Every stateside soldier should know they may be targets of terrorist threats where they live, and every commander at a U.S. installation should know who to call if a threat appears at their gate, experts said at the AUSA convention on Wednesday.
They included a law enforcement official with lessons from the 2013 Navy Yard shootings, and the sheriff of Charleston County, S.C., where a mass shooting at a local church this summer stunned the nation.
Threats facing the nation are now more complex, with rogue states, terrorist organizations and lone wolves all part of threat assessments, said retired Rear Adm. Don Loren, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Homeland Security Integration, who was on the panel.
"We now have to defend installations and personnel here at home," he said.
The frantic morning of the Navy Yard shooting in Washington, D.C., is one example of what amounts to a stateside fog of war.
"There was confusion as to who was in charge at the [Navy Yard] base" that morning as police scrambled to respond to reports of a live shooter, said Assistant Chief Lamar Greene of the Metropolitan Police Department.
Since then, he said, the Washington police have had more training about who was in charge and who they need to send out to the incident command there.
"We have done drills at the Navy Yard and at Fort McNair," he said. "We are learning each other's procedures."
For the Army, the same kinds of lessons are being learned.
After the mass shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009, "the Army realized the threat from homegrown extremists is real," said Maj. Gen. Michael Smith, deputy chief of the Army Reserve. The Army Protection Program was established to work as part of the G34 Protection Division, which integrates, coordinates and synchronizes efforts for Army protection. Army protection organizations coordinate with the other military services and the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and other agencies.
"We hardened installations and are now placing additional emphasis on off-post facilities," Smith said.
The Navy Yard shooting and the second Fort Hood shooting in 2014 heightened the urgency for preparation on military installations.
"We had made progress but [those incidents] highlighted the complexities of trying to prevent incidents," he said.
The Navy Yard murders were not motivated by an anti-American agenda, but by a person who felt people had wronged him, Smith said.
"We must ensure the entire Army team is aware of the threat and prepared to report suspicious activities," Smith said. "The toughest challenge is how to assess the threat in the shadows."
The Reserve coordinates emergency exercises with law enforcement, instructs soldiers on how to react to civilian law enforcement, and tells commanders they have the responsibility to react as appropriate, he said. Service members and family members are taught they may be targeted, and encouraged to make sure to set electronic privacy settings.
Protection plans go outside the fence to stand-alone facilities, such as armories and recruiting centers.
The shootings that killed four Marines in Chattanooga, Tennessee, this summer, raised the volume of discussion about how to protect military recruiting centers.
Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Snow, commander of Army Recruiting Command, told about his first weeks on the job beginning in late June when he took over. His first trip was to Little Rock, Arkansas, to present a Purple Heart to a bereaved family. Two weeks later came Chattanooga and the response to loss of four service members.
Since then, he said, building force protection has been an increasingly high priority. A big part of that, he said, is enhancing relationships with civilian agencies.
"We are very much relying on those relationships to share intelligence and information," he said. "We rely on local law enforcement to respond."
Protection for recruiting stations is evolving, he said. The effort includes planning for controlled access, a consideration that is a result of crime as well as threats of violence. Another response is tinting windows so the people inside can see out but people outside cannot see in.
There are an estimated 8,900 stand-alone military facilities in the U.S., said Michael Trapp, deputy provost marshal for U.S. Army North/Fifth U.S. Army. His organization is responsible for anti-terror and protection efforts for Army personnel and civilians throughout North America.
Part of the job is "to make sure we're all talking to one another so each soldier knows where the safe place to be is, who their law enforcement is, who to call" when they need to report something, he said.
It also means communicating with the FBI and law enforcement and local authorities daily, and to look at threat assessments.
"We're not all going to run to the garrison and hide," Trapp said. "We remain part of the community but know how to manage risk."
That can only be done effectively if there are relationships across the Army with the others services, and with authorities at the levels of state, federal, tribal nation, county and city.
"We have to be talking every day," Trapp said. "The other side of the bang is not the time for relationships. ... We cannot learn who we should be talking to after the event."
The Army faces many dilemmas, and soldiers must train and plan for missions that are not traditional warfighting but are "every bit as important," Loren said.
Force protection must be a "whole of nation" approach involving national, federal, state and municipal agencies and the citizenry, he said.
This fight is no less than "the battlefield in which we must fight and win our nations wars," he said, calling for initiatives across the country and eliminating barriers to accessing information that will better prepare the force.
One key goal of communicating well with local authorities, panel members said, is trying to prevent a soldier who happens to be armed from being mistaken for an attacker, and making a confusing situation even worse.
Charleston, recently grieving after an attack by an apparent lone wolf, has threat considerations beyond its local churches, the sheriff said.
The area is home to a port and several DoD assets including elements of Navy nuclear training, said Sheriff James "Al" Cannon Jr.
He has specific suggestions for leaders at military installations.
It's going to be local law enforcement.
"One of the biggest handicaps is you turn over periodically," he said, referring to Army personnel being re-assigned. An information collection requirement should be set up so the incoming commander knows who is who in the community, and the installation should do the same, he said.
"There are a host of reasons to identify who will respond, to clarify jurisdictional issues ... and legal issues," Cannon said. "Find out who you're going to call if you have someone holed up in a building," he advised.
Kathleen Curthoys is editor of Army Times. She has been an editor at Military Times for 20 years, covering issues that affect service members. She previously worked as an editor and staff writer at newspapers in Columbus, Georgia; Huntsville, Alabama; Bloomington, Indiana; Monterey, California and in Germany.