Government Accountability Office could investigate Virginia training facility
Security called into question after Local 10 News crew entered unlocked gate
MONTROSS, Va. – When Congress calls in Charles Johnson, a federal investigation usually follows. In this case, it's because a Local 10 News crew pointed out a potential threat to national security.
"These aren't problems," U.S. Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen, D-Fla., said. "These are potential terrorist threats a few miles from the Capitol."
She met with Johnson, who is part of the Government Accountability Office, after Local 10 showed them video of a private training facility two hours from Washington where the State Department trains foreign police to fight terrorism.
The facility houses weapons and explosives, and yet in the evening the property seemed largely unmanned. A Local 10 crew was able to walk right up to storage containers with explosives and no one noticed.
"I would say it's shocking if what you're showing is unlocked gates," Johnson said.
He investigated the anti-terrorism assistance program in 2008. Back then there were other issues, including inconsistencies in reports, Johnson said.
"For example, some of the efforts in Afghanistan, the state reported that about 15 students were trained in about four programs," he said. "We looked into the data and found it was over 1,500 that trained in about 12 programs, so that's a huge difference."
People near the training facility in Virginia said it's scary, particularly because of a story several residents told of trainees dropping out of the program and skipping town.
"So these guys were training, and then in the middle of training they just vanished?" asked Local 10 News reporter Sasha Andrade.
"They just left," replied Annette Hamilton, who lives in the area.
People in Montross want to know why the U.S. government is training foreigners so close to Washington. Johnson said it's likely a money issue.
"It's costly for us to carry out some of the programs oversees," he said.
However, Johnson also pointed out that, between 2009 and 2012, the State Department forgot about $10 million in appropriated funds. He said the money expired and could no longer be used.
U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., and Ros-Lehtinen want a federal investigation, and they want it immediately.
The GAO has never specifically investigated the Montross facility, but that may change. Bill O'Gara, the founder of the facility, said his place is safe. He said the explosive storage containers are individually locked and secure.
Producer/news photographer Brian Ely contributed to this report.
Copyright 2015 by WPLG Local10.com - All rights reserved.