Fort Hood and DOD Independent Review

January 25, 2010

Army personnel responsible for supervising the Army psychiatrist now accused of the November 5, 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Tex, may find themselves accused of failing to follow Army policies and regulations and taking appropriate actions.

Army personnel responsible for supervising the Army psychiatrist now accused of the November 5, 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Tex, may find themselves accused of failing to follow Army policies and regulations and taking appropriate actions.

An independent review panel recently recommended in its Fort Hood report that Army Secretary John McHugh “review officership standards among military medical officer supervisors at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences [USUHS] and Walter Reed Army Medical Center [WRAMC].” In a recent press release, McHugh asked General Carter Ham to conduct an accountability review and recommend possible disciplinary actions.

The accused psychiatrist, Maj Nidal Malik Hasan, has been charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) with 13 specifications of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder, and is awaiting trial, according to a White House press statement.

Following the Fort Hood shootings, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates asked former Army Secretary Togo Dennis West, Jr and former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Vern Clark, US Navy (Ret), to conduct an independent review of the Department of Defense’s (DOD) policies, programs, and procedures for identifying and responding to internal threats. The 86-page review, Protecting the Force: Lessons from Fort Hood, was released on January 15.

The panel was asked to do a careful review of personnel policies, of force-protection measures, of emergency-response plans, of support to DOD healthcare providers, and of oversight of the “alleged perpetrator.”

Hasan received his medical training at USUHS from 1997 to 2003. Thereafter, he was a psychiatric resident and then fellow in disaster and preventive psychiatry at WRAMC. In May of 2009, he was assigned to Fort Hood. An Associated Press story as well as a Psychiatric Timesarticle on Fort Hood have identified some of Hasan’s supervisors, but the DOD and the Army have not released the number of individuals subject to review nor their names.

West told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the review panel investigated the accession, training, education, supervision, and promotion of Hasan, but he could not address specifics about Hasan in open session so as to preserve the integrity of the ongoing military justice process. Details about Hasan’s personnel records located in a partially redacted annex are for official use only.

The review panel also charged that some medical officers failed to include the alleged perpetrator’s overall performance as an officer, rather than solely his academic performance in his formal performance evaluation.

What the review panel concluded is “what gets reported in the formal personnel officer evaluations often does not pick up personal behavioral issues. Sometimes there’s a reluctance to address those kinds of issues, and also, if observed at one post, [a reluctance] to pass along those concerns or behavioral issues to the next post,” said Secretary Gates at a press conference.

In the accountability investigation, General Ham, who was a review panel member, will identify whether any personnel were responsible for failures or deficiencies in applying Army programs, policies, and procedures to the alleged assailant. He will also issue recommendations as to whether disciplinary or adverse action is warranted by each finding, and if so, the nature of such disciplinary or adverse action and the basis for such recommendation.

He is expected to report back to McHugh by mid- to late February, said Lt Col Anne Edgecomb, an Army public affairs officer. Asked about possible punishments, she said there could be nonjudicial punishments, such as a letter of reprimand or forfeiture of pay, or a judicial action according to the UCMJ that might result in a court-martial.

Other Findings
The review panel, which looked at some 35,000 pages from 700 documents and visited Fort Hood, identified several problems. Among them:

-A culture exists in which military healthcare providers are encouraged to deny their own physical, psychological and social needs to provide the necessary support to beneficiaries

-Lack of DOD policies that recognize, define, integrate and synchronize monitoring and intervention efforts to assess and build healthcare provider readiness

-A critical need for preventive programs designed to provide comprehensive support to enhance resilience and reduce fatigue in behavioral health employees treating mental health problems

-A failure in DOD force-protection programs to focus on internal threats, such as workplace violence and self-radicalization, and a lack of knowledge about what motivates a person to become radicalized and commit violent acts.

Secretary Gates said that Paul Stockton, PhD, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and America’s Security Affairs, has been charged with implementing the review panel’s recommendations as quickly as appropriate. Some fixes will be accomplished by March with other more fundamental institutional changes underway by June.

Radicalization
In both the Senate and House Armed Services Committee hearings on the review panel’s findings, Clark and West were criticized for not singling out Islamic extremist radicalization within the military in the review. Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Senator Susan Clark Collins (R-Maine) called for specific training on recognizing the warning signs of Islamic extremism, while Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich) said Muslims should be involved when distinguishing the signs of Islamic extremism from legitimate religious expression.

West, responding to Senate Committee questions, said, “Violent, aggressive religious extremism is a source of threat to our soldiers, sailors, Marines airmen and Coast Guard personnel, whatever the religious source…We have been focused on the external threat; now we have to focus on the internal threat, from one of our own. We want to make sure that we look at the indicators, and religious extremism, whatever the source, is an indicator.”