Gen. Milley on protecting military recruiters in the wake of shooting

Gen. Mark A. Milley on protecting military recruiters in the wake of the Chattanooga shooting.

The general officer nominated to be the next Army chief of staff Tuesday said the service should "seriously consider" arming recruiters "under certain conditions."

Gen. Mark Milley made those comments during his confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee in response to a question from committee chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

McCain's questions come a week after five service members — four Marines and a sailor — were gunned down in a violent and still-unexplained shooting spree in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

After the shooting, the Defense Department found itself in the midst of a broader national feud about gun control, gun rights and public safety. Defense Secretary Ash Carter has ordered a full review of facility security policies. Those recommendations are due by the end of the week.

Several governors already have pre-empted the Pentagon's assessment by rushing to allow National Guard personnel to carry weapons on bases and in recruiting stations.

The shooting in Tennessee is "a horrible tragedy," Milley said.

"Force protection is a key task for any commander, as it is for all of the leaders in the Army and the military," he said.

Gen. Mark Milley, currently in charge of Army Forces Command, answers questions during his nomination hearing to be Army Chief of Staff before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, July 21, 2015.
Gen. Mark Milley, currently in charge of Army Forces Command, answers questions during his nomination hearing to be Army Chief of Staff before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, July 21, 2015.

Gen. Mark Milley said Tuesday on Capitol Hill that the service should "seriously consider" arming recruiters "under certain conditions."

Photo Credit: Mike Morones/Staff

There is "a wide variety of active and passive measures" leaders can take to reinforce security, such as bulletproof glass or increased patrols, Milley said.

Arming recruiters is "complicated legally and there are issues involved," Milley said.

When pressed by McCain, Milley said, "I think under certain conditions, both on military bases and in outstations, we should seriously consider it, and, under certain conditions, I think, it's appropriate."

Milley did not elaborate or provide examples of what conditions might warrant arming a recruiter.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, the man Milley would succeed if he's confirmed by the Senate, on Tuesday clarified remarks he made the day after the shooting in Tennessee.

In a meeting with reporters Friday, Odierno said arming troops could cause more problems than it might solve.

Odierno on Tuesday clarified, in an interview with Fox News, that the Army is in fact considering whether to arm recruiters if the legal restrictions are lifted.

"When it comes to recruiting stations, we are looking at it now, what are we doing now to best protect them," Odierno told Fox News. "We will look at every avenue. Arming them, there is some authority issues with that so we have to look all the way through that."

Odierno also told Fox News his remarks Friday were misunderstood.

At the time, Odierno said the Army has to "be careful about over-arming ourselves, and I'm not talking about where you end up attacking each other," according to The Associated Press. Instead, Odierno said, it's more about "accidental discharges and everything else that goes along with having weapons that are loaded that causes injuries."

Odierno told Fox News he was reluctant to arm soldiers on every base in the U.S. and was not talking specifically about recruiters.

Military recruiting and reserve stations are designed to be open and welcoming to the public, according to AP. Troops inside aren't allowed to carry weapons, and the ban is largely due to legal issues such as laws that prohibit the federal government from using the military for domestic law enforcement.

"We're always going to be somewhat vulnerable to a lone wolf, or whatever you want to call it, a surprise shooter, because we are out there with the population and that's where we have to be," Odierno said, according to AP. "We can't separate ourselves as we continue to recruit and interact with the population."