By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
Nov. 19, 2009 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today announced the Defense Department will conduct a broad review of the Nov. 5 Fort Hood, Texas, shooting that left 13 dead and dozens injured. Former Army Secretary Togo West and retired Navy Adm. Vernon Clark, former chief of naval operations, will head the initial 45-day review, which will inform a follow-on investigation expected to last four to six months.
"The shootings at Fort Hood raise a number of troubling questions that demand complete but prompt answers," Gates said. "It is prudent to determine immediately whether there are internal weaknesses or procedural shortcomings in the department that could make us vulnerable in the future."
The department review is separate from both the criminal investigation of Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan -- the soldier charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder -- and a review ordered by President Barack Obama to take a governmentwide look at all intelligence related to the incident. Initial findings of the president-mandated review are due Nov. 30.
The purpose of the department review is three-fold, Gates said, including targeting possible gaps in procedures for identifying dangerous servicemembers who could pose credible risks to other troops. The review also will assess how "adverse information" about troops is recorded and handled, and will gauge the level of security and emergency response capabilities at Defense Department facilities.
As part of the initial review, each military service branch will appoint a senior official to work with Clark and West on service-specific issues, Gates said.
"In light of the Fort Hood incident and unique challenges, the Army will conduct a more in-depth, detailed assessment of whether Army programs, policies and procedures reasonably could have prevented the shooting," he said. The Army's findings will be submitted as part of the Army's contribution to the departmental review, Gates added.
He noted the initial review represents only the beginning of the process, with preliminary findings leading into a follow-up investigation.
"Its results will inform and largely shape a departmentwide follow-on examination of any systemic institutional shortcomings, an examination I expect to be completed within four to six months," he said.
The more in-depth review will entail each service selecting an investigative panel that will report their findings up the chain of command to a department-level panel. The departmentwide group will assess the findings and identify changes needed in policy and procedure, as well as areas where additional resources are required, Gates said.
"Among other issues, this review will cover topics such as servicemember support programs, care for victims and families of mass-causality events, how we assess and sustain the performance of health-care providers, and overall stress on the troops and their families," he said.
The department will exercise "full and open disclosure" amid the review process, Gates said, speaking a day after he attended a memorial ceremony in the small Tennessee hometown of Army Spc. Fred Greene, one of 13 killed in the Fort Hood massacre.
"There is nothing any of us can say to ease the pain for the wounded, the families of the fallen, and the members of the Fort Hood community touched by this incident -- pain I saw vividly and firsthand yesterday in Mountain City, Tenn.," he said. "All that is left for us to do is everything in our power to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future."