WASHINGTON — Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced Thursday that he's appointed two former heads of the Army and the Navy to review the shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, amid questions about whether political correctness and a shortage of mental health professionals drove the military to keep Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan in the Army longer than it should have.
Gates named former Army secretary Togo West and retired Adm. Vernon Clark, a former chief of naval operations, to lead a 45-day review of the circumstances surrounding the Fort Hood shootings. Hasan, 39, is accused of shooting 55 people, killing 13 of them, at the Texas Army base Nov. 5, days before he was supposed to deploy to Afghanistan.
West was Army secretary in the mid-1990s and later became secretary of Veterans Affairs; Clark was the chief of naval operations from 2000 to 2005.
Gates also requested a "more in-depth, detailed assessment whether Army programs, policies and procedures reasonably could have prevented the shooting." It will be led by Gen. Carter Ham, the commander of the U.S. Army Europe, who returned to Washington this week to work on the review and will report his findings to West and Clark.
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The review will go beyond what happened at Fort Hood to examine how the military identifies and addresses soldiers who may be threats to others, the military medical community's personnel practices, and how officials respond to mass casualty events.
"You go to the hospitals and you talk to the nurses and the doctors and those who care for these grievously wounded young men and women, and I can't imagine the burden on them of doing that all day, every day," Gates said. "One of the things, for their own benefit, if nothing else, is for us to take a look at how are we helping them deal with stress, given the circumstances that they face."