By Angela K. Brown
FORT WORTH, Texas — The military must make sure supervisors have access to soldiers' personnel records and be aware of signs of potential workplace violence, the Defense Department said Friday in its final report on the Fort Hood shootings.
The report's recommendations address some government failures and other problems uncovered in the Pentagon investigation launched after the Nov. 5 shootings that left 13 dead and dozens injured on the Texas Army post.
Soon after the Pentagon report's January release, Defense Secretary Robert Gates ordered a comprehensive weapons policy for military bases and addressed other pressing issues.
The Defense Department report released Friday addresses the remaining matters but says more studies are necessary in certain areas, because medical and mental-health screening policies "do not provide a comprehensive assessment of violence indicators" and another policy "lacks the clarity necessary to help commanders distinguish appropriate religious practices from those that might indicate a potential for violence or self-radicalization."
The report's recommendations include improving communications between government agencies and military installations regarding potential threats, and expanding military bases' emergency response capabilities.
An Army psychiatrist, Maj. Nidal Hasan, has been charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder. In October he faces an Article 32 hearing, similar to a civilian grand jury proceeding, in which a judge will hear witness testimony to determine whether the case should go to trial.
Hasan's attorney, John Galligan, said Friday that the Defense Department's report is vague.
"This whole report is designed to tell people we need to start looking for internal threats, but it doesn't say what those threats are ... and calls into question people's privacy and constitutional rights," Galligan said Friday from his office near Fort Hood, about 120 miles south of Fort Worth.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo., said he was optimistic that the revised policies "will improve the safety of our force in measurable ways for years to come."
Leila Hunt Willingham, whose brother died in the shootings, said she's glad the government is addressing the problems, but she's not sure what could be done to prevent similar violence.
"I don't hold a lot of blame for the military because I think it was one man's decision to do an evil thing," Willingham told The Associated Press on Friday, the day before an event honoring her brother in Tipton, Okla.
Hundreds of people are expected at the Saturday parade in honor of Spc. Jason Dean "J.D." Hunt, who would have been 23 next week. Thirteen gold balloons will be released as the names of the Fort Hood victims are read.
"My brother was extremely humble, quiet and shy and would literally give his life for you, and I wanted to show that you don't have to be outspoken or from a rich family to be amazing," Willingham said. "Part of this event was honoring all 13 victims, because we're bound by this tragedy."
The DoD report addresses the two-month Pentagon investigation that found numerous problems, including discrepancies between Hasan's performance and his personnel records. Hasan was described as a loner with lazy work habits and a fixation on his Muslim religion, and he had been promoted to major based on an incomplete personnel file, investigators found.
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Separately, the FBI has said it would revise its own procedures to make sure it notifies the Pentagon when it investigates a member of the military. In the Hasan case, a local joint terror task force run by the FBI with some military personnel examined Hasan but did not alert the Defense Department.