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Monday, September 23, 2013

When budget cuts cost lives

by John MacBeath Watkins

When Aaron Alexis shot an killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard Sept. 16 before he himself was shot, the Yard had about half as many people working security as it should have.

This should shock you, but we're all so jaded from watching politics at this point, it probably won't.

From a CBS story reported by David Valcourt:
Inside the building, security had been contracted out to a private company. Outside, the closest sworn police officers were the Navy District Washington Police, or NDW police—charged with manning the entrance gates and patrolling the Navy Yard.

“More lives possibly could have been saved if we had the appropriate amount of manpower,” said Anthony Meely, Chairman, Fraternal Order of Police Navy District Washington Labor Committee.

Meely is with the Fraternal Order of Police union that represents the Navy District Washington Police. He says budget cuts from the sequester and from the base realignment have come at a price.

Meely: “There was not enough staffing.”

Valcourt: “How many people were there?”

Meely: “There was only seven on staff, sir.”

Valcourt: “How many should there be?”

Meely: “There should be, at minimum, 11. At appropriate levels, beyond minimum is 15.”
He says with more NDW police on duty, officers could have responded even faster.


The  Washington, D.C. mayor, Vincent Gray, says the sequester may have been part of the cause of the understaffed security situation, and budget cuts also caused the Navy to give the job of vetting people for security clearances to the company that also vatted Edward Snowden, who leaked an unprecedented number of NSA documents.

 Aaron Alexis had a checkered past and mental health problems. When he lived in Seattle, he shot out all four tires of a construction worker's car in what he described as a blackout caused by anger. Seattle authorities have yet to explain why he was never prosecuted for this.

The Tea Party spin on this story explains that President Obama is to blame, under the headline, "Did Obama’s Sequester Cause Navy Yard Shootings?"

Because, you know, the president is always to blame when Congress can't do its job. And now, they want to extend the sequester level of spending.

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