Pentagon inquiry into Fort Hood urges focus on service members who may pose risk

By Greg Jaffe
Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A high-level Pentagon inquiry into the Fort Hood shootings that left 13 people dead has concluded that the military should focus more resources on identifying service members who might pose a threat to their colleagues and outlines a series of steps it should take to prevent such attacks, Pentagon officials said.

The study, which will be presented to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen on Wednesday, is expected to be publicly released Thursday. The report concludes that officer performance evaluations, which often obscure shortcomings to preserve officers' careers, need to be more forthright and honest, officials familiar with the report said.

The inquiry, which was led by retired Adm. Vernon E. Clark and former Army secretary Togo D. West Jr., also calls on the Pentagon to ensure that it fully staffs FBI-run Joint Terrorism Task Forces so that information collected by other government agencies about potential contacts between troops and terrorist groups is shared promptly with the Defense Department. And it recommends that the department designate one place to coordinate with other government agencies and assess internal threats.

The Fort Hood suspect, Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, continued to advance in the Army despite poor performance, erratic behavior and increasingly radical views that drew the attention of some of his supervisors. Despite the concerns, his formal evaluations continued to suggest that he was a capable and competent officer, officials said. Hasan was promoted to the rank of major last year.

A June 2007 lecture he gave on Islam, suicide bombers and threats that the military might encounter from Muslims also caused some of his fellow doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center to question his competence to serve. "It's getting harder and harder for Muslims in the service to morally justify being in a military that seems constantly engaged against fellow Muslims," he said in the presentation. Hasan also proselytized about his Muslim faith to soldiers, drawing concerns from his Walter Reed colleagues.

Amid a pressing need for more psychiatrists in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hasan was sent to Fort Hood, Tex., and selected to deploy to Afghanistan. The urgent need for officers in some specialties has caused the rate of promotions among junior and mid-grade Army officers to hit the 90 percent range.

A second inquiry, which is ongoing, will look into correspondence between Hasan and radical cleric Anwar al-Aulaqi before the November attack. Hasan exchanged as many as 18 e-mails with the Yemeni cleric in late 2008 and 2009, but a Joint Terrorism Task Force analyst determined that the correspondence was innocent. In some cases, the e-mails were not shared among FBI offices.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company