Fort Hood aftermath: Some Army officers’ careers may be over

A report released Friday on the Fort Hood shootings was short on specifics about Army officers who failed to do their jobs. But the Army is conducting another investigation, which could result in disciplinary action.

By , Staff writer

The Pentagon may end the careers of a handful of Army officers for failing to perform their jobs and potentially contributing to the shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, last fall.

As that possibility emerged, the Pentagon on Friday released a report on the November shootings, exploring how the military missed warning signs. Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army doctor with extremist views, is accused of killing 13 in the shootings.

Among the report’s conclusions: The military does not do enough to detect an enemy from within or to share information from one command to another. Also, the military must change its culture to ward off future threats, the report said.

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Commenting on the report, Defense Secretary Robert Gates voiced a concern that he’s raised in other contexts: that the department is rooted in a cold-war mind-set and that its counterintelligence posture is dated.

“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,” Secretary Gates said Friday.

The report, cowritten by former Chief of Naval Operations Vern Clark and former Army Secretary Togo West Jr., was intentionally short on specifics about officers who failed to do their jobs. These details could lead to a better understanding of what went wrong, what signals were missed, and how such an incident could be avoided in the future.

That information may be forthcoming. Army officials are also conducting an investigation, which will probably result in discipline for some officers over the next month or so. Investigators are looking at several allegations against the officers.

As part of that probe into the shootings, Army investigators will continue discussions with those unidentified officers next week. By next month, investigators will forward to Army leadership their recommendations for disciplinary action, according to a senior defense official.

Disciplinary action could include letters of reprimand that would effectively end some careers. But no criminal charges are expected, says the official, who asked not to be named because the individual was not authorized to speak publicly on a sensitive issue.

Other mistakes may fall into the category of administrative failings. In and of themselves, these mistakes would not amount to substantive oversights. But they would indicate that officers failed to implement government policies that might have flagged Hasan as a potential problem.

According to the unnamed official, early indications suggest that no one at Fort Hood missed any warning signs. Rather, the focus is on officers who had contact with Hasan earlier, such as at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

The military, Friday’s report concluded, must change its culture to become more vigilant against the internal threat – such as the one posed by people with extremist views.

“We need to be attentive to today’s hazards,” Mr. West said at the Pentagon Friday. “Yes, it is the role of our forces to protect the nation against external threats, but our emerging concern is to protect the force against the internal threat.”

Officials are quick to caution against thinking that the threat stems only from Islamic fundamentalism. Any form of extremism – whether it is grounded in racist or religious ideology – remains a concern.

The report did not appear to conclude that the internal threat from self-radicalized individuals was significant.

The bigger challenge is to find ways to appropriately identify threats and people who may pose a danger.

“Existing policies are not optimized for countering any internal threat,” Mr. Clark said. “What that means, then, is that there is insufficient knowledge and awareness – the kind of knowledge and awareness that is required to identify and address individuals likely to commit violence.”

The report also concluded that the actions of the first responders at the Fort Hood shootings were first-rate. Emergency personnel responded two minutes and 40 seconds after the initial 911 call, and 1-1/2 minutes later, Hasan was felled.

“No amount of preparation can be too much,” said West. “Leaders at Fort Hood anticipated a mass-casualty event in their emergency-response plans and exercises, and that preparation showed at Fort Hood.”

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