Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 19, 2010

The Fort Hood Shooting: Lessons About Vigilance in Homeland Defense and Homeland Security

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Homeland Defense — by Christopher Bellavita on January 19, 2010

On Friday (January 15), the Department of Defense released Protecting the Force: Lessons from Fort Hood

The people in and around Ft. Hood responded to the November 5, 2009 shooting about as perfectly as one could hope.

Four minutes and twenty seconds after the first 911 call, “the assailant was incapacitated.”  Two minutes and fifty seconds later “two ambulances and an incident command vehicle … arrived on the scene….”

But still, 13 people were killed; 43 wounded or injured.

The Report is a painfully somber reminder that freedom’s price remains eternal vigilance.

For most of the past 20 years, the authors note, “our forces have been engaged in continuous combat operations.”

Eternal vigilance does not mean simply staying alert.  It also means as good as we get, it’s never going to be perfect.  There will always be surprise.

Freedom demands a vigilance that knows it will be surprised.
Here are some excerpts (with my headings) from the Report.  It is a well written and comprehensive — within its charter – document.  But sadly for many people in homeland defense and homeland security, it is not the first time such a report has been written.

The Report’s uniqueness may be found mostly in lessons that possibly are new to the DoD, but that are disquietingly — even banally — familiar to civilians in the  homeland security realm.

DoD force protection policies are not optimized for countering internal threats. These policies reflect insufficient knowledge and awareness of the factors required to help identify and address individuals likely to commit violence.  This is a key deficiency.

The time has passed when bureaucratic 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. In this rapidly changing security environment throughout our government, the Department of Defense can exercise its role to set the bar higher to establish a new force protection culture, with new standards and procedures for sharing information, to recognize and defeat evolving external and internal threats.

While leaders at Fort Hood responded well under the stress of a rapidly evolving crisis, we are fortunate that we faced only one incident at one location. We cannot assume that this will remain the case in the future. Our command and control systems must have the right architecture, connectivity, portability, and flexibility to enable commanders to cope with near-simultaneous incidents at multiple locations. …. Considering the requirements for dealing with multiple, near-simultaneous incidents similar to Fort Hood, a review of the Unified Command Plan may be in order.

During the initial stages of the attack at Fort Hood, commanders and first responders, unsure of the nature of the threat, and in an effort to maximize their security posture, set and maintained Force Protection Condition Delta. There were apparently no indications that the rest of CONUS DoD force was immediately notified of the event; most installations and units first found out about the event through the news media. This was a single event, but had it been the first in a series of coordinated, near simultaneous attacks, most other DoD installations and facilities would not have been properly postured for an attack. The timely sharing of incident information could have served to alert other forces within the Area of Responsibility to take the prepare-and-defend actions necessary to harden themselves before a near simultaneous attack comes to them.

[Compare this with complaints from some pilots in the air during the December 25th attack on NW 253 that the first time they heard of the incident was on the ground when they turned on CNN — e.g.,  Pilot furious at U.S. for silence on bomb ]

A Common Operational Picture is “a single identical display of relevant information shared by more than one command.”…. A Common Operational Picture provides a standardized, continuously updated, multiple-user capability to produce reports, mapping, imagery, and real time information sharing between multiple subscribers.  Information sharing and establishing a Common Operational Picture is vital to coordinating efforts of multiple emergency response agencies’ and facilitates’ collaborative planning at all echelons to achieve situational awareness…. Services have not widely deployed or integrated a Common Operational Picture capability into installation Emergency Operations Centers….

In 2009, the Department directed the Services to be in compliance with the Federal framework for emergency response by 2014. Compliance with this guidance will enhance the ability of the Department’s installation and facility emergency personnel to work with first responders from Federal, State, and local jurisdictions to save lives and protect property….  The Department of Defense guidance was promulgated in part to align the Department with national response policies and establish the Installation Emergency Management program.  The Installation Emergency Management program directs the Services to adopt the National Incident Management System, which Federal, State, and local agencies have already adopted. ….  Currently all 50 states have complied with the Federal requirements.

This event shows us, too, that there are no safe havens—for Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, their co-workers and their families. The challenge for the Department of Defense is to prepare more effectively for a constantly changing security environment.

Synchronize the Continental United States (CONUS)-based DoD emergency management program with the national emergency management framework. Our installations must have a common operating system that allows commanders to access real-time threat information, respond rapidly to changing force protection conditions, and begin response and recovery operations in near real time.  This is an aggressive goal, but it matches the goals and character of future enemies.

Act immediately with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to enhance the operation of the Joint Terrorism Task Forces. To protect the force, our leaders need immediate access to information pertaining to Service members indicating contacts, connections, or relationships with organizations promoting violence.  One additional step may be to increase Service representation on the Joint Terrorism Task Forces….  eGuardian is the only Suspicious Activity Reporting system that communicates directly with the FBI’s JTTFs, and if adopted by the Department of Defense would allow designated DoD law enforcement assets access to receive and input suspicious activity. This would also provide an additional method by which threat information would flow from the Department of Defense to the FBI, in situations where the Department of Justice has an investigative interest. Adoption of eGuardian is currently the recommended solution being proposed by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense for the Department of Defense.

In the Fort Hood incident, the alleged perpetrator held an active and current SECRET security clearance based on a February 2008 National Agency Check, with Local Agency and Credit Check of background investigation. Although accomplished in accordance with current guidelines, this background investigation did not include a subject interview or interviews with co-workers, supervisors, or expanded character references.  We believe that if a more thorough investigation had been accomplished, his security clearance may have been revoked and his continued service and pending deployment would have been subject to increased scrutiny.

The evolving security threat increasingly involves information exchanges using the Internet.   There are numerous DoD and interagency organizations and offices involved in defense cyber activities.  The Department of Defense does not have a comprehensive and coordinated policy for counterintelligence activities in cyberspace.

We especially note that as a result of the Force Protection Condition imposed by Fort Hood leadership during the crisis, a number of young school children remained closeted in their classrooms for a significant period.  Our recommendation is that those responsible for them at school (e. g. , teachers, administrative personnel) receive additional training to anticipate the special needs that could arise during a period of lengthy lockdown.

Our examination underscored that the Chaplain Corps has a great deal to offer in a mass casualty situation. Responding to mass casualty events requires more than the traditional first responder disciplines such as police, fire, and medical professionals. Comprehensive religious support that anticipates mass casualty incidents should be incorporated into installation emergency management plans and exercises.

… reinforce the fabric of trust with one another by engaging, supervising, mentoring, counseling, and simple everyday expressions of concern on a daily and continuous basis… We must be alert to the mental, emotional, and spiritual balance of Service members, colleagues, and civilian coworkers, and respond when they appear at risk.


One of the more interesting appendices in the Report was a literature review briefly summarizing the last 10 years of research on workplace violence — which is one mundane way to look at the November 5 event:

Each year, more than one million people in the U.S. are harmed by workplace violence, and an estimated 17,000 take their own lives in their place of employment.  The portrait of the “disgruntled” employee who “goes postal” and kills a supervisor does not encompass the full array of workplace homicides: customers, clients, peers, and superiors are also responsible. The rates of workplace violence in the U.S. Postal Service are actually lower than in the general workforce, so that organization, despite the popular phrase, does not provide a “worst case” for study.

The Report includes something else I had not read before:

Although domestic terrorism is far more common than international terrorism,[ my emphasis] research on terrorism focuses on the latter.  Motivations for domestic terrorism are diverse, and include animal rights, environmentalism, nationalism, white supremacy, religious causes, and right-wing politics. Overall, acts of domestic terrorism tend to occur in large urban areas and target the police and military forces.

The Report recommends the DoD become more aware of civilian law enforcement’s active shooter tactics.  One footnote recommends a Department of  Homeland Security “booklet” on active shooter response (available here, thanks to the Missouri Office of Homeland Security).

I don’t know how or why the Department of Homeland Security, the National Tactical Officers Association, the Fairfax County Police, the National Retail Federation, and the Retail Industry Leaders Association got together to produce what I thought was a very informative (for the uninformed like me) booklet.

But who cares.

Eternal vigilance means sometimes you have to get into someone else’s lane.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

January 19, 2010 @ 1:49 am

Workplace violence must always be taken seriously. There must not only be a reporting structure for alleged problems, but a formal structure to response to those allegations and if an actual event that event. There is serious stress in much of the American workplace and glad the report focused in part on that aspect of the attack. What really concerns me is that the individual involved was a practicing MD and therefore treating patients actively. What has been done to review the patients that he treated and learn whether in fact there was mistreatment of those that sought his care? Also wondering if the military has a firm grip on prosletyzing of its active duty and reserve forces by any means by not just Jihadist religious authorities but any group that appeals to racial or religious sensibilities that encourages violence against the “other” however defined? Is there any formal training of US officer cadre on various kinds of subversion? This report sounds like a good start!

Comment by John Byrnes

January 20, 2010 @ 5:28 am

Profiling has failed us; we don’t need profiling to identify Individuals like the Christmas-Day Bomber or the Fort Hood Shooter! There is a better solution!

Virtually all media outlets are discussing whether we should be profiling all Arab Muslims; I will in the one-page explain why we don’t need profiling. Over 15 years ago, we at the Center for Aggression Management developed an easily-applied, measurable and culturally-neutral body language and behavior indicators exhibited by people who intend to perpetrate a terrorist act. This unique methodology utilizes proven research from the fields of psychology, medicine and law enforcement which, when joined together, identify clear, easily-used physiologically-based characteristics of individuals who are about to engage in terrorist activities in time to prevent their Moment of Commitment.

The Problem
Since the foiled terrorist attack by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian national on Northwest Flight 253 to Detroit, the President has repeatedly stated that there has been a systemic failure as he reiterates his commitment to fill this gap in our security. This incident, like the Fort Hood shooting, exemplifies why our government must apply every valid preventative approach to identify a potential terrorist.

The myriad methods to identify a terrorist, whether “no-fly list,” “explosive and weapons detection,” mental illness based approaches, “profiling” or “deception detection” – all continue to fail us. Furthermore, the development of deception detection training at Boston Logan Airport demonstrated that the Israeli methods of interrogation will not work in the United States.

All media outlets are discussing the need for profiling of Muslim Arabs, but profiling does not work for the following three reasons:

1. In practice, ethnic profiling tells us that within a certain group of people there is a higher probability for a terrorist; it does not tell us who the next terrorist is!

2. Ethnic profiling is contrary to the value our society places on diversity and freedom from discrimination based on racial, ethnic, religious, age and/or gender based criteria. If we use profiling it will diminish our position among the majority of affected citizens who support us as a beacon of freedom and liberty.

3. By narrowing our field of vision, profiling can lead to the consequence of letting terrorists go undetected, because the terrorist may not be part of any known “profile worthy” group – e.g., the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh

The Solution
Our unique methodology for screening passengers can easily discern (independently of race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, age, and gender) the defining characteristics of human beings who are about to engage in terrorist acts.

The question is when will our government use true “hostile intent” through the “continuum of aggressive behavior” to identify potential terrorists? Only when observers focus specifically on “aggressive behavior” do the objective and culturally neutral signs of “aggression” clearly stand out, providing the opportunity to prevent these violent encounters. This method will not only make all citizens safer, but will also pass the inevitable test of legal defensibility given probable action by the ACLU.

As our Government analyzes what went wrong regarding Abdulmatallab’s entrance into the United States, you can be assured that Al Qaeda is also analyzing how their plans went wrong. Who do you think will figure it out first . . . ?

Visit our blog at http://blog.AggressionManagement.com where we discuss the shooting at Fort Hood and the attempted terrorist act on Flight 253.

Comment by Tom Conley

January 27, 2010 @ 7:40 pm

The sad fact is the “Lessons Learned” were evident prior to the occurrence this horrific event. What we need is a bit more “Lessons Applied.” That is how we can prevent the next Fort Hood.

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