Senators Express Confidence in Fort Hood Review

Senators Express Confidence in Fort Hood Review

U.S. Capitol
Photo by: Architect of the Capitol

Key lawmakers from the Senate Armed Services Committee recently expressed confidence in the Army’s efforts to address issues such as command climate, culture change and sexual assault and harassment.

The senators on Feb. 4 received a closed-door briefing on the Army’s response to the findings and recommendations from the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee’s assessment of the Texas post. Two of the three co-chairs of the Army’s People First Task Force, which was created to address the report’s findings, spoke to the senators.

“It’s going to take real leadership to fix the problems at Fort Hood and throughout the Army,” Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a joint statement. “What we heard today gives us hope, but hope alone isn’t enough. We look forward to working with the task force and leadership at DoD to solve these troubling issues once and for all.”

The senators visited Fort Hood last September and met with commanders and talked to soldiers, Reed and Inhofe said, and “what we heard was very troubling.”

The independent committee’s report, released in December, “underscored what we learned,” the senators said. “The Fort Hood leadership was disengaged—from the very top down to squad level—and that resulted in the ineffective implementation of programs designed to respond to sexual harassment and assault.”

Then-Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy ordered the independent review after the April murder of Spc. Vanessa Guillen, a 20-year-old member of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment at Fort Hood, by another soldier. 

The review was conducted by a panel of five civilians. Their report found a “deficient” command climate at Fort Hood, including ineffective implementation of the Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program that resulted in a pervasive lack of confidence, fear of retaliation and significant underreporting of cases. The report also found that Fort Hood leadership knew or should have known of the high risk of harm to female soldiers, according to the Army. 

Fourteen commanders and other leaders at Fort Hood were relieved or suspended, and senior Army leaders pledged to take action across the force.

“While the independent review focused on the command climate and culture at Fort Hood, the findings contained in the committee’s report impact the entire Army and more than 1.2 million soldiers,” McCarthy said at the time.   

The Army stood up the People First Task Force to study the recommendations in the report, map out a plan to tackle them, and reevaluate current Army policies and programs. Led by Lt. Gen. Gary Brito, deputy chief of staff for personnel; Diane Randon, assistant deputy chief of staff for intelligence; and Sgt. Maj. Julie Guerra, the G-2 sergeant major; the goal is to begin implementing changes in March.

“We are confident that the task force will take the findings and recommendations from Fort Hood and develop solutions that can work Armywide,” Reed and Inhofe said. “This won’t be easy, but it is critical that the Army get it right.”