Gate at site of security breach recently underwent $1.3M in upgrades

A driver did not show identification and refused an order to turn around Thursday afternoon, March 2, 2017, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Gate 12A. The gate is off Ohio 444 near the Air Force Materiel Command headquarters. The security incident temporarily closed all base gates, causing a traffic backup. JIM NOELKER / STAFF

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A driver did not show identification and refused an order to turn around Thursday afternoon, March 2, 2017, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Gate 12A. The gate is off Ohio 444 near the Air Force Materiel Command headquarters. The security incident temporarily closed all base gates, causing a traffic backup. JIM NOELKER / STAFF

A Wright-Patterson gate where a man drove away from security forces Thursday had a pop-up barricade installed as part of an extensive $1.3 million upgrade in 2015, but authorities would not say if it was activated to prevent the driver from going onto the sprawling base.

The situation was the latest known security concern involving a Wright-Patterson gate, which are in line for millions of dollars in security upgrades over the next several years.

RELATED: New details on what forced security gate closure at Wright-Patt

In April, Gate 19B off National Road will close for several weeks in a project to add six new guard booths and an overhead canopy. In the future, the base also is in line for a new $12.6 million security gate to replace two others: Gate 16A, a commercial truck entrance off Ohio 444, and Gate 26A, an entrance way along Ohio 235 near the 445th Airlift Wing.

In the incident Thursday, base sentries temporarily closed every gate in Area A, causing a traffic jam that caught many in long lines trying to leave the base.

The unidentified man had entered Gate 12A off Ohio 444 near the Air Force Materiel Command headquarters around 3:45 p.m., a spokeswoman said.

The driver was later determined not to pose a security risk, according to a statement from Wright-Paterson spokeswoman Marie Vanover.

“The fact that this was at a time when people are leaving at the end of the day, that’s really what backed up the traffic,” she said.

Explore RELATED: Congressman pushes for more security at base

Base officials have previously said security is a top priority for the largest single-site employer in Ohio with more than 27,000 employees.

The base commander, Col. Bradley McDonald, nor a security forces representative, were not available for comment Friday.

The latest security lapse was a cause of concern, said Loren B. Thompson, a senior defense analyst at the Virginia-based Lexington Institute.

“Wright Patt is one of the most important U.S. military bases in the world,” he said in an email Friday. “It is a hub of research, management and intelligence analysis. So any penetration of the base perimeter can potentially compromise sensitive information.

“Beyond that, security personnel have to assume that any intruder is a terrorist,” he added. “Being able to gain unauthorized access to a major military facility in the American heartland could lead to major loss of life and a coup for anti-American extremists.”

Details released

In details released Friday, the unidentified man did not show proper identification but told authorities he was traveling to Wright-Patterson to meet someone, a base statement said. The driver was told to pull over to a parking lot until an escort arrived. The escort later got into the vehicle with the man, and the two drove off but did not coordinate their departure with base security forces, the statement said.

“Recognizing a potential risk to the installation,” a statement said, the gates were closed in Area A. An order was sent to patrols to find the vehicle, among other security measures that were triggered, according to Vanover.

Security forces identified the driver and contacted the escort by phone who was instructed to return to the gate. The driver returned about 15 minutes after driving away, Vanover said.

Explore RELATED: Early reports on gate upgrades

In response to a question about the length of time the driver was on base, Vanover said in an email that from “the time of the alarm to identifying the individuals involved, Security Forces Defenders followed procedures designed to identify the individual. This included identifying the vehicle, relaying descriptive information to other patrols, and other tactics, techniques and procedures that they follow.”

The driver, who was not employed at the base, was questioned and released and was not expected to face charges, Vanover said.

“While after investigation, it was determined there was never any threat to the installation, this incident proved that our Security Forces Defenders responded quickly and professionally to avert any potential threat to the base,” the statement said.

Prior security breaches

Wright-Patterson security forces have had to respond to other lapses in recent times.

In a security breach in November 2015, a Beavercreek man drove through Gate 22B at Interstate 675 and entered an Air Force Research Laboratory Sensors Directorate building on foot, causing an hours-long employee evacuation and a shelter-in-place order at a nearby child care center. Several law enforcement agencies, including the FBI anti-terrorism task force, rushed to the base. Base security forces and police cordoned off roads, both on and off Wright-Patterson.

The man pleaded guilty last month in U.S. District Court in Dayton to trespassing-related charges.

On Dec. 20, a 32-year old Dayton man was found unresponsive near a taxiway at the base’s main runway in Area A. He was later declared dead at Wright-Patterson Medical Center. A coroner’s autopsy determine he apparently died of hypothermia. Authorities had said the man appeared to have scaled a perimeter fence in a remote area near the Mad River the previous night before he was found unresponsive the next morning. Part of the man’s clothing was found on top of a barbed wire fence, a spokesman has said. The Dayton man may have been involved in a single-vehicle crash on Ohio 4 near the base the night before, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

In December 2015, U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, said he had appealed to high-ranking Air Force leaders to improve infrastructure security and add more guards at Wright-Patterson entry gates.

Before the November 2015 incident, Turner said he had met with then Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James and AFMC commander Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski to urge action to improve security measures at the sprawling base.

“We don’t have any margin for error here and we are certainly at a time where our nation is at risk and I think certainly Wright-Patterson Air Force Base deserves the resources to be able to protect the people that are there,” Turner said then.

A request for additional comment was left with the congressman’s office Friday.


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