TN National Guard seeks $18M in security upgrades

The Tennessee National Guard is installing limited security measures at its facilities across the state, but providing a high level of security upgrades, including high-grade fencing at facilities without it, would cost about $18.2 million, Adjutant Gen. Max Haston told a state legislative committee Monday.

Further from the Commercial Appeal:

Haston said that 31 TNG recruiters who work out of seven “storefront” recruiting centers across the state will not be moved back into those centers until special bullet-resistant glass and barriers designed to block vehicles from crashing through are installed. After five members of the U.S. military were shot and killed by a lone gunman at a Chattanooga reserve center last month, the Guard recruiters were pulled out of their storefront locations and into the nearest National Guard armory, where Haston said they remain.

The top military official in state government gave a House committee his first report on security measures taken at TNG facilities in the wake of the July 16 shootings, including his directive last week allowing Guard personnel with Tennessee handgun-carry permits to go armed in state-owned armories. He said special camera-phone devices are being installed or are on order for 21 armories, and officials are working toward adding reinforced glass at the seven storefront recruiting centers, which the state leases in privately owned shopping centers.

Haston said the $18.2 million estimate is for a higher level of security upgrades at all facilities not already “hardened” with crash-proof fencing, security monitors and other measures that exist at facilities such as the Air National Guard bases in Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville and at TNG headquarters in Nashville.

“I have absolutely no illusions that we are going to get a windfall and we will upgrade as funds become available,” Haston told the committee.

Note: See also WPLN WPLN.

Haston says the guard will add a clear Mylar coating to the windows to make them more bullet resistant. They’re also installing camera systems. Other than the cost, Haston says those were easy decisions.

But allowing recruiters to carry a mix of government and personally-owned weapons was a step he didn’t really want to take. Democrats at a legislative hearing asked what if a recruiter turns out to be unstable. Haston said that was considered.

“That is a grave concern of mine,” he said about the prospect of a uniformed attack. “However, we have weighed the costs, and we feel that the balance of justice is more to the other than it is having somebody that is mentally deranged.”

The Guard still has some details to work out, such as whether recruiters will be able to carry a gun in their federally-issued vehicle.