- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 16, 2020

Following a shooting last month at a naval base in Florida that left three people dead and at least eight injured, the Department of Defense said it was take a bigger role in determining whether foreign military officers attending specialized training in the U.S. pose a security risk.

On Dec. 6, Second Lt. Mohammed Alshamrani opened fire inside a classroom at Naval Air Station Pensacola during a training program. Local police quickly arrived at the scene and shot and killed the Saudi lieutenant.

In the past, vetting foreign officers in the U.S. had been the responsibility of the student’s home country, the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department. Now the Pentagon wants to take a role.

“We’re taking a look at how we can use the resources and information we have to do enhanced vetting,” said chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman.

Next week, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper will travel to Florida to honor law enforcement and other first responders who dealt with the incident. He will also announce new measures to make military bases more secure, officials said.

“Our No. 1 concern is going to be the safety and security of our personnel,” Mr. Hoffman said.

Justice Department officials said the shooting at the naval base was terror-related. Attorney General William P. Barr said the assailant was “motivated by jihadist ideology.”

At any one time, about 5,000 foreign military officers are assigned to bases in the United States for training that ranges from English-language classes to learning to fly fighter jets.

“Until the Pensacola shooting, we’ve never had a serious security-related incident,” Mr. Hoffman said. “We believe that the international training program is incredibly invaluable. We want to ensure that the program continues.”

In addition to taking a larger role in vetting foreign military students, Pentagon officials will be looking for additional methods to increase physical security there.

Saudi government officials withdrew more than a dozen other military officers from the U.S. after investigators raised questions about possible links to extremist ideologies.

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