By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
April 16, 2010 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today disputed claims that the Defense Department was withholding information from the Senate Homeland Security Committee about the Nov. 5 Fort Hood, Texas, shooting incident.
"We have no interest in hiding anything," said Gates, who earlier this week had traveled to Peru, Colombia and then Barbados to discuss regional security issues.
"But what [is] most important," Gates told reporters here, "is this prosecution, and we will cooperate with the committee in every way with that single caveat -- that whatever we provide does not impact the prosecution. That is the only thing in which we have an interest."
"Our priority is in ensuring we don't do anything that would potentially impact the prosecution of Major [Nidal] Hasan," Gates said, referring to the alleged shooter.
Gates said the Defense Department is implementing changes to help prevent another attack like the one at Fort Hood, but he cautioned that such crimes cannot be completely prevented.
"One would be foolish" to say a similar incident could never happen again, he said, but noted steps are being taken to help reduce the likelihood.
"Clearly one element of that is better sharing and information from post to post and commander to commander," he said.
Gates this week directed the Defense Department to implement 26 interim recommendations of an independent panel he appointed to look into events surrounding the shooting. Hasan, an Army officer, has been charged with 13 counts of murder and 32 counts of attempted murder.
The panel detailed 79 recommendations to improve force protection and tighten gaps in personnel policies, emergency response, mass casualty preparedness and support to Defense Department health care providers.
The secretary approved the 26 recommendations in their entirety while work continues on the other 53 recommendations. The panel's full report is expected to be released in June.
Gates credited the department and the services for "stepping up" in the aftermath of the shootings and making changes that could prevent similar future incidents.