NEWS

Threat Identification, Information Sharing Need Improvement, Fort Hood Inquiry Finds

By Matthew Harwood

The military's ability to identify internal threats and report information up the chain of command must be improved to prevent radicalized individuals from carrying out attacks on military posts like the rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, said the two former military leaders who conducted the Pentagon's independent investigation into the shooting spree.

Former Secretary of the Army Togo West and retired Adm. Vern Clark, former chief of naval operations, addressed the findings of the 86-page report, "Protecting the Force: Lessons from Fort Hood," before reporters Friday at the Pentagon.

The report's 53 findings and associated recommendations seek to strengthen the military's ability to identify radicalized members. The report concentrated on four activities necessary to protect service members from comrades in arms who could follow Hasan's path into violent radicalization: threat identification, information sharing, preventative measures, and incident response.

Earlier this morning, Defense Secretary Robert Gates addressed the military's inability to adequately address internal security threats posed by soldiers, reports The New York Times.

"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.

The investigation stemmed from the events of Nov. 5, 2009, when Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan walked into the Soldier Readiness Center at Fort Hood and allegedly opened fire, murdering 13 people—12 soldiers and 1 civilian—and wounding 43 others.

In the massacre's aftermath, press reports painted a disturbing picture of Hasan's descent into jihadism that should have triggered an internal Army response, including improper proselytizing while on duty and in improper forums as well as e-mail communications with a radical cleric in Yemen who was under U.S. surveillance.

THREAT IDENTIFICATION & PREVENTIVE MEASURES

The military's ability to spot internal threats and take preventive measures hinges on pinpointing behaviors that indicate violent radicalization and creating a culture where service members are comfortable reporting cases in which comrades exhibit these warning signs, the investigation found.

"The lack of clarity for comprehensive indicators limits the commanders' and supervisors' ability to recognize potential threats," the reports reads. "Current efforts focus on forms of violence that typically lend themselves to law enforcement intervention (e.g., suicide, domestic violence, gang-related activities) rather than on perceptions of potential security threats."

West also explained that the investigation focused on identification of violent extremism in all forms, whether Muslim jihadism or Christian fundamentalism. "The immediate threat is radicalization of any sort that leads to violence," West said.

The report's broad view of extremism contrasts with recommendations made earlier this week by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Reform, chaired by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT). In a letter to Gates, Lieberman and ranking member Susan Collins (R-ME) said "the Army needs to revise its policies to clearly and unequivocally require that service members report fellow service members who exhibit signs of violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations."

THE FORT HOOD CASE

The report states that warning signs were both overlooked and ignored in Hasan's case, and that individuals must be held accountable.

"Several officers did not apply the Army's policies to the perpetrator," West said, adding the report recommends the Army should institute accountability reviews for officers responsible for supervising Hasan.

The Associated Press today reports that as many as 8 mid-ranking officers could face disciplinary measures for not appropriately supervising Hasan during his psychiatric training at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

The report also recommends that the Pentagon increase the number of personnel inside regional FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs), which consist of state and local  law enforcement officers working alongside FBI agents. After the shooting,The Los Angeles Times revealed that two JTTF members reviewed Hasan's e-mails to radical cleric Anwar al Awlaki but determined Hasan was not a threat. One of those JTTF included a Defense Department investigator who agreed with the assessment and never notified the Pentagon of Hasan's e-mails. Personnel from other agencies staffing JTTFs must first clear with their FBI supervisor any intelligence sharing.

Neither West nor Clark would discuss specifics about the Fort Hood case Friday.

INFORMATION SHARING

"Information sharing policies are deficient in regards to internal threats," said Clark.

Investigators found limited mechanisms for communicating potential threats inside the military because the service never faced such a threat before. In response, the report calls on the Pentagon to "exercise its role to set the bar higher to establish a new force protection culture, with new standards and procedures for sharing information, to recognize and defeat evolving external and internal threats."

Clark explained that effective information sharing must come "hand in glove" with a command and control structure that can respond to threats. The report notes that the military was fortunate that Hasan's rampage was not part of a coordinated attack and must create a mechanism to handle such an occurrence.

"Our command and control systems must have the right architecture, connectivity, portability, and flexibility to enable commanders to cope with near-simultaneous incidents at multiple locations," the reports states.

EMERGENCY RESPONSE

Both West and Clark lauded the emergency response to the Fort Hood shooting. According to the report, it took 2 minutes and 40 seconds for first responders to arrive on scene after the initial 911 call and another one-and-a-half minutes to neutralize the shooter. The shooting spree lasted "roughly seven to eight minutes from the first shot to the last," West estimated.

Clark noted that the suspect's rampage could have been far  worse if not for effective implementation of active shooter response procedures and existing mutual aid agreements with local and state first responders.

Despite these successes, "it could even be better."

The report recommends that the Pentagon synchronize its emergency management program with its civilian counterpart, the National Incident Management System. "This is an aggressive goal," the report admits, "but it matches the goals and character of future enemies."


 ♦ Screenshot of cover of "Protecting the Force"

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