Jan. 15, 2010 -- The Pentagon gave itself a harsh assessment in the aftermath of the Fort Hood shootings, and could pursue disciplinary action against several officers who "failed to comply" with policies in place to get rid of officers who were unfit.
In an 86-page report released Friday, Defense Department investigators determined that the procedures in place meant to head off violent behavior are "outdated" and "incomplete."
The review commissioned by Defense Secretary Robert Gates called the failures "significant" and "in need of immediate attention."
Published reports suggest as many as eight Army officers could face sanction for not cutting short the military career of accused shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, even as he was showing signs of erratic behavior and professional problems in the years leading up to the shooting.
"It is clear that, as a department," said Gates, "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."
Hasan faces 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder for the November 5 shooting at the Texas Army base. The 39-year-old major, the Virginia-born son of Palestinian immigrants, had exchanged numerous e-mails with radical Muslim cleric Anwar Awlaki in the year prior to the shootings, asking Awlaki about jihad and whether it was acceptable to kill American soldiers.
The report looked at issues specific to the Fort Hood case – such as signs that were missed that the alleged shooter was becoming radicalized -- and broad systemic problems that suggest the military is not doing enough to protect against violent outbursts.
Despite all the changes in the way the nation handles security in the post-September 11th era, the report paints a picture of a military that has largely neglected to adapt to the potential for threats from troops who become radicalized.
Among the findings were that background checks remain insufficient, and there are inadequate systems in place to look for signs of violent behavior immediately before or after a deployment.The report does not identify those that missed the signs of violence at Fort Hood. But it suggests the Pentagon does not intend to spare those responsible from discipline.
"Some medical officers failed to apply appropriate judgment and standards of officership with respect to the alleged perpetrator," the report says bluntly.
"Some signs were clearly missed," it says, "others ignored."
At a briefing on the report, former Army Secretary Togo West and former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Vernon Clark, who directed the investigation, would say only that "several" officers would be held accountable.
A senior administration official did not want to say if Hasan's actions were inspired by extremists in Yemen, noting only that the administration was "very concerned about many things that are coming out of Yemen, and many of the actions and statements, as well as the very extremist views being distributed by individuals associated with al Qaeda."
"Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula has a particularly strong extremist bent, as well as a dedication to carrying out terrorist acts. So any interaction with these extremist elements and terrorist elements in Yemen cause me great concern," this official said. ""Motivation is always a difficult thing to determine as far as what was actually behind a decision to commit an act."
This official said it was difficult to say whether there could have been steps taken by the government to prevent the Fort Hood shootings.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, ID.-Conn., chair of the Senate's Homeland Security Committe, criticized the Ft. Hood report, saying it "does not adequately recognize the specific threat posed by violent Islamist extremism to our military."
Said Lieberman, "I believe firmly that if DoD educates its personnel about violent Islamist extremism -- and how terrorists distort the Islamic faith to promote violence -- we will increase trust between the thousands of Muslim-Americans serving honorably in the military and their colleagues."