By Jim Garamone

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Robert Gates has directed the Defense Department to immediately implement 26 interim recommendations of an independent panel he appointed to look into the Nov. 5 shootings at Fort Hood, Pentagon officials said Thursday.

Gates signed the memorandum Monday.

Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan has been charged with 13 counts of murder and 32 counts of attempted murder. The psychiatrist allegedly opened fire at a facility where soldiers were processing for overseas deployments.

The defense secretary asked former Veterans Affairs Secretary Togo D. West Jr. and former chief of naval operations retired Adm. Vernon E. Clark to chair the investigative panel. They detailed 79 recommendations to improve force protection and tighten gaps in personnel policies, emergency response, mass casualty preparedness and support to

Defense Department health care providers.

The secretary approved 26 recommendations. The panel's full report is expected to be released in June.

Work on the other 53 recommendations continues, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Thursday. Some of those recommendations require changes in law, and the department is working closely with Congress on the recommendations, he added.

"The department has moved out not only expeditiously but continuously since the shooting," Whitman said to Pentagon reporters. "All of these actions to date have been taken ... to ensure that the safety of our personnel and facilities are maintained and that we remain vigilant to any and all threats that are out there."

The interim recommendations allow the department to continue increasing force protection measures. Gates has ordered immediate expansion of the "eGuardian" pilot program throughout the department. The program is a force-protection threat reporting system designed to handle suspicious activities.

The department will adopt the unclassified FBI-owned and maintained reporting system as soon as possible.

Gates also ordered the deployment of the Law Enforcement Defense Data Exchange System to all Defense Department law enforcement entities. The system will allow agencies to share criminal investigation and other law enforcement data.

Gates tasked Paul Stockton, the assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and America's security affairs, to serve as the department's lead in the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force program. The independent report called the Defense Department's commitment to the program "inadequate," and Pentagon officials are working with the FBI to develop a memorandum of understanding between the agencies.

The secretary also directed significant strengthening of the Defense Department's antiterrorism training program by incorporating best practices learned by the Department of Homeland Security.

The West-Clark review found that Defense Department policy on prohibited activities was unclear and did not provide commanders the guidance needed to act on potential threats to good order and discipline.

The secretary directed that personnel and readiness officials examine the military services' guidance and issue Defense Department instructions to ensure "guidance is actionable," Whitman said. The guidance will include examples of threatening behavior and how officials should react to such behavior.

Gates directed the department to continue development of law enforcement practices against the active shooter threat. The police who responded at Fort Hood credited that training with allowing them to stop the attack.

The Defense Department does not have a privately owned weapons policy; Gates directed James Clapper, undersecretary of defense for intelligence, to prepare and coordinate one by June.

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