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Investigators look for answers in Navy Yard shooting spree

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Updated: 9/18/2013 4:30 pm
(NBC News) -- In the wake of the Washington Navy Yard massacre, Defense Secretary Hagel is vowing to close what he called the gaps in the base access system.

During a news conference Wednesday, Hagel acknowledged there were red flags that warned gunman Aaron Alexis had serious mental health issues.

The Chief of Naval Operations at the Washington Navy Yard denied today that cost cutting made the base access system less effective.

"And where there are failures we will correct them. We owe the victims their families and all our people; nothing less, said Secretary Hagel.

Defense Secretary Hagel's ordered 3 reviews of who gets onto U.S. bases.

Two days after the Monday massacre, a yearlong navy study revealed 52 felons got passes thru one clearance program adding to the risk.

The Chief of Naval Operations denies economics played a part.

"We don't cut budgetary corners for security chairman," said Admiral Jonathan Greenert.

Gunman, Aaron Alexis, got his security pass thru a tougher clearance program, but he kept it, despite clear signs his mental illness was getting worse.

A red flag waved august 7th in Rhode Island.

From this hotel in Newport, Alexis called police and told them he was hearing voices and hit by microwaves.

Police notified the Navy base nearby where Alexis was working, and the mystery surrounding the handling of that contact is key to the investigation.

"What should have been done that wasn't done? Should more have been done?" Hagel asked.

The same questions were asked after the Ft. Hood massacre in 2009 that left 13 people dead.

At the time, military officials promised more attention to mental health issues.

Today, the mother of the navy yard shooter is anguished.

"Aaron is now in a place where he can no longer do harm to anyone and for that I am glad. To the families of the victims, I am so very, very sorry that this happened. My heart is broken," said Cathleen Alexis.

Meantime back in Washington, the focus remains on increasing security as the Pentagon vows to fix a base access system that looks broken.

-- Steve Handelsman, NBC News reports
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