Pentagon Fort Hood Massacre Review Finds Nothing New

pentagon-review-fort-hood-massacreThe Pentagon has released its review of a shooting spree conducted by a radical Islamist Army major who gave every possible indication that he was a nut.  It admits the obvious:

The military’s defenses against threats from inside its own ranks are outdated and ineffective, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said on Monday as he described the findings of a Pentagon review of the Nov. 5 shooting spree at Fort Hood, Texas. Mr. Gates cited poor communications about internal threats to the security of personnel, as well as a weak supervision by commanders, as systemic problems with implications that go beyond the single case of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the military psychiatrist accused of the shootings.

The formal report, released at noon by the Pentagon, found that “some medical officers failed to apply appropriate judgement and standards of officership” when judging Major Hasan, and that more attention should have been paid to his overall performance rather than just his academic record.

Major Hasan behaved erratically and had questionable communications with a radical cleric during the years and months before the shootings, which killed 13 and injured 28 more, according to various officials monitoring the investigations that ensued. But his supervisors took no actions based on his behavior, and he was transferred to a combat unit at Fort Hood last summer.

Several officers may be held accountable for any failures in supervising Major Hasan during his psychiatric training in the Washington area, Mr. Gates said. He referred the recommendations to the Army for further review. He did not provide details, but the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times, which first reported the findings overnight, said that as many as eight mid-ranking officers could face reprimands.

The preliminary review was conducted by Togo West, a former Secretary of the Army, and Adm. Vernon E. Clark, a former Chief of Naval Operations.

“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,” Mr. Gates said. He said he was particularly concerned that the military does not seem to be alert to signs of radicalization in its own ranks, to be able to detect its symptoms or to understand its causes. Major Hasan’s commanders and supervisors, he suggested, may have lacked the clear authority or explicit channels for reporting any doubts they had about him. Indeed, troubling information about individuals is often withheld or filed discreetly away instead of being shared, he said.

All of this was widely known within days of the attack, so the findings are a blinding flash of the obvious.  The key will be what, specifically, the orders are that go down that ranks.

Most obviously, the DoD will have to figure out how to get commanders, who have been socialized over the last two decades or more to avoid drawing attention to racial, ethnic, religious differences to have the courage to report suspicious behavior up the ranks — and to do so without creating a command climate that feels hostile to devout Muslims who are loyal soldiers.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Herb says:

    “and to do so without creating a command climate that feels hostile to devout Muslims who are loyal soldiers.”

    This is why I’m such a devoted OTB enthusiast. Many of your fellow conservatives would have made a similar point about the commanders’ vigilance…but most would have probably neglected to include this very important caveat.

  2. Brian Knapp says:

    This is why I’m such a devoted OTB enthusiast.

    I second.

  3. A major challenge, though, is that there is a strong element of “social promotion” nowadays. Whereas promotion to O-4 (Major) used to be in the 80% range, now over 95% of eligible O-3s get the bump. It was 97% in 2008. I don’t have 2009 numbers in front of me. Given that he was in psychiatry, there was basically almost no oversight of a guy like him.

    Without a real forcing function, like a real decision about getting a command or getting a competitive promotion, you simply can’t expect any organization to develop powerful oversight and vetting procedures.

    This is, btw, an unintended consequence of Iraq/Afghanistan. We’re so desperate to keep people in that we’ve weakened weeding out mechanisms throughout the process. We recruit people we wouldn’t have in the past. We don’t wash out as many from basic. We social promote up to O-4. We’re now in a situation where an officer can get to O-5 just by sticking around.

    And I don’t mean to belittle the accomplishments and sacrifices of the vast majority of our officers, but the reality is that we’re not culling much at all until very late in the game, and if you’re not making choices, there is very little incentive to closely track individuals.

  4. Eric Florack says:

    “and to do so without creating a command climate that feels hostile to devout Muslims who are loyal soldiers.”

    Well, now there’s the rub, isn’t it?
    How does one determine the security risks from the loyal soldiers, save by waiting for another Ft Hood. The only way I can see is gaining an understanding of the religion and operating within that understanding… do we really want a government agency making such choices? And even assuming we wanted tom could we without getting the lawyers out in force screaming about separation?