Reichert, Kilmer Call on Defense Secretary Mattis to Immediately Implement Inspector General’s Recommendations to Comply with FBI Background Check Reporting Requirements

Dec 27, 2017 Issues: Defense and National Security

Washington, DC – Following the report earlier this month from the Department of Defense’s Inspector General showing that the Military Services did not consistently submit convicted offenders’ fingerprint cards and final disposition reports to the FBI’s Next Generation Identification Database, Representatives Dave Reichert (R-WA) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA) issued a letter asking the Secretary of Defense James Mattis to immediately implement the OIG’s recommendations to prevent future reporting lapses. The bipartisan pair also requested an outline of the DOD’s plan to correct previous reporting errors.

“As a former Sheriff and law enforcement officer for 33 years, I know how important it is to keep guns out of the hands of those who seek to do harm,” said Rep. Reichert. “It is why we should do all we can to make sure our federal background check system is strong and effective, including ensuring relevant information is in the system. I am proud to join with Rep. Kilmer to urge the Department of Defense to quickly improve their background check reporting practices and to request specific information on how they plan to ensure no individual slips through the cracks.”

“The Texas mass-shooting, like too many other acts of gun violence, was preventable, but the government failed to do the simple paperwork required to keep guns out of the hands of convicted criminals,” Rep. Kilmer said, “Everyone I have talked to in our community wants to see guns kept out of the hands of dangerous convicted criminals. Background checks are useless if the databases designed to prevent convicted violent criminals from getting guns aren’t up to date. Secretary Mattis shouldn’t waste another second to implement the Inspector General’s recommendations which could prevent future tragedies.

The OIG found that the military’s failure to report convictions and to deliver fingerprints to the FBI was systemic. The OIG has conducted regular investigations identifying this issue since 1997. This most recent report found 601 of the 2502 fingerprint cards that the DOD was required to report on to the FBI were not submitted as required. That amounts to 24 percent. One of the unreported cases was the Air Force’s court-martialing of Devin P. Kelley who was convicted on two counts equivalent to felonies in the civil system stemming from a domestic violence incident. Had the Air Force properly reported the conviction, Devin Kelley would have failed an FBI background check, possibly preventing him from purchasing the guns and body armor he used to murder churchgoers at the First Baptist Church in Southerland Springs, Texas in one of the nation’s deadliest mass shootings in history earlier this year.

The DOD OIG made several specific recommendations to address these deficiencies. For example, the OIG recommended that the Secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force ensure that all fingerprint cards and final disposition reports be promptly reported to the FBI. More broadly, the OIG recommended that the Secretaries of each of the military’s branches, as well as the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, and the Deputy Chief Management Officer immediately perform a comprehensive review of their criminal investigative databases and files to ensure all required fingerprint cards and final disposition reports for qualifying offenses at least to 1998 have been submitted to the FBI in compliance with the DOD and FBI requirements.

In addition to complying with federal background check reporting requirements, Reps. Reichert and Kilmer supported the Veteran Urgent Access to Mental Healthcare Act, which would increase the mental health care options available to veterans with an “other than honorable” discharge. Last month, the House of Representatives passed the legislation. Under current law, service members separated from the military with an “other than honorable discharge” are not allowed to seek care at VA facilities, which bars many veterans in need of mental health care from receiving it.

The OIG’s report can be read in full here.

The letter Kilmer and Reichert sent to Secretary Mattis is available in full here.