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NASA Feedback: Security at NASA: Very Broken

By Keith Cowing
NASA Watch
April 22, 2007

Man Kills Hostage, Self at NASA Building, AP

“The gunman was able to take a snub-nosed revolver past NASA security and barricade himself in the building, which houses communications and tracking systems for the space shuttle, authorities said.”

Editor’s note: The more I think about this, the more I can’t fight the urge to comment. Someone drove onto JSC property with A LOADED GUN and KILLED SOMEONE. This happened days after the Virginia Tech slaughter and NASA is now going to re-evalute its security polices? Gee, it’s about damn time, Mr. Saleeba. Something sure ain’t working properly. The word incompetence (on someone’s part) comes to mind. Metal detectors have been known to detect guns. Car searches have been known to find prohibited items. More importantly, people are under enormous stress at NASA these days with programs being shut down and many people certain to loose their jobs. Someone needs to be paying much more attention to this as well. Treating the symptoms is not enough. NASA to needs to recognize – and threat – the cause(s) as well.

Comments? Send them to [email protected].

One note: for those of you who are utterly convinced that additional screening and metal detectors could never work at NASA, I invite you to come up to Washington DC. Everywhere you go there are security scans and detectors. It has been like this for years – even before 9-11. Indeed, everyday every single visitor to the National Air and Space Museum goes through a metal detector and has their bags searched. That’s tens of thousands of people every day – and most of these visitors are novices in terms of being scanned and searched. Alas, even though there are metal detectors at NASA HQ entrances, regular (badged) employees are not required to go through them. Only visitors are. NASA has the tools in place but only uses them to partial effect.

As for all of you who are dumping on me for suggesting that every person entering JSC be screened and and their car searched every day, guess what? I never said that! Read this post again. But since you folks seem to want to discuss that topic, I wonder what would be easier to do: screen every one entering a facility – with one landlord – a facility with vast amounts of land, large parking lots, and a small number of controlled campus entrances (JSC) — or — scan the same number of people entering hundreds of government offices and buildings every day in Washington, DC. It is not impossible, folks. You just do not want to be inconvenienced in the same way that we are up here in Washington every day – and that is certainly understandable. Alas, everyone seems to be trying to out do the previous person in saying how impossible enhanced screening would be at NASA. I am also rather startled that so many responses suggest that nothing can be done and that it should simply be assumed – and accepted – that people can – and will – carry guns to work at JSC.

Your comments thus far:

Your suggestion that every JSC building (for that matter every public building) have metal detectors is as doable for such facilities as it is in Washington. It just takes money for equipment and personnel. But even Washington hasn’t found a workable method to inspect cars. Military facilities haven’t been able to find a way. They do thorough spot inspections at some facilities, especially where security of the non-human content of the facility is critical (avoiding theft). But no one thoroughly inspects every vehicle. There is a parking garage beneath NASA HQ and cars of employees are not inspected upon entry. To do so would have cars backed up, totally ensnarling the streets of Washington. As long as vehicles are allowed entry to a facility area, guns (or other things) will get through.

At JSC this would mean that guns can get onto the campus. You could keep them out of the buildings by metal detectors but could not stop assaults externally on the campus. The assault at JSC could have occured by awaiting someone outside their building. Sometimes you simply can’t stop a disturbed individual, only require they use a different approach.

Everyone I know is deeply saddened by the tragic events of JSC and Virginia Tech but angry rhetoric and demands by some that security be tighter because it can be doesn’t solve anything except provide an emotional release for their anger. Suggesting that metal detectors at all buildings at JSC could have intercepted this tragedy ignores the frustration and emotional disturbance of the one who had the gun, a frustration that likely would have found a way for the confrontation even if the metal detectors had been in place. Such suggestions encourage others to believe such detectors would have eliminated the threat, thus increasing their frustration because those in charge had not diligently attempted to have a safe environment.

Perhaps a more constructive essay would be to ask how management (all management) treats its employees, what it does to insure that job performace reviews are preceeded by clear goals, objectives, and performance requirements, and that those responsible for reviews be skilled at such responsibilities. No one should ever get a performance letter that is a surprise. More often than not, management fails because it fails to invest the time to insure that employees know what is expected and agrees to it. In the meantime, everyone should be offering their concrete support to those so devastated by such tragedies. Less anger, less rhetoric, more help.

“You just do not want to be inconvenienced in the same way that we are up here in Washington every day – and that is certainly understandable. Alas, everyone seems to be trying to out do the previous person in saying how impossible enhanced screening would be at NASA.” There’s another possible explanation Keith, that would be that you come across as very bitter and unreasonable about most topics related to NASA, and that most of the people writing you on this topic are just plain correct. Every considered this possibility?

Keith– Never been to JSC, BUT, when the Chicago Bears played a season in Champaign, they arranged for tight security for 70,000 people per hour entering our football stadium. Fence all around. Everyone went through 3 or 4 gates. The delay was slight. It’s inconvenient, but can be done.

There is a key difference between Washington D.C. and NASA field centers. The facilities you are referring to in D.C. in general grant access to the general public. The portion of the general public who visits onsite at JSC also uses metal detectors. We must be wise in using our scarce resources in pursuit of our goals. If someone really wanted to kill someone then it will happen no matter what security measures are in place. We must look at the root cause of these issues and pay closer attention to our surroundings. We need to pay attention to our fellow man and recognize folks who need help and take the time to help them and prevent these senseless killings. I personally believe security is quite adequate onsite at JSC and much better than most other facilities in the downtown Houston area. NASA has many issues it deserves to be criticized on but this is not one of them.

Ok, this is a reality check for everyone posting comments on this topic. I am a JSC Contractor that works on JSC and personally know the frustrations that JSC Security has in dealing with both NASA Civil Servants and Contractors. In addition, I will spell out what will more than likely happen in the near future regarding this unfortunate incident. Security is only strong and secure as the authority and backing (from JSC Management) they have.

Let’s get real, JSC Security has no control of the security processes at JSC. I think they (JSC Security) actually work under Center Operations, which I believe is the organization that handles facilities management. So the JSC Security people work directly for a person who is a facilities person – does this make sense??? You should hear the complaining from Civil Servants and Contractors when a JSC Security person touches their bags or takes too long looking at their ID’s. I have physically witnessed a flight director complain to a Senior NASA Manager about being inspected by a JSC Security Guard and then brag about how he will end this Random Check because it was pointless. The worse thing, I heard a few days later that a phone call was made to the Center Operations complaining about this check, and the random checks were minimized or removed all together. A JSC Security guard at the gate has no authority on JSC, because JSC Management would rather appease JSC Employees and make them feel welcome and not intrude their privacy. Huge mistake; this makes JSC Security ineffective. Oh yeah, the signs you see as you enter the gates are just that – just signs. The culture of JSC is to please all senior employee’s (JSC has a ton of senior level employee’s) at the risk of everyone else’s safety. Mike Coats needs to put an end to this, but he will weather this storm and give the JSC Security no authority.

Oh yeah, Astronauts are completely trusted; I believe Lisa Nowak proved that a false opinion. For all you NASA employees, you will never see a JSC Security person searching an astronauts car or person or they will lose their job or be punished for it. And this is the JSC Management fault, and it’s their responsibility to change this mindset – but it’s primarily Mike Coats job. JSC Security can’t do anything that’s too intrusive. The people that you see on TV smiling and waiving are probably the ones preventing JSC Security from doing their jobs.

I am sure that we will learn in the next few days that Phillips had red flags going off everywhere. Now, I believe if JSC Security was aware of this before hand, then they have done a disservice to NASA by not bringing this guy in for a talk. But in typical NASA fashion, this is what probably happened (just speculation). This guy was probably reported to Jacobs HR or even JSC HR, but nobody took the report serious – nothing was probably done. If something was done, it did not work. Now I may be wrong, but I just think there is more behind this story. Everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon to blame JSC Security. JSC Security has some very competent employees and officers. Lets look deeper here. Were any HR persons notified of this and if they were did they report this to JSC Security? I highly doubt NASA HR or Jacobs HR would report this behavior because of HR Rules and the EAP (Employee Assistance Program). An EAP and HR rules are very important and works. However, if someone has communicated a threat or potential threat (going Postal, which is what this guy did) to the EAP or a HR, and they don’t immediately report this to JSC Security. There is nothing JSC Security can do about it. I can assure that if JSC Security was told that an employee is showing tendencies of going postal, the person would be sitting in front of a NASA Security person within minutes. NASA does not want to be responsible for potentially ruining someone’s career – this is ridiculous. They are scared of being sued. I would rather defend a wrongful termination trial than a wrongful death trial. The HR Office and EAP are meant to improve the safety and well being of all JSC employees – SAFETY being the key word. I have a strong gut feeling that HR or EAP was aware of this guy – let’s wait and see! Shame on them if this was reported!!! Don’t worry, JSC Management would never blame someone or some program for this, because they are afraid of a wrongful termination trial – this is the funny part.

For those who think searching every piece of equipment and every person that comes onto JSC. Get real. Traffic would be backed up to Interstate 45 and nobody would get to work. This is not D.C. There are over 60 buildings on the JSC and each of them have 4-5 doors each. So what do you do? Make everyone get out of their car as they enter JSC and make them go through a metal detector and while they are going through a metal detector a guard can search in the trunk, under the hood, inside the car, and yeah under the car. Weapons can be stored in all these locations. For those who were comparing this to military installations – get real again. I did over 15 years in the military and this happened more than you would think; it’s just not in the media. And they do not do anything different other than more vehicle searches and have authority that JSC Security does not. Actually on many military installations, you just put a sticker in the lower left of your windshield and the guard wave you right in.

In summary, let’s wait to see who to blame for this tragedy. I can assure you that NASA and Jacobs probably did not handle this situation correctly. If JSC Security were made aware of this guy, then shame on them. When JSC Employees drive to the front gate and see a security guard, the guard should know that he/she has the Center Director standing behind him/her for support. But the guards do not have that support; they have the support of Facilities person who gets pressure from NASA employee’s to keep JSC Security under control.

This is Mike Coats problem to fix and it is a problem. To be fair to Mike Coats, this problem existed before him becoming Director–but he can fix it. Reality check, JSC will never be able to search everyone and every piece of equipment that comes into the JSC. If someone wants to really sneak something into a facility that large, its easily done!!! I personally believe the JSC Security and HPD probably saved lives this day. By the time they arrived, David B was unfortunately already shot. All you Monday Morning Quarterbacks need to have all the facts before pointing the finger. More than likely, many need to be pointing the finger on themselves and not JSC Security.

I would be interested how you guys in DC handle the traffic in and our of your machine shops, model shops, test buildings, maintenance buildings, and the like.

Do you have metal detectors that are 100′ x 75′ because the building I work in each day has doors that large. We, I work at MSFC, move tons of hardware into and out of our test facilities each day. How do we handle that, massive x-ray machines or armed guards? No, it’s just not practical or possible. It’s not a matter of convenience it’s a fact of life. A motivated individual will accomplish his task no matter what barriers you put in his way. With all of the metal detectors in DC and the wonderful security there I wonder how you would deter an individual who simply chose to wait until you exit the building to pop a slug into your body. Kevlar perhaps? I think I’ll take my chances.

Not concerned in HSV

Personally, I think if someone wants to bring a gun on site, with metal detectors and increased security, they would still manage to get a gun on site. If someone has a dispute with a coworker and wants to kill them, they can do it off-site, just as easily as on, even if there was enough security to prevent a gun from entering.

I wonder why any one on this message board hasn’t brought up why this week’s tragedies happened in Virginia and Texas – two of the states with the loosest gun regulations in the country. I haven’t read the details, but its not hard to believe this disgruntled worker drove down to the local Walmart right after lunch, picked up a gun of his choosing (not a hunting rifle, a kill-people-handgun), and brought it onto site. Apparently concealed-carry permits are so easy to get in Texas, anytime you go anywhere in public, you have to expect that people around you are carrying weapons on them. Churches here have to post notices requesting patrons not bring their guns inside. That’s what’s scary. If you want to “fix” the security risk of the crazy, emotionally unstable gunman shooting up an office building, make it harder for crazy, emotionally unstable people to procure guns on short notice! Don’t subject the rest of us to invasive intrusions into our privacy and hold ups getting to work just to protect the rest of these wackos “right to bear arms.”

you can sign me as liberal-minority@jsc.

OK, Keith, I’ll bite. Exactly how do you keep someone from coming onto a 1600 acre site with a gun? Frisk everybody and search every car coming onto the site? Metal detectors and guards at every door of every building? A big parking lot outside the gate and a central screening area where 10,000 people can line up every morning?

Obviously no one wants a gun to appear in the MCC during a mission, and security in Bldg 30 during missions does involve bag searches, but if someone wants to take a gun in it will be impossible to stop in a way that won’t disrupt operations to an unacceptable degree. This isn’t a single office building in downtown D.C. This is a huge center with dozens of buildings. It isn’t practical to search everyone and everything thoroughly. Insisting otherwise makes you sound like these idiot attorneys on CNN.

Hello – Asa Nasa JSC contractor from 1997 to 2005 and a commercial space worker who frequently visits JSC from 2005 to present I guess I’m as qualified as any to comment on Nasa’s security. It’s pathetic. The gate guards are only interested in touching your badge, rarely is it scrutinized long enough to actually determine if the face on the badge matches that of the badge holder. At the beginning of the duty day, and the end of lunch, thequantity of incoming vehicles is too great for the understaffed gates to seriously attempt inspecting althoughthey still touch every badge per the mandate, but it is lip service security at best. Frequently unusual looking objects and sealed pelican cases are in my passenger seat and not once since 1997 has anyone asked, much less looked at the contents. The only time my similarly laden vehiclewas inspected at departure was rather comical, the guard had no flashlight, so I loaned him mine.No wonder the moon rocks walked.

When equipment was stolen from my shop a security person in a nappy black para military swat rig appeared to conduct an investigation. When I requested this lethal lookingindividual to install a camerafor monitoring the area the response was that such action was not possible because it violated people’s privacy. Great. I read that it was three hours after the first shot before swat entered the room in 44. Wherewas the black clad Nasa security team up to that point? I thought the entireconceptin having on-site security was to provide a swifter response than 3 hours. Why is it that the swat people (nationwide) always seem to cower outside until they are reasonably certain a criminal has done themselves in? All in all your chances of survival are far better if you take action yourself rather than waiting for security to perform.

Before Nasa I spent a decade in the Army. Every vehicle that came on and off post was checked thoroughly, faces matched ID cards and, when there was trouble, action was swift and decisive. Replace the contractors with Military Police.

I will get nailed to the wall career-wise should my name be posted with these comments.


Love the website – I read it every day. It’s the best coverage of NASA and the space industry that I know of.

But… you wrote:

“One note: for those of you who are utterly convinced that additional screening and metal detectors could never work at NASA, I invite you to come up to Washington DC. Everywhere you go there are security scans and detectors. It has been like this for years – even before 9-11. Indeed, everyday every single visitor to the National Air and Space Museum goes through a metal detector and has their bags searched.”

I live in DC (well, actually in suburban Maryland). There’s an important difference – tourists in DC are screened at the point they enter buildings. To replicate that at JSC you’d have to install metal detectors and guards at every entrance to every building, and most NASA centers have literally hundreds of buildings with thousands of entrances. NASA would have to spend millions of dollars just for the metal detectors, not to mention the additional thousands of security guards.

Car inspections wouldn’t catch a pistol – you’d have to completely inspect every car coming onto the center. You would have to check under the seats, in the trunk, under the hood – every driver would have to get out at and let the guards go over the car. There are thousands of employees at JSC, and thus thousands of cars entering the base every day, most within a two hour period. The backup that would result from hand-inspecting that many cars would last for hours.

The only government organization I know of that has security of the type you are suggesting is the CIA, and the only reason that works is that almost everyone at the CIA works in a single building which has a limited number of entrances. There is no campus-like government installation I know of that has security that would catch a handgun, and I’ve been on quite a few. At some point you just have to trust your employees, which you have after all done extensive background checks on specifically so you don’t need the kind of daily security you are recommending.

Keep up the good work


By now most of your readership has pointed outed your errors and the flawed logic of your too hasty analysis of the tragedy at JSC. You must now realize that it is not possible to put every employee and every visitor through a magnetometer and search every vehicle before they can enter a Center. No one would every get to work. Vehicle inspections can only deter, not prevent, people from bringing weapons on a Center. There is no question that there are firearms in vehicles on every NASA Center.

Your other readers have also pointed out that “security” in general is not a well respected mission within the NASA community, or by you for that matter. Each Federal agency has its own culture and its own prejudices; NASA has always been a firm believer (through very non-Spockian magical thinking) that NASA family members can not be criminals, that terrorists would never attack anything as beautifully benign as the space program, and that nothing intentional bad can every happen at a NASA Center, as Mr. Coates was quick to point out. Another knowledgeable person commented that security funding is quick to be cut because “nothing has ever happened.”

In the end, after VT and now JSC, the country is going to have to deal with how we handle the mentally ill, and NASA is going to have to concentrate on emergency planning and communication, and having a strict process for dealing with adverse employee actions. Pray for those wounded souls.

I regularly read your site and have always been impressed with your ability to cut right to the heart of the matter. But in this instance, I’m looking forward to you getting a chance to take a little time and think this thing through. You were wrong. Plain and simple. You were wrong.

First, the way it is to get on site. Security is dramatically different since 9/11. You must have a badge to get on site. The guard must TOUCH your badge. There is no more of the “drive on by the guard shack if you’ve got a sticker on your car” mentality. The guards DO perform random checks. My vehicle and my belongings have been randomly searched a half dozen times in the last 18 months during trips on site and three times in the last year as I was leaving site. Immediately after 9/11, security was even tighter with most cars searched. It took 20 -30 minutes to get through the gate and snarled traffic in and around JSC for a mile in every direction. Everyone on site knew that that solution was unworkable in the long term, and the current situation appears to be a reasonable compromise between increased security and sufficient time to access the site. Security is also redoing all of the background checks on individuals on site as we speak, so there is already an enormous effort to increase security to a level that many of us believe goes beyond the necessary in the first place.

Second, the way it is when you’re on site. It is true that once you are on-site, there is little in the way of security to get into most of the office buildings (at least the security that we regularly see). But the mission critical systems are limited to authorized personnel only. In addition, during missions, the security in and around the Mission Control Center is significantly increased. All bags are searched before you can enter the secured areas of the building in order to protect the mission assets. This situation is a real pain, but we all understand. We do not complain. We smile at the guards. We help them look through our bags. We understand the world in which we live.

Third, what exactly would you have security do? Should security search all cars? Unworkable. Should all persons go through metal detectors at the gate? Silly. Should everyone go through a metal detector to enter their building? Not realistic. My building can be entered via SIX SEPARATE entrances spread across THREE FLOORS. Most buildings have at least three entrances. JSC is already more secure than EVERY elementary school, high school, college campus, office building, shopping mall, library, restaurant, movie theater, and concert hall than I have EVER been to. One of the talking heads last night actually said that the million dollar question was “how did an employee get a loaded gun onto the sprawling 1,600 acre, 15,000 person campus?” What a buffoon! That was like asking how did the needle get in the haystack. I had hoped you’d be using your satirical talents to point out the idiocy of comments like that one instead of jumping on the band wagon of the folks asking some poorly thought out questions.

Lastly, and most importantly, I didn’t know any of the individuals involved in the terrible tragedy, but my thoughts and prayers go out to them, to those working in B44, and to anyone else affected by the tragedy.

Please sign me someone@jsc.

Keith: As a civil servant at Goddard, I have not been checked in any way upon entering the center for years (aside, of course, from a badge check). Even at HQ the civil servants are exempted from the metal detector and package screening. I always walk in with a very full backpack. It would be trivially easy to take a loaded weapon to HQ. Over the days and weeks one could stock a small arsenal if one so chose. The fact that this hasn’t happened at Goddard is a statement to the quality of the workforce, not of any security procedures.

I would prefer not establishing the kind of security procedures that would catch a single gun from entering center. That would entail daily backpack screening, which practically would have to happen at the entrance of individual buildings (35 at last count?)

Anonymous, NASA Goddard

This was a great tragedy in that people lost their lives at JSC because of anger. I do take issue with Mr. Kowlingin his statement about buying metal detectors to solve this kind of problem. To implement your idea to prevent weapons from entering NASA facilities, much less any office building in this country is ludicrous. I would like to have heardhis comments as a NASA engineer if you were made to stop daily at the gate to pass through a metal detector and have your car searched. Security isn’t convenient to most people, until a tragedy happens. Then the checks being flowing and Congress passes emergency supplemental funding and security programs get whatever they ask for. Before someone gets killed security programs are the first to take the hit when overhead gets cut to fund the big programs like Shuttle and CEV. This cycle of peopledying and then beefing up security has been proven over history: the Beirut barracks bombing, World Trade Center bombing, American Embassies in east Africa being bombed, the USS Cole, 9-11, Virginia Tech, and now JSC. Either make the commitment to MAINTAIN security or face the inevitable.

Keith – I work for a NASA contractor in another state, but the spectacle of our rent-a-cops with side arms is scary to say the least. Some of them already think they are more important than they are.

We have multiple entries into our site, most of which are not manned. This means that if one wanted to, it is easy to bring contraband of any sort through the turnstile with an access card. Locking down all entrances and hand checking, x-ray checking, magnetometer checking like an airport would really become restrictive at any of these sites.

I’ve been on base at SSC and MSFC and can’t imagine the backup and delays you would envision. Let’s not go to a police state with all actions tightly controlled. The gun man at JSC and VT were both previously identified as problems. Maybe some adult supervision and taking responsibility for barring access to identified problems is better than major inconvenience for the rest of us trying to get the next launch/vehicle/system into space.

Keith, in regards to your posting below, last night on the Houston News, an excerpt was aired where Michael Coats ( JSC Center Director ) stated that just after the Virginia Tech Shootings, JSC reviewed its Security Measures and concluded nothing needed to be changed.

As to JSC Security and the Contractor Guards, I had heard from time to time ( retired now ) that some of these guards had arrest records and/or at least non-work related complaints filed. I dont even know if they have bullets in the weapons they wear. Something must be noted when they need to call the Houston Police. Also, ever wonder why they have barricades and control entrances into the Parking Lots of key Buildings, eg control Center, Astronauts Bldg, Bldg 1 etc to stop car bombs I guess but that any pedestrian can enter from many other entrances. Guess the word about some of the tactics being used in IRAQ and GAZA, etc hasnt gotten here yet.

The first solution everyone jumps on is control the access for the gun. It would be easy if the answer was “how did the guy get the gun on site?” Metal detectors are mentioned. There are around 120 buildings at JSC with multiple entrances and with people going in and out 24 hours a day. How many metal detectors would that require and who would monitor them. If someone wants to get a gun inside JSC they can do it regardless of how many metal detectors are there. Some machine shops at JSC even have the capability to make a gun.

I don’t remember David Beverly, but see in an old JSC phone book that we were in the same building at one time.

I was at JSC last week as a JSC retiree, and the security seemed to be adequate to me. They looked up my record and issued me a new retiree badge, my 3rd to date and then the guards checked my badge and drivers license when I went in. This appears to be an incident that could have happened anywhere, and does in every major city every day.

Please do not post my name and email address if you post these comments to any website – thank you.

Two comments:

1. Very, very sad, but I’m not surprised. I have been expecting something like this to happen. Lots of people under lots of stress at JSC, for an extended period now, and with such a large and varied population of employees, I believed the probability was high that this sort of event would happen sooner than later.

2.Regarding your claim that NASA security failed, asking how someone could carry a loaded gun into JSC: Are you really suggesting metal detector checks of all employees at the field centers? Where? At the entrance gates? At the doors to every building? Either way, that willtake a lot of security personnel and/or mean that everyone entering will be delayed by some amount of time (maybe a long time if done at the gates).Yeah,I think I know what you’re going to say: If it saves one life, it’s worth it. OK fine, but why only apply that to NASA facilities?Shouldn’t therealsobe metal detectors at everypost office, shopping center, school building, hospital, bank, you-name-it?Maybe that’s theright eventual answer, but it’s not a publicly-accepted answer today -my point being thatyou shouldn’t single-outNASAfield centers as havinguseless lethal weapon security practices on April 20, 2007.

I’ve spent most of my career at NASA at a field center, but did spend some time at HQ. I listened to CNN Headline news last night and was offended. The person to blame here is Mr. Phillips. Talk of “lax security” and “why don’t they have metal detectors” shows a level of ignorance that is unbelievable. Mr. Phillips most likely had a badge (or was able to convince someone that he should have one) and drove onto JSC in a car. The gun was likely in a backpack or briefcase similar to the ones many other JSC employees carry in with them each morning. I drive through two layers of security each morning, one for the Air Force base on which our center is located, and one for the center. Lots of badge checks, random inspections, car checks, etc. Could I smuggle in a loaded gun? Absolutely. If there are lessons to be learned here, focus on how they handled a terminated employee. Did anyone recognize him as a retaliation risk? Did they take his badge? Did they take his car pass? Did they inform security not to allow him back on campus? Did they post his photo in the guard shacks? Those are legitimate questions. Lax security at NASA? That’s just stupid.

Anonymous, please

Whether it be at a high school, college campus or Government facility, the problem is emphasis is always placed on the easy physical security issues, such as setting up a badging system, controlling access to certain areas and establishing weapon-free zones, while the much harder and thornier job of establishing and verifying psychological security is ignored. All of the physical security measures in the world will not prevent a vengeful, psychologically-deranged insider from doing grievous harm.


From an anonymous source at JSC, of course…

I was far from the scene of the violence today, but it still would have been nice had someone at NASA taken the time to inform the workers what was going on. For the first hour we had rumors and then the TV coverage and web sites (local news and Houston Chronicle), nothing from JSC. After an hour we got a brief “shelter in place” email distributed to everyone on site, along with managers coming around to inform those who may not have known what was going on that things were under control though we could leave if we were not feeling safe. After another hour we got an “all clear” email. NASA spokespeople were doing their job talking to the press and keeping them up to date, how about someone letting the employees know the same information? Where were the warnings via siren (which they test monthly) or the JSC Emergency Alert system?


I am a civil servant at JSC. The first I heard about the shooting was when speaking to a person in anotherbuilding who was told to shelter-in-place. I turned on NASA TV and saw information about the shooting. Then I turned it to the local news channel where it was being discussed. We did not receive an e-mail notice until about 30-45 minutes later. Everytime we have a storm we get notices on bad weather by e-mail but we didn’t get an e-mail about this shooting!!! Heck, we even received our OSHA VPP Star certificaton but we can’t get an e-mail out immediately on a shooting onsite!! I’ve knownDave Beverly for many years and he was a great guy, easy going, sharp engineering and a friend. He will be missed.

NASA Watch founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.