A U.S. congressman, speaking after a mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, said he understood a year-long investigation of security at the country's Navy installations had shown serious flaws partly driven by cost-cutting.
Representative Mike Turner, the chairman of a House Armed Services subcommittee, asked the Defense Department's inspector general's office to provide information about the audit of Naval security, which has yet to be published.
"Given the disturbing events (on Monday), I am highly concerned that the access control systems at our nation's military installations have serious security flaws," Turner wrote in a letter to Acting Inspector General Lynn Halbrooks.
"It is my understanding the IG report indicates the Navy may have implemented an unproven system in order to cut costs," the Ohio Republican said.
He said he had learned that "potentially numerous felons may have been able to gain unrestricted access to several military installations across the country due to the insufficient background checks, increasing the risk to our military personnel and civilian employees."
TIME magazine, which said on Tuesday that it had received information about the audit from a federal official, said it showed that 52 "convicted felons" received routine access to installations and that the Navy "did not effectively mitigate access-control risks associated with contractor installation access."
The suspect in Monday's shooting, Aaron Alexis, 34, was a Navy contractor from Fort Worth, Texas, who had clearance to enter the closely guarded Washington Navy Yard. He is accused of killing 12 people dead before being shot dead by police.
He had been given clearance despite two gun-related brushes with the law and a discharge from the Navy Reserve in 2011 after a series of misconduct issues.
Alexis was recently hired as a civilian information technology contractor to work on the Navy and Marine Corps intranet and was given a security clearance classified as "secret," his company's chief executive told Reuters.
The Department of Defense Inspector General began its audit in September 2012. A Navy official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was not clear how applicable the audit is to the shooting at the Navy Yard on Monday.
"The Navy is reviewing the findings of the DoD inspector general report now," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "It is unclear at this time the degree to which the findings apply to the shooting at the Navy Yard yesterday."