Late Breaking News
Domestic Internal Security Reviewed in the Wake of the Fort Hood Shootings
- Categorized in: March 2010
WASHINGTON, DC—Defense Secretary Robert Gates vowed to take action in response to a Fort Hood report that found that more needed to be done to protect troops from “internal threats.” “It is clear that as a department we have not done enough to adapt to the evolving domestic internal security threat to American troops and military facilities that has emerged over the past decade,” said Gates.
The DoD Independent Review Related to Fort Hood was conducted in response to the Nov 5th shooting. Maj Nidal Hasan, an army psychiatrist, is accused of killing 13 people and wounding 43 others in the attack.
Led by retired Navy Adm Vernon Clark and former Army Secretary Togo West, the review examined whether existing Army policies were applied to Hasan, and what policies DoD has in place to identify employees who could pose a threat to others, among other things. Included in the report are a number of recommendations on how DoD can strengthen its programs and policies to identify individuals within the military who might pose a threat.
Report Examines DoD Policies
The report praised the Fort Hood responders who were on the scene two minutes and 40 seconds after the initial 911 call. One minute and 30 seconds after they arrived on the scene Hasan was incapacitated.
However, the report also found that the attack exposed gaps within DoD policies, such as a need for clear guidance for commanders with respect to “identifying behaviors that may pose internal threats.” Guidance concerning the observation of personal behavior is primarily focused on suicide prevention and that there is no “formal policy guidance for commanders to identify, report, or act on indicators that may be indicative of an internal threat.”
The review also found that there are difficulties in sharing relevant threat information pertaining to a servicemember among personnel. Commanders, for example, have the discretion to record or forward information about minor law enforcement or disciplinary infractions. This information may therefore be unavailable to future commanders and supervisors.
The report recommended a review of what additional information should be maintained throughout a servicemember’s career as they change duty location, deploy and re-enlist. “Defense personnel-management systems are generally organized to withhold and compartmentalize troubling information about individuals, as opposed to sharing it with the people and leaders who need to know,” said Gates.
The report also placed blame on those who supervised Hasan during his medical training and career. Hasan received training at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and completed his residency at Walter ReedArmy Medical Center. The report noted that some medical officers failed to “apply appropriate judgment and standards of officership” with respect to the alleged gunman.
While the report did not name specific medical officers, it stated that there were discrepancies between his documented performance in records and his actual performance during his training, residency and fellowship. The public portion of the report did not detail what these “discrepancies” were, but news outlets have reported that supervisors had concerns about him that were not included in his performance evaluation.
Gates said that the Army has been directed to take “appropriate action” involving Army personnel responsible for supervising Hasan, but would not elaborate on the situation.
Congress Reacts To Report
At a HouseArmed Services Committee hearing last month members expressed concern about why there was a discrepancy between Hasan’s actual performance and the evaluations that superiors wrote for him.
West and Clark, who presented their report’s findings, acknowledged this discrepancy, but did not provide additional details. West told the committee “things witnessed were not always reported where they needed to be reported.” West said that if “honest evaluations” are not done on personnel, the department cannot protect against threats. Clark added that signs were “clearly missed” or ignored, in regards to the alleged killer.
The hearing did little to shed light on the specifics of Hasan’s case. Questioned regarding Hasan’s personnel records, Clark and West responded that they could not provide any specific details publicly. Details surrounding Hasan’s specific circumstance were disclosed in an annex to the report made available only to the committee.
Rep Victor Snyder, D-AR, complained that it was unclear to him why the independent review’s findings on Hasan’s personnel record are not being publicly disclosed. “When is the right time going to be?” he said. West replied that disclosing this information would compromise the military justice proceedings in the case against Hasan.
Rep Walter Jones, R-NC, questioned whether there is an environment in the military where psychiatrists are needed so badly that what “should have been a red flag, was not a red flag.” Clark responded that there is definitely stress on the force and that there needs to be the same kinds of programs and support for healthcare providers that there is for combatants.
The committee also wanted to know whether the military was vulnerable to future internal attacks. West said that as long as there are “humans serving in the Armed Forces” self-radicalization, anger and prejudices can “lead to violent acts.”
Clark praised the Fort Hood incident after-action report. “What I saw was the best after-action report I have ever seen in my life,” he said.
The review concluded that Fort Hood leaders had anticipated mass casualty events in their emergency response plans and exercises so base personnel were prepared to take actions to secure the situation.