army and Air Force guidance did not specify the queries needed to generate the required general public tenant background check or require the badge expiration date align with lease terms," the report states. "In addition, although Navy officials had adequate guidance, they did not fully implement their … screening system."

Of those leasing at Fort Detrick, two of the 26 tenants did not receive any background check, while 24 received partial checks. At Barksdale, seven of the 95 tenants received no background check, while only two received a complete check. At Mayport, six of the seven tenants received a complete background check, while one received no check.

Seventeen Defense Department installations allowed general public tenants to live in on-base housing as of August 2015, the last date for which statistics are readily available. Of those, inspectors randomly selected three bases to examine.

By law, general public tenants are permitted to live on base in privatized housing if occupancy falls under 95 percent and no other DoD-affiliated renters, including members of the National Guard and retirees, have applied.

Since the investigation was completed in February, management at the three bases have run proper background checks and reissued IDs with correct expiration dates for all public tenants, the report says.

Investigators also recommended that a review of the background checks and pass expiration dates for all public tenants on Navy, Army and Air Force installations be conducted.

Officials with the Air Force and Navy estimated they would complete that check by mid-summer of this year, while the Army had not responded at the time of the report's writing.

-- Editor's Note: This story was updated to correct the location of a base in the second paragraph.

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at amy.bushatz@military.com.

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