The report issued earlier this month by the Department of Defense blue-ribbon panel tasked with assessing the November 5, 2009 mass shooting at Ft. Hood, is — or ought to be – an embarrassment to our government. If this report is used as the basis for developing policies and programs to prevent future such incidents, then we’ve failed before we’ve even begun.
The first thing that strikes the reader of this report is the cover itself; which, in a sense, says it all. The cover does not depict a military scenario that might illustrate a military response to an armed threat against a military installation or personnel. Nor is it a straight-forward, official-looking report cover as found on most government documents. It is instead a touchy-feely picture of two hands grasping each other’s wrists, vaguely similar to the stylized logo depicting two clasped hands used by the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. We “protect the force” against a crazed mass murderer by joining hands and singing “Kumbaya” seems to be the message. The actual contents of the report bear out this initial impression.
The report is 80 pages in length, including 26 pages of appendices. Nary a single page contains any truly relevant and substantive steps that could be taken to “protect the force” against a gunman with a pair of handguns entering an auditorium full of unarmed recruits, and being permitted to methodically empty several clips of bullets into the bodies of dozens of innocent individuals (killing 13).
This is not to say that the report fails to state the obvious; it does – more than once. For example, at page 27, it reaches the startling conclusion that in order to counter “the internal threat” of a murderous soldier shooting his or her colleagues, we must “focus on exhibited behavior,” and meet potential threats by taking a “comprehensive approach.” Boy, that’s a real eye-opener of a conclusion; almost as earth-shattering as the conclusion four pages later, that in order to detect “a trusted insider’s intentions” one must observe him or her.
Interestingly, on the same page, the report’s authors cite no less an institution to be employed as a model for how to avoid the threat of an internal shooter, than the U.S. Postal Service. I’m not making this up; it’s there in black and white.
As if there were not enough bureaucratic roadblocks already in place to hamper identifying and meeting threats such as that posed by Maj. Hasan, the Ft. Hood report appears to recommend even more bureaucracy in order to improve “information sharing.” Perhaps the creation of a military Directorate of National Intelligence, which has performed so well in the civilian sector since its creation in 2005, is what the report’s authors have in mind.
It has been well-publicized already that the report fails to directly address the fact that Maj. Hassan obviously and demonstrably was a radicalized Muslim. Yet, in a classic example of military gobbledygook, the report does address the issue of religion, but in a context that has nothing whatever to do with the problem at hand. Page 44 offers the following “finding”: “The lack of published guidance for religious support in mass casualty incidents hampers integration of religious support to installation emergency management plans.”
One area in which the report could have provided a direct and meaningful recommendation would be to address why, on a major US Army base, there were no armed personnel anywhere near where the incident occurred, and who could have shot Hasan much earlier than in fact occurred during his rampage. It is at page 32 that the report reveals this major failing of US military policy as relates to dealing with a gunman on a military installation – the deliberate disarming of law-abiding military personnel on and off military bases within the United States. How can we “protect the force” when we deliberately disarm the force?