Secretary of Defense Robert Gates last week signed off on a report containing the “Final Recommendations of the Ft. Hood Follow-on Review.” Reading this 23-page compilation of recommendations in conjunction with the January 2010 “Report of the DoD Independent Review,” one can readily understand why Maj. Nidal Hasan was able to stroll around Ft. Hood, Texas last November 5th and calmly shoot to death 13 people and wound many more. The Army was ill-prepared to identify Nidal as a potential shooter (though the signs were legion), and even less able to stop him once he started his deadly rampage.
The January report was an 80-page, feel-good document that added precious little to developing concrete solutions necessary to avoid a similar catastrophe. Last week’s recommendations illustrate graphically that the U.S. Army, for all its considerable capability to wage war overseas, remains bureaucratically moribund and indecisive when it comes to dealing with serious problems involving its own personnel; at least on the domestic front.
In the first place, there is little sense of urgency reflected in the many recommendations, most of which have to do with simply sharing information among and between federal agencies, and between the military and civilian law enforcement and intelligence agencies. This is all pretty standard stuff that one would have hoped the Army and the other services were doing before last November, but obviously weren’t.
If any would-be Maj. Hasan’s are worried about the military moving quickly to plug the holes that enabled their namesake to commit mass murder nearly 10 months ago, based on the timetables contained in the recommendations, they can breath a sigh of relief. Many of the recommendations, although adopted for implementation by the Secretary of Defense, are explicitly not scheduled to go into effect for a year or two from now, or even several years down the road. One of the most basic of steps that sound threat assessment and neutralization would indicate — developing “information sharing capabilities for access control to installations” — is under “study,” and an evaluation and “update” of such policies will be issued, but not for another 16 months. So much for urgency.
Of course, consistent with the federal government’s view that firearms on military bases in the hands of qualified and cleared personnel is politically incorrect and operationally inappropriate (even though a single shot from a marksman in uniform, had he or she been permitted on the base on November 5th, could have stopped Hasan cold), the Recommendation Report is utterly silent about reevaluating this policy. It was former President Bill Clinton who, in 1993, decided to institute a no-guns-on-bases policy that has not been repealed by either of his predecessors.
The bottom line is that, as the military engages in typical and interminable bureaucratic “study” of how to begin developing, sharing, analyzing and timely disseminating intelligence on threats to domestic military bases, it still is constrained not to revisit the one policy that could provide the best protection realistically possible to neutralize the next Maj. Nidal.