Editor’s note: Andy Albright, Fort Meade’s recently assigned deputy to the garrison commander, is on a temporary change of station from Fort Bragg, N.C.
Albright’s career includes 20 consecutive years as a Green Beret and 16 years of federal civilian service with the Department of Homeland Security and the Army.
During my recent assignment at Fort Bragg, Spc. Ricky Elder shot and killed his battalion commander before turning the gun on himself. The murder-suicide occurred during a unit formation prior to a holiday weekend.
Partly becuase of this “insider” tragedy, garrison command has put emphasis on compliance with national intelligence and DoD mandatory reporting requirements aimed at reducing the risk of Insider Threat incidents. This effort focuses on synchronizing counterintelligence, security, force protection, law enforcement and cyber efforts.
In the years leading up to the above tragedy, Elder was involved in several unreported incidents including assault, DUI, felony aggravated battery, and assault and failure to appear. All are indicators of at-risk and high-risk behavior that intervention may have prevented Elder from acting out.
There were probably people in that formation who knew about his troubles but hadn’t reported it.
Director National Intelligence reporting requirements were updated and became effective this past June, and includes a key change of including people assigned to a “sensitive position.” This refers to someone who could bring about, by virtue of the nature of the position, a material adverse effect on national security — regardless of whether the occupant has access to classified information or is an employee, military service member or contractor.
Jasmine Skelton, Brian Riffey and Robert Doelle are three installation security specialists at Fort Meade who said that when the DoD began experiencing a spike in internal threats, — such as with the information leaks by Chelsea “Bradley” Manning; Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter; Aaron Alexis, the Navy Yard shooter; Elder; and Edward Snowden and Reality Winner (who was formerly stationed at Fort Meade) — the DNI and DoD increased policy and procedures to mitigate these types of acts.
It’s about getting people the help they need before it’s too late. However, any activity they are involved in that violates their position of public trust or national security must be reported.
Skelton said that reporting derogatory information is mandatory and not discretionary. All DoD commanders, civilian directors of organizations, supervisors and security managers must report any information that calls into question a person’s trustworthiness, judgement or reliability.
People not in supervisory roles are also obligated to report any derogatory information about their peers to a supervisor or they could face administrative action.
“Even if people aren’t experts, they have a general knowledge of what’s right and wrong,” Doelle said. “If you see something, say something.”
Factors that fall under derogatory information include activities involving fraudulent identity information, inappropriate use of credentials, criminal or dishonest conduct, alcohol abuse and treasonous acts or activities.
Just because a person is reported or self-reports does not mean they will be subject to separation from the military.
If, for example, someone gets a DUI, there is likely a bigger cause behind it such as problems at home or financial issues. By reporting the DUI, commanders can come up with a plan to get the person help, whether it’s through the Army Substance Abuse Program or other Army programs on Fort Meade such as Financial Readiness.
“It’s about looking at the whole person — real people who can have real problems,” Riffey said. “It’s not about ‘We got ya’ as much as ‘OK, that’s outside the scope of what we consider appropriate for personal conduct.’ ”
It’s always better to report. Get ahead of it. When you self-report, you get the opportunity to tell your side of the story.
If you don’t report and the DoD finds out about it, it’s automatically viewed as, ‘Why were you trying to hide it?’ ”
And, the DoD will find out about things people may try to hide through its revamped Continuous Evaluation program that includes social media screening for at-risk and high-risk indicators.
“If your friends are talking about your DUI [on social media], it’s credible and can be used,” Skelton said.
Security clearances are reviewed every five or 10 years, depending on the type. The enhanced Continuous Evaluation program allows for checks to be conducted on individuals on a continuous basis to ensure they are still eligible to hold their security clearance and sensitive positions of public trust.
“There is a lot invested in the security clearance of the service members, civilians and the contractors,” Riffey said.
“They don’t want to just cut them loose. They want to do what’s best for the Army, DoD and U.S. and try and rehabilitate that person and security clearance instead of letting it go by the wayside,”
For more information about reporting derogatory information, call your security officer or the Installation Security Office at 301-677-3213/3864/ 3662.