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May 07, 2020

VIDEO: Following Death of Alabama Native at NAS Pensacola, Senator Jones Calls for Navy Secretary Nominee to Commit to Increased Safety Measures for Service Members

Nominee Braithwaite pledged to Senator Jones to take action if confirmed

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Doug Jones (D-Ala.) today called on two nominees to U.S. Navy leadership roles to commit to taking steps to increase security for U.S. service members on military bases, following a terrorist attack on Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola last December. In the shooting, Enterprise, Ala. native Joshua Kaleb Watson was among three who were killed and eight injured. Watson was an accomplished graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and Enterprise High School.

“Kaleb was the officer on deck that morning. He was one of the first people the shooter encountered and although he was shot five times, he managed to make his way out to flag down first responders and give an accurate description of the shooter,” said Senator Jones. “I’ve met with Kaleb’s father and brother and have made a commitment to work with them to try to get to the bottom of what happened. I think there are a number of instances that could have saved Kaleb’s life and perhaps others. The GAO issued a report in 2015 concerning recommendations on military bases and I’m not quite sure that any of that has been followed at this point. We’ve not seen any follow up.”

Senator Jones continued, “I have just a simple question for both you, Ambassador Braithwaite, and [Mr.] Anderson: are you committed to looking at those reports, looking at those recommendations to try to see if there are things we can feasibly do to prevent the needless killing of men and women in service? Not only of the military, but also the potential civilians that are on these bases as well?”

“Anybody who goes aboard any military installation has to show an ID card and it always gives you a sense of security when you do that, whether you come into this building or you come into the Pentagon or any of our military facilities around the world. So I pledge to you, senator, that I will look into this,” said Amb. Kenneth Braithwaite, nominee for Secretary of the Navy, in response to Senator Jones’ question.

Video of the Senator’s questions in today’s Senate Armed Services Committee is available here, and a transcript is below:

U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services (transcript excerpt)

Hearing to consider the nominations of the Honorable Kenneth H. Braithwaite to be Secretary of the Navy; Honorable James H. Anderson to be Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy; and General Charles Q. Brown, Jr., USAF for reappointment to the grade of general and to be Chief of Staff, United States Air Force

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Senator Doug Jones: The other thing I want to mention, and Ambassador [Braithwaite], you and I talked about this and this really will be for both you and [Mr.] Anderson. Over the last 10 years, we have seen a number of shootings at military bases. Fort Hood, 14 dead in 2009. In 2013, there were 12 dead at the Naval Shipyard. Again, a shooting in 2014 at Fort Hood. In Chattanooga in 2015. And last year in December of 2019, there as a shooting that killed three people in Pensacola; including one of my constituents, Kaleb Watson, who was killed in a terrorist attack at the Naval Air Station there.

Kaleb was the officer on deck that morning. He was one of the first people the shooter encountered and although he was shot five times, he managed to make his way out to flag down first responders and give an accurate description of the shooter. Tragically, Kaleb died of his wounds in the hospital. I know that Senators Scott and Perdue also lost young men from their home states in that awful incident. I know that the number of killings on military bases does not seem like a lot considering the number of shootings that we’ve had across the country in the last decade or 20 years or so, and especially with the number of deaths in this pandemic, but for our men and women who volunteered to serve and to put their lives on the line in the service of our country, they should not have to die needlessly. 

I’ve met with Kaleb’s father and brother and have made a commitment to work with them to try to get to the bottom of what happened. I think there are a number of instances that could have saved Kaleb’s life and perhaps others. The GAO issued a report in 2015 concerning recommendations on military bases and I’m not quite sure that any of that has been followed at this point. We’ve not seen any follow up. So my simple question, I would like to get a little bit more to the bottom of this, but I have just a simple question for both you, Ambassador Braithwaite, and [Mr.] Anderson: are you committed to looking at those reports, looking at those recommendations to try to see if there are things we can feasibly do to prevent the needless killing of men and women in service? Not only of the military, but also the potential civilians that are on these bases as well? Let’s look at the GAO report, try to implement those things, and work with our office to try to see what we can do to better protect our men and women. Ambassador Braithwaite? 

Ambassador Kenneth Braithwaite: Absolutely, senator. As you and I discussed, I was stationed at NAS Pensacola and that incident came a little closer to me because one of my shipmates in the Navy, his son was training there as we discussed and was in that building and literally just left minutes before the shooting. Anybody who goes aboard any military installation has to show an ID card and it always gives you a sense of security when you do that, whether you come into this building or you come into the Pentagon or any of our military facilities around the world. So I pledge to you, senator, that I will look into this. I understand that some parts of that report are classified, in a follow-up to our discussion the other day. If I am confirmed, I look forward to looking at those reports and ensuring that we have the processes in place to protect the men and women, both in uniform and out, who are aboard those bases.

Senator Jones: Great, thank you. [Mr.] Anderson, can I get that commitment from you?

Mr. James Anderson: You do have that commitment. 

Senator Jones: Thank you.

 

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