FHIRC finds deficient climate at Fort Hood; recommends staffing, structural changes to SHARP
WASHINGTON – The Secretary of the Army today announced a new Army policy on missing Soldiers and formed the People First Task Force to address the recommendations of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee.
Along with the civilian members of the FHIRC, Secretary McCarthy also unveiled the results of a three-month examination of the command climate and culture at Fort Hood and the surrounding military community and its impact on the safety, welfare and readiness of Soldiers.
“The challenges at Fort Hood forced us to take a critical look at our systems, our policies, and ourselves. This is not just about metrics, but about possessing the ability to show compassion for our teammates and to look out for the best interest of our Soldiers. This report, without a doubt, will cause the Army to change our culture,” Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy said. “We thank the committee members for their outstanding efforts to provide us with an honest, factbased assessment of the conditions at Fort Hood and a slate of recommended actions intended to benefit that installation and the entire Army.”
Sec. McCarthy also announced significant measures to hold leaders accountable at Fort Hood. More information on is available at: https://www.army.mil/article/241491.
New Army Policy
“In response to the findings of the independent review, I have signed a directive clarifying expectations and responsibilities of unit commanders and Army law enforcement authorities focused on the first 48 hours after a Soldier fails to report for duty,” Secretary McCarthy said. “When one of our teammates does not report for duty, we will change their duty status to ‘absent-unknown’ and take immediate action to find them.”
This directive’s creation of an additional duty status code – “absent-unknown” (AUN) – will provide commanders with time to make the appropriate determination of an absent Soldier’s status. Commanders will utilize AUN as a transitory duty status for up to 48 hours, prompting unit and law enforcement actions to assist in locating the Soldier. Previously, Soldiers who were absent for unknown reasons were listed as “absent without leave” (AWOL).
Under the new policy, which is intended to ensure the Army maximizes efforts to find missing Soldiers, commanders must determine by a preponderance of evidence that a Soldier’s absence is voluntary to classify their duty status as AWOL. If this burden cannot be met, commanders will classify absent personnel as “missing,” and the Army will simultaneously initiate a “duty status whereabouts unknown” (DUSTWUN) casualty case. Opening a DUSTWUN casualty case provides the Soldier’s family with a liaison officer while it attempts to locate the missing Soldier.
The directive includes additional guidance for commanders and law enforcement on steps to classify Soldiers as deserters.
Fort Hood Independent Review Committee
The FHIRC, which began work in August, examined the command climate and culture at Fort Hood and the surrounding military community to determine whether they reflect the Army’s commitment to safety, respect, inclusiveness, diversity, and freedom from sexual harassment. In its report, the FHIRC found a deficient climate at Fort Hood, including ineffective implementation of the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) program that resulted in a pervasive lack of confidence, fear of retaliation, and significant underreporting of cases, particularly within the enlisted ranks. Fort Hood leadership knew or should have known of the high risk of harm to female Soldiers, according to the report.
“Soldiers assaulting and harassing other Soldiers is contrary to Army values and requires a dramatic change in culture,” Chris Swecker, the committee chair, said. “The committee determined that, during the time period covered by our review, there was a permissive environment for sexual assault and sexual harassment at Fort Hood. We have recommended changes to the staffing, structure and implementation of the SHARP program at Fort Hood, and possibly beyond, to address deeply dysfunctional norms and regain Soldiers’ trust.”
The FHIRC also found that Fort Hood’s Criminal Investigation Command (CID) detachment was under-experienced and over-assigned, factors which adversely impacted investigations of sex crimes and Soldier deaths. In all, the FHIRC’s report sets forth nine findings and 70 recommendations relating to areas including SHARP; Fort Hood CID; missing Soldier protocols; and the installation’s crime prevention and public relations efforts. FHIRC members also concluded that Fort Hood and the Army as whole must do more to cultivate a culture of inclusivity and respect which values the contributions of all service members.
The FHIRC delivered its report to Army leadership on Nov. 6. The independent review arose from the questions and concerns voiced by family members, Congress, and various Hispanic advocacy groups during the investigation into the disappearance and murder of Spc. Vanessa Guillén.
In late August, FHIRC members Swecker, Jonathan Harmon, Carrie Ricci, Queta Rodriguez and Jack White conducted a two-week fact-finding mission to the base, meeting with unit leaders, Soldiers, members of the Guillén family, local officials, law enforcement and community groups.
While at Fort Hood, the five civilian committee members and their support staff completed more than 2,500 interviews with Soldiers and Army civilians, including 503 female Soldiers from 3rd Cavalry Regiment and 1st Cavalry Division, as well as Equal Opportunity and SHARP program representatives. They established a hotline and collected more than 31,000 responses to a mandatory, anonymous survey on command climate as it relates to sexual assault or sexual harassment. Their community meetings included representatives from League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), NAACP, Hispanic-American Chamber of Commerce, and Sociedad Cultural Hispanoamericana.
People First Task Force
“People are our greatest strength, our most valuable asset, and our most important weapon system,” Secretary McCarthy said. “While the independent review focused on the command climate and culture at Fort Hood, the findings contained in the committee’s report impact the entire Army and more than 1.2 million Soldiers. In response, we’ve created the People First Task Force to study the committee’s recommendations and map out a plan to tackle them.”
The People First Task Force will analyze the findings and recommendations in the FHIRC report, develop a plan of action to address issues identified by the committee, and reevaluate current policy and programs. The Task Force will be co-chaired by Lt. Gen. Gary M. Brito, the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-1; Ms. Diane M. Randon, the Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff, G-2; and Sgt. Maj. Julie A.M. Guerra, the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-2 sergeant major. It will include representatives from across the Army, including the Provost Marshal General, The Inspector General, The Judge Advocate General, and the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs.
The Task Force will present its recommendations to Army leadership as quickly as possible for Army senior leaders’ review and implementation.
Additional resources, including the full, redacted FHIRC report, are available at: https://www.army.mil/forthoodreview.