Secretary of the Army Remarks on Fort Hood Independent Review Committee Findings

By Audricia HarrisDecember 8, 2020

Good Morning. I would like to make several announcements related to the Independent Review of Fort Hood’s Command Climate so this will be a longer statement.

The murder of SPC Vanessa Guillen shocked our conscience and brought attention to deeper problems.

The initial investigation into Vanessa’s death, coupled with high numbers of crimes and deaths at Fort Hood, Texas, has revealed a series of missteps and multiple failures in our system and within our leadership.

For that reason, on July 30th I directed the Under Secretary of the Army, Mr. James McPherson, to establish an Independent Review Committee to review the culture at Fort Hood.

Secretary McPherson, with the help of the League of United Latin American Citizens, selected a diverse and highly- experienced panel to determine whether the command climate and culture at Fort Hood, and the surrounding military community, reflected the Army’s values, including safety, respect, inclusiveness, and a commitment to diversity, and workplaces and communities free from sexual harassment and sexual assault.

The panel, led by Chris Swecker, also included Jonathan Harmon, Carrie Ricci, Queta Rodriguez and Jack White.

You will have an opportunity to speak with them shortly and we will make their report available to the public.

Over the course of 103 [July 30-Nov 9] days, the panel surveyed 31,612 Soldiers, interviewed 647 Soldiers, and met with civic and elected leaders, local law enforcement leaders and the local district attorneys.

On November 9, the panel briefed the Army senior leaders and provided 9 Findings and 70 Recommendations.

The findings of the committee, identified major flaws with the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response Prevention Program from implementation, reporting, and adjudication; fundamental issues with the Fort Hood Criminal Investigation Command field office that led to unaddressed crime problems on Fort Hood; and finally, a Command Climate at Fort Hood that was permissive of Sexual Harassment/Sexual Assault.

Further, the committee made 70 recommendations to improve the following areas:

Overall SHARP Program structure, Fort Hood Criminal Investigation field Office Command activities, Army missing Soldier protocols, Fort Hood Crime prevention and response activities, Army-wide Command Climate issues and Fort Hood Public Affairs activities.

The tragic death of Vanessa Guillen and a rash of other challenges at Fort Hood forced us to take a critical look at our systems, our policies, and ourselves. But without leadership, systems don’t matter.

This is not about metrics, but about possessing the ability to have the human decency 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.

I have decided to accept all these findings in whole. In response, we have created the People First Task Force to map out a plan to tackle them.

We have formed a mechanism to ensure we have the right systems and resources while focusing on commitment over compliance.

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 of more than 1 million Soldiers and over two hundred and forty seven thousand Army Civilians and Families.

The People First Task Force will analyze the findings and 70 recommendations in the report, develop a plan to address issues identified by the committee, and reevaluate current policy and programs.

The Army will begin initial implementation by March, 2021.

The task force co-chairs are Ms. Diane Randon, Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Army G2, Lieutenant General Gary Brito, the Army G1, and Sergeant Major Julie Guerra, the G2 Sergeant Major.

I have also signed a new Army missing Soldier policy. The policy will assist in tracking and finding missing Soldiers. It clarifies expectations and responsibilities of unit commanders and Army law enforcement authorities, focusing on the first 48 hours a Soldier is missing.

It creates new processes for reporting Soldiers’ duty status and casualty status, for supporting missing Soldiers’ families and aids in identifying whether the absence is voluntary before calling it absent without leave.

Finally, we need the right leadership. I have determined the issues at Fort Hood are directly related to leadership failures. Leaders drive culture and are responsible for everything that does or does not happen.

I am gravely disappointed that leaders failed to effectively create a climate that treated all Soldiers with dignity and respect, and that failed to reinforce everyone’s obligation to prevent and properly respond to allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Because of this, to restore trust and confidence in accountability, I have directed the relief and or suspension of commanders and other leaders from the corps to the squad leader level.

I have directed the relief of the III Corps Deputy Commanding General for Support, the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment Command Team, and suspended the 1st Cavalry Division Command team, pending the results of a new investigation into the command climate of the division.

In total, 14 leaders have been relieved or suspended from their positions. In addition, we are directing an investigation regarding Criminal Investigation Command resourcing, policies, and procedures.

Accountability and transparency are foundational as we move forward.

We have a great deal of work ahead of us. This is an initial step to addressing and fixing these issues. Even though we are part of one of the most respected organizations in the world, living up to the American people’s trust is something we have to do every day.

I believe in this institution and its officers, non-commissioned officers, Soldiers, Civilians, and their families, with every fiber of my being because of the extraordinary things they do on a daily basis. I am confident in our leaders’ ability to overcome this challenge and continue to win our Nations wars while caring for our People.