In accepting the report of a special panel reviewing the circumstances surrounding the shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, that left 13 dead and 32 severely wounded, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, “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.”
Speaking to reporters Jan. 15 in the Pentagon, he added, “This department is burdened by 20th-century processes and attitudes mostly rooted in the Cold War. Our counterintelligence procedures are mostly designed to combat an external threat such as a foreign intelligence service.”
Gates said that he forwarded the panel’s recommendations to Army Secretary John McHugh directing him to take “appropriate action” regarding Maj. Nidal Hasan’s previous supervisors. Hasan, who remains hospitalized following the Nov. 5 shootings, is charged with 13 murders and 32 attempted murders.
A psychiatrist, Hasan undertook his medical education at the University of the Uniformed Services of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., and then was assigned to Walter Reed Army Medical Center as an intern, resident and fellow.
From there he was assigned to Fort Hood and was scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan.
Former Army Secretary Togo West and Adm. Vernon Clark, USN, Ret., and former chief of naval operations, co-chaired the panel that was charged with reviewing Defense Department practices and policies concerning internal threats.
“Likewise, our force-protection procedures are set up to investigate and adjudicate criminal conduct, such as domestic abuse and gang activities In particular, the review concluded that DoD force-protection programs are not properly focused on internal threats such as workplace violence and self-radicalization. The problem is compounded in the absence of a clear understanding of what motivates a person to become radicalized and commit violent acts,” Gates said.
Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, “I think the issue of self-radicalization is one that we have really got to focus on, because it -- there is -- there is clearly more and more of that going on. And how much of that we have in the military is something that we ought to really understand.”
Gates added the officer evaluation system often does not reflect noticed behavioral changes in an individual; and when noticed, that information is often not shared with supervisors at the officers’ new post.
“One of the things that clearly we have to look at is how can we more comprehensively evaluate our people, but also ensure that relevant information gets forwarded from one post to the other,” Gates noted.
In a separate news conference at the Pentagon, Clark said, “Guidance concerning workplace violence and the potentials for self-radicalization is insufficient. There is not a well-integrated means to gather, evaluate and disseminate the wide range of indicators that could signal an insider threat.”
West said, “Do we want commanders in the mosque? No. Do we want anybody there? No. What we want is commanders' awareness of what's happening in their units and what's happening to their people.”
Earlier, he said, “Suppose it were fundamentalist-Christian-inspired. Our concern is not with religion. It is with the potential effect on our soldiers’ ability to do their job.”
Clark added, “Complicating the entire force-protection area of discussion is the challenge that's been created by the diverse nature of the responsibilities as they have evolved within the department since 9/11. There are four undersecretaries of defense that have responsibilities.
“In your report on page 25, we outlined the specific things that they are responsible for, but the end result is that synchronization is difficult. As the secretary said this morning, there is no single official assigned overall responsibility, and then that results in a question about effective policy integration.”
Gates directed “the assistant secretary of Defense for Homeland -- Defense, Dr. Paul Stockton, to conduct an expeditious assessment of the review's findings and recommendations in order to implement them as quickly as appropriate.
As this will involve a number of department organizations and functions, this effort will include a broad range of defense offices, departments and commands.
Stockton’s report is due in March.
The Pentagon review, titled “Protecting the Force: Lessons from Fort Hood,” recommends closer coordination with FBI and the other agencies in the terrorist task force.
It also calls for the same effort to protect the force from internal threats as external; offer commanders guidance on identifying risky behavior; and share information with other installations and departments about individuals exhibiting behavioral change.