NEWS | Oct. 20, 2014

Why base visitors are checked and vetted

By Olin Thomas Joint Base Charleston Mission Assurance office

All Department of Defense installations require protection of people and assets.  This is usually done with installation perimeter access control point(s) procedures to make certain people have valid identification (identity proofing) and are not a threat to the installation by checking for records of unacceptable character or illegal conduct (vetting). To accomplish this, Joint Base Charleston checks visitors and contractors against the National Crime Information Center and the Terrorist Screening Database as well as other databases. 

The threat is real and can happen at any base. From January 2006 to May 2007, a group of six men conspired to attack and kill Soldiers at Fort Dix, N.J.  The group, later dubbed the "Fort Dix Six" by law enforcement officials, selected the installation from an alleged list of nine possible targets in the U.S.  The Federal Bureau of Investigation placed the group under surveillance and as a result of a tip from a member of the public who "saw something and said something," the attack was thwarted.

This investigation revealed one member of the group had frequent access to Fort Dix as an un-vetted pizza deliveryman. That un-vetted access would have allowed for a successful attack had not the citizen who saw something reported it to the FBI. A key lesson learned for the DOD was the need to properly identify and vet people who wanted access to an installation.

Allowing anyone access to our installation without properly identifying and vetting them to base officials can put lives, property and the mission in jeopardy. This also includes giving someone you might think is authorized to enter the base a ride through our access control points without an ID examination. In cases like this, picking up a stranded motorist trying to get to work, the safest course of action is to either confirm the person has the proper entry credential or drop them off at the Visitor Control Center. 

The bottom line is no matter how well trained and vigilant our law enforcement, security and counterterrorism personnel are, they simply cannot be everywhere at all times. The eyes and ears of each member of Team Charleston, as well as those of our neighbors in the local community, play an absolute crucial role in the prevention of terrorism and crime in the low country. Our base populace knows best what activities do or do not belong in and around their work areas, the installation or within their neighborhoods and communities.

On Joint Base Charleston, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, with assistance from our Security Forces, manages the Eagle Eyes program that puts everyone on the antiterrorism team by providing a 24-hour point of contact for reporting suspicious activity.  Suspicious activities reported through the Eagle Eyes program are immediately shared with local law enforcement agencies, counterterrorism personnel and military commanders for rapid assessment and investigation. Everyone on JB Charleston is urged to be on the lookout for suspicious activities and to report them immediately to 911 or the Security Forces' Base Defense Operation Center at 963-3600.  And remember, if you see something, say something.