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Officials: Fort Hood Lessons May Have Saved Lives at Navy Yard

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20, 2013 – Of 89 recommendations that came from two reviews of the 2009 shooting that killed 13 people at Fort Hood in Texas, 52 are fully implemented, and some may have helped to save lives during the Navy Yard shooting here Sept. 16, senior defense officials said.

The officials, who briefed reporters here this week, were unable to discuss the ongoing investigation involving a civilian contractor, 34-year-old Aaron Alexis, who killed 12 people and wounded several others at the Naval Sea Systems Command headquarters building before being killed by police.

But they did discuss results of the Defense Department’s 2010 independent review of events at Fort Hood and final recommendations from that review, and of a 2012 Defense Science Board review sought by DOD to look deeper into the motivations of Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan, a U.S. Army major and psychiatrist, and other potential violent actors.

“In the area of response, there are a few very specific things that I believe helped save lives as a result and led to a faster response time [and] greater cooperation between local law enforcement with the FBI and in terms of warning people … on the Navy Yard at the time,” a senior defense official said.

Specifically, he added, as a result of one of the DOD recommendations, the department is using a North American telephone network feature called enhanced 911, or E-911, to push out alert notices during emergencies on DOD installations.

Because of some of the recommendations, the official said, guards have received training for scenarios in which they must respond to emergencies involving an active shooter or shooters, and there are new information-sharing agreements between the FBI and local law enforcement agencies that allow military-civilian collaboration.

“There are two examples of how we've increased information sharing,” the official said. First, “the Department of Defense and the FBI signed a memorandum of understanding by which if either organization has information about a threat to or from DOD personnel, we are obligated to share with each other.”

The senior defense official said that’s important because DOD persons and installations are a prime target of what's called homegrown violent extremism.

For those wanting to commit acts of violence, DOD people and facilities often are the target, he added, “so it matters to us when FBI has an operational case that they share information about threats that might be around a particular location or base.”

Second, he said, the Defense Department now has people working in a significant number of FBI-led joint terrorism task forces, giving DOD personnel insight into and awareness of FBI cases and how they may be relevant to DOD safety and security.

“I think we're in a significantly better place,” the official said. “Obviously we're not there fully, based on Monday's events, but there has been a lot of progress.”

After the Fort Hood incident, he added, then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates established an independent review of events that produced an August 2010 report and 79 recommendations to improve the ability to identify patterns that might lead to violence and to safety and security on installations.

One of the recommendations was to ask the Defense Science Board to look for useful indicators of warning in individuals who might be prone to acts of violence, the official said, adding that the board’s task force provided 10 recommendations of its own, for a total of 89 recommendations from reviews of the Fort Hood incident.

About 52 of the recommendations have been adopted and fully implemented, he said, and the vast majority of the remaining recommendations have been agreed to. Most are in various stages of implementation, he added.

The defense official said that some of the remaining tasks have to do with a Defense Science Board recommendation that the defense secretary direct a departmentwide requirement for the military departments and DOD agencies to establish a multidisciplinary threat management unit that identifies, assesses and responds to or manages threats of targeted violence.

“The kinds of things we're wrestling with right now [are], ‘How tailored do they have to be? Should there be one unique to the Navy, one to the Army, one to the Marines, one to the Air Force? Do you have something at headquarters?” he said.

And DOD officials are still working through some of the privacy issues involved in sharing information, he said.

“When an individual is assigned to one base and events and incidents that might happen at a base don't rise to the level of criminality -- because for criminal cases there's a pre-existing system by which that information is captured permanently -- and here someone could be going through a difficult period of life, and it could be a one-time incident,” he explained.

“We’re trying to make sure we have a system by which we are appropriately protecting [people] but providing information to the experts who need to know it,” the official said.

Such details, he added, “are difficult and important things for our military families.”

In March, the official said, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel issued an instruction directing rapid completion of the remaining tasks. “So this is something that's been very much on his mind as well,” he added.

This week, before a news conference with Pentagon reporters, Hagel and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed condolences to the families and coworkers of the 12 Navy employees gunned down at the Navy Yard.

Hagel said he’s asked Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter to lead two departmentwide reviews. The first will examine physical security and access procedures at all DOD installations.

In the second, Carter will look at DOD practices and procedures for granting and renewing security clearances, including those held by contractors. He will coordinate with officials at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Office of Management and Budget, Hagel said.

The secretary also has directed an independent panel to conduct its own assessment of security at DOD facilities and of the department’s security clearance procedures and practices.

 

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