WASHINGTON — The Defense Department must "plan more diligently" and "seek to envision" internal threats to prevent tragedies like the mass shooting at Fort Hood last year from happening again, an independent military panel told Congress members Feb. 25.
Gen. Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Army Europe, told the House Appropriations Committee's Defense Subcommittee the panel "was very impressed with the military and civilian response" to the Nov. 5 shootings. Ham is an advisor to the DoD Independent Review Related to Fort Hood, co-chaired by retired Navy Adm. Vernon E. Clark, a former chief of naval operations, and former Army Secretary Togo D. West Jr. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates created the panel and received its report Jan. 15.
Initial responders to the shooting were "prompt and effective" and prevented deaths, Ham said in a prepared statement that was released to the public. The subcommittee hearing was closed.
The alleged shooter at Fort Hood, Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, is believed to have adopted a radicalized version of Islam leading up to the shooting in which 13 people were killed.
"DoD needs to develop a better understanding of the forces that cause a person to become radicalized, commit vulnerable acts, and make us vulnerable from within," Ham said. "DoD must exercise the foresight necessary to identify the looming menace - self radicalization and its often resultant violence - and act preemptively."
The panel's review revealed "shortcomings in the way DoD is prepared to deal with internal threats, and in particular, the threat posed by troubled and potentially dangerous individuals and groups," Ham said.
Commanders are the key to monitoring such threats, but policies must be changed to acknowledge the threat and help identify and address those likely to become violent, the general said. Current policies only address active and visible participation in groups that may pose a threat to good order and discipline, he said.
"This lack of clarity for comprehensive indicators limits commanders' and supervisors' ability to recognize potential threats," Ham said. Detecting potential violence from within "requires observation and assessment of behavioral cues and anomalies," he said.
Because no senior official is given overall responsibility for force protection policy, it is hard to synchronize the process of gathering, evaluating and disseminating indications of a potential threat, Ham said. Furthermore, some policies inside and outside of the department and between agencies do not support detecting problems, he said.
"The time has passed when concerns by specific entities over protecting 'their' information can be allowed to prevent relevant threat information and indicators from reaching those who need it - the commanders," Ham said. "Robust information-sharing is essential."
While every state has complied with federal requirements to synchronize crisis response through the National Incident Management System, there are "no established milestones to define Defense Department capability," Ham said.
"Using common emergency management principles, we can prepare our military communities to respond to emergencies from the smallest incident to the largest catastrophe," he said.