Defense Secretary Mark Esper will head to Naval Air Station Pensacola next week to meet with base leadership and the first responders who provided aid in the wake of a deadly mass shooting last month, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Thursday.
While there, Hoffman said, Esper will provide air station leadership with a preview of new security measures being developed to prevent future incidents -- measures that include physical installation security improvements as well as the enhanced vetting protocols that have been previously announced.
"[Esper] will announce these new measures shortly, which will include physical security procedures as well," Hoffman said.
On Dec. 6, a Saudi junior officer in training at the base opened fire in a classroom building, killing three service members and injuring eight other people before being killed by sheriff's deputies who responded to the scene.
A federal probe concluded that the shooting was an act of terrorism and that the shooter "was motivated by jihadist ideology." This week, U.S. Attorney General William Barr said a follow-up investigation into foreign military students resulted in the return of 21 other Saudi students to their home country. The majority of these students, he said, had pro-jihadist or anti-American materials in their possession; many also were found to have had contact with child pornography.
Hoffman noted that more than one million students had participated in the foreign military training program in its two decades of existence, and Pensacola was the first security breach of its kind.
Saudi Arabia is one of the largest participants in the program, he added.
He reiterated that the Defense Department is now looking to augment the vetting procedures that take place prior to students arriving at U.S. bases, co-located with American troops.
"Previous vetting had been handled by the home country ... as well as the Department of Homeland Security and State Department," he said. "We've taken a look at that as far as how we can use our resources to do enhanced vetting."
While classroom instruction is ongoing for international students, Hoffman indicated that an operational training pause for Saudi students, implemented in early December, remains in place.
"That's an announcement we will likely have in the coming days," he said. "Over the holidays ... the training schedule was a little bit different. We look forward to turning that back on in the coming days."
-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.