The Pentagon's review of the deadly Fort Hood shooting reveals serious "shortcomings" in the military's ability to stop foreign extremists from trying to use its own soldiers against the United States, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday.
He said military supervisors are not properly focused on the threat posed by self-radicalization and need to better understand the behavioral warning signs. And he warned that extremists are changing their tactics in an attempt to hit the United States.
"It ... reveals shortcomings in the way the department is prepared to defend against threats posed by external influences operating on members of our military community," he said. "We have not done enough to adapt to the evolving domestic internal security threat to American troops and military facilities."
He said the first responders in the Nov. 5 shooting deserve "recognition" for preventing an "awful situation from becoming even worse," but that the report raises "serious questions" about whether the military is prepared for similar attacks, particularly "multiple, simultaneous incidents."
As many as eight Army officers could face discipline for failing to do anything when the alleged shooter in the rampage at Fort Hood displayed erratic behavior early in his military career, officials confirmed. The behavior included poor performance and extreme religious views.
The report on what went wrong in the case of Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, who is accused in the shootings that killed 13 people at the Army base in Texas on Nov. 5, was released Friday.
Several midlevel officers overlooked or failed to act on red flags in Hasan's lax work habits and fixation on religion, the officials said Thursday. Hasan was an odd duck and a loner who was passed along from office to office and job to job despite professional failings that included missed or failed exams and physical fitness requirements, the review found.
John Galligan, the lawyer for Hassan, told Fox News that the report is prejudicial because it all but concludes that Hasan is guilty.
Galligan also said he is being denied all of the documents he has requested through discovery, including the 18 e-mails in which Hasan allegedly communicated with a radical cleric and the White House intelligence report.
Findings about Hasan and those who supervised him are contained in a confidential addendum to a larger report about the Pentagon's handling of potential extremism in the ranks and readiness to handle the sort of mass casualties Hasan allegedly inflicted.
An official familiar with the findings said the five to eight officers who could face discipline were supervisors who knew about Hasan's shortcomings and looked the other way or who did not fully reflect concerns about Hasan in professional evaluations.
The officers supervised Hasan when he was a medical student and during his early work as an Army psychiatrist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.
Findings about Hasan are limited to a one-page summary in the main report. The report, called "Protecting the Force," concludes that the Defense Department had outdated and ineffective means to identify threats from inside as opposed to outside the military. It also says the department's means of sharing and collating information about a potential troublemaker are inadequate.
The inquiry also questions whether the Pentagon is fully committed to FBI-run Joint Terrorism Task Forces. The report calls on the Defense Department to fully staff those teams of investigators, analysts, linguists and others so the Pentagon can quickly see information collected across government agencies about potential links between troops and terrorist or extremist groups.
The report found that although the emergency response at Fort Hood was generally good, there are gaps elsewhere and sometimes a failure to link emergency response operations on military installations with those in the surrounding communities.
The findings are the result of two months of work by a panel convened by Gates to look for holes in Pentagon policies and procedures revealed by the Hasan case. The review, which was led by retired Adm. Vernon E. Clark and former Army secretary Togo D. West Jr., did not consider whether the shootings were an act of terrorism and did not delve into allegations that Hasan was in contact with a radical cleric in Yemen. Those questions are part of the separate criminal case against Hasan.
Hasan got passing grades and a promotion in part because disturbing information about his behavior and performance was not recorded by superiors or properly passed to others who might have stepped in, the report found.
As Hasan's training progressed, his strident views on Islam became more pronounced as did worries about his competence as a medical professional. Yet his superiors continued to give him positive performance evaluations that kept him moving through the ranks and led to his eventual assignment at Fort Hood.
Recent statistics show the Army rarely blocks junior officers from promotion, especially in the medical corps.
The report does not answer whether intervention by one of Hasan's superiors might have prevented the shootings.
Hasan nonetheless earned some good reviews from patients and colleagues. His promotion to major was based on an incomplete personnel file, one official said, but also on performance markers that Hasan had met, if barely.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.