By Mason W. Canales
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD – The two co-chairs of the Pentagon's review board looking into the Nov. 5 mass shooting at Fort Hood spoke briefly Tuesday about what the panel hopes to accomplish.
"This is a 45-day investigation," said former Army Secretary Togo West Jr., co-chair of the panel. "It is not a criminal investigation, and we have been charged not to interfere with the ongoing criminal investigation. Moreover, it is not a purpose of ours to point fingers; we are simply here to accumulate information and all our best judgments for the Secretary of Defense."
On Thursday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates called for a "broad review" of the shooting on post and created a the panel.
The panel will investigate possible weaknesses in Pentagon policies, programs and procedures to help prevent incidents similar to Fort Hood's shooting in the future.
The review will encompass a closer look at personal reliability programs, counseling programs, procedures on the handling of defence employee's adverse information, medical screening and pre- and post-deployment evaluations.
Today was day one of the investigation, said retired Adm. Vern Clark, a co-chair of the panel, following a tour of Fort Hood.
Clark and West toured the scene of the shootings and spent time at the military hospital Tuesday.
"It was important to me to walk the grounds, see the site, and to really understand the setting and today's activities have been immensely valuable for providing the baseline of factual information on which we will grow the rest of the information that is required to conduct the assessment for which we were tasked," Clark said.
The review will also look into force protection programs, emergency response policies and the functionality and adequacy of those programs and policies.
"One of the tasks that we have been given is to evaluate the performance of the first responders, and the story about the how first responder team performed is very, very encouraging," Clark said. "It is a great story, it involves the leadership team here on Fort Hood, but it also involves the leadership team of the local community and how they responded to the incident."
While the investigation is 45 days, there will be no easy solutions for the panel; they will spend their time reviewing facts, reading documents and learning, West said.
Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan has been charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder in the Nov. 5 shooting at the Soldier Readiness Processing Center. Hasan remains in intensive care at a San Antonio military hospital recovering from gunshot wounds.
Hasan's civilian attorney, John Galligan, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that it's highly unlikely he would allow anyone involved in the investigations to question his client.
West and Clark's visit to Fort Hood was the first step in the investigation, and more steps are on the way, Clark said. The panel will continue reviewing information and may return to post to gather more information if necessary.
"The Secretary of Defense asked us to find the gaps that make us less effective than we desire to be, and to do that we will look over things that we have brought up in the discovery process," Clark said. "The intent is, this is day one of the discovery process, creating a baseline for the investigation."
A separate criminal investigation into the shooting also is ongoing.
Contact Mason W. Canales at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7554.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.