By Frank James
As part of the Pentagon's effort to prevent another disaster like the Fort Hood Army Base shootings, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Thursday a broad review of the military's ability to suss out servicemembers who might pose a threat to their comrades as well as its capacity to respond to mass casualty events.
Gates said he had named Clinton-era Army Secretary Togo West and former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vern Clark to head the 45-day review.
The move is the result of a growing number of reports that the behavior of Maj. Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist and accused killer of 13 people at Fort Hood, worried some colleagues and supervisors but apparently not enough to prevent him from being promoted or transferred from Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. to Fort Hood.
At a Pentagon briefing with reporters, Gates said:
The shootings at Fort Hood raise a number of troubling questions that demand complete but prompt answers. As you know, the president ordered a government-wide review to look at all intelligence related to this matter, how such intelligence was handled, shared and acted on within and between individual departments and agencies.
Today, I am announcing that the Department of Defense will conduct a separate review to ensure the safety and health of DOD employees and their families. We do not enter this process with any preconceived notions.
However 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. To this end, I've ordered a 45-day review with three areas of emphasis.
First, to find possible gaps or deficiencies in Defense Department programs, processes and procedures for identifying servicemembers who could potentially pose credible threats to others.
Second, to assess among other issues personnel reliability programs, medical screening programs, servicemember release and discharge policies and procedures, pre-and-post-deployment health assessment programs, periodic counseling sessions and procedures on the reporting and handling of adverse servicemember information.
And third and finally to examine the sufficiency of both the department's domestic physical security programs, at Department of Defense facilities, and its emergency response capabilities for mass-casualty events at our facilities.