Washigton -- Defense Secretary Ash Carter has directed the military services to implement new protective measures, including arming more troops, to bolster security at small, off-installation sites in the wake of the deadly attack in Chattanooga.
Carter called for the services to work more closely with local law enforcement agencies, install improved mass warning systems, and to arm “appropriately qualified individuals at select off-installation facilities” that require greater than normal protection.
Additionally, Carter directed security surveys to be conducted at the Defense Department’s roughly 7,000 off-installation sites, including recruiting stations, reserve centers and ROTC units, and to prioritize funds to ones that need physical security upgrades.
The new policies are the result of a large-scale review of force protection requested by Carter following the July 16 attack in which Mohammed Abdulazeez killed four Marines and a sailor at a recruiting station and reserve center in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The new measures must be put in place by April, with deadlines for some of them coming before the end of 2015, he said.
"To perform our mission, we must protect our people, installations and facilities from threats, while remaining open and engaged, and we must develop cost-effective, rapidly-fielded solutions to protect our people," Carter wrote in a memo to top uniformed and civilian leadership dated Oct. 2 and obtained Thursday by Stars and Stripes.
Military leaders have described "lone wolf" attacks by homegrown violent extremists, such as Abdulazeez or 2009 Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan, as among the greatest potential threats servicemembers face in the United States.
In May, Navy Adm. William Gortney, commander of U.S. Northern Command, raised force protection measures for the first time since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
Gortney said recently he did not foresee lowering the protection level soon because of the potential threat from such homegrown extremists, including ones influenced by the Islamic State.
Such attacks, Carter wrote in the memo, "can occur with little or no warning."
But the mass arming of troops at their home stations is not the answer, Carter and other military leaders have said.
Despite pressure from some lawmakers, the Pentagon has been reluctant to allow all servicemembers, including recruiters, expanded access to service or personal firearms.
Existing DoD policy, issued in 1992, allows military commanders and leaders to arm qualified personnel "not regularly engaged in law enforcement duties" based on threat conditions.
But Carter’s memo did acknowledge some "trained and qualified" servicemembers should be armed. He asked the services to publish guidance on implementing such policy and to report those decisions to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"These measures that DoD components have taken thus far, along with those approved by this memorandum, will mitigate the risk we face," Carter wrote. "There is no such thing as perfect security, but we can and must improve the safety of our people at thousands of sites."