Defense Officials Angered by Rushed Naval Yard Memorial

Official: ‘The universal feeling around here is that we’re getting jerked around’

Navy Yard Shooting, Flags Fly at half-staff, Washington Monument
Flags surrounding the Washington Monument fly at half-staff after the Navy Yard Shootings AP
• September 20, 2013 12:32 pm


The White House is rushing to organize a Sunday memorial service for victims of the Navy Yard shooting, leaving top defense officials worried that it will not properly honor the 12 people shot dead on Monday.

The White House gave Navy Yard brass less than 12 hours to assemble a 2,500-person guest list composed of service members and contractors affected by Monday's mass shooting, according to exclusive emails obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

"Urgent tasking in support of Sunday's Memorial Ceremony. By 0730 tomorrow we need an estimate of how many employees want to attend the NAVSEA Memorial Ceremony," a Navy official said in an email sent out to officers Thursday evening. "President Obama will participate in order to honor the people we lost."

Aaron Alexis, a mentally ill Navy Reserve veteran and defense contractor, shot 20 Navy personnel, police, and contractors on Monday morning, leaving 12 dead and eight wounded. He was killed by police hours after the rampage began.

The late notice had Navy officials scrambling on Thursday night to gauge interest and identify which Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) personnel were closest to the victims.

"What I need you to do is work your Recall Rosters TONIGHT and provide a consolidated response by PMS code by 0700 tomorrow in order to support the 0800 meeting," the email continues.

One defense official said the short notice was especially exasperating.

"Some of us are burying our friends, it would be meaningful if they gave us time to properly plan—that’s what infuriating about this to me," a defense official said. "The universal feeling around here is that we’re getting jerked around."

In addition to the late notice, Navy officials, who asked to remain anonymous, were furious at the limited number of seats available to those most affected by Monday's carnage.

"Attendance will be limited to employees (GS, uniformed, and contractors) plus one guest," the email says. "We expect only around 2500 tickets available for the NAVSEA family, so unfortunately interest alone does not guarantee a ticket."

The Navy Yard employs about 16,000 civilian and military officials.

"In the building where the shooting took place, there are 3,000 people who work in that building on a regular basis. So 1,200 isn’t going to cut it," a source said.

Navy officials were also kept in the dark about the details of the invitation process, leaving them with the impression that White House organizers were treating them as an afterthought, according to the source. The lack of detail forced Navy officials to reach employees after work hours and demand personal details.

"We are not yet sure what the final ticket distribution mechanism will be, so you will need to connect the following TONIGHT for those interested in coming," the email says before asking for the names of employees, their guests, and contact information.

The uncertainty added tension to an already taxing process, according to one official.

"You’re taking people already stressed […] and further stressing them out to put together these ridiculous lists," the defense official said.

The ceremony will take place Sunday afternoon at the Marine Barracks located on 8th and I Street SE, just blocks from the shooting.

The White House has invited congressional leaders, White House officials and other political dignitaries who sources say may be more concerned with a photo opportunity than mourning the loss of colleagues and friends.

The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

The emails allude to the public nature of the ceremony, reminding attendees that Navy personnel are required to wear dress blues.

The email reminds defense officials that "show time" for the closed-door exclusive event is at 5:30 p.m.