Unexpected Culprit in Ft. Hood Attack: Automatic Promotions
The commission Defense Secretary Robert Gates appointed to investigate how the Army failed to notice the radicalization of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the alleged gunman at Fort Hood, has apparently taken a very structural examination of the failure. Look at this portion of its assessment:
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.
In recent years there’s been a fair amount of grumbling in Army reformist circles that too many underqualified officers are pushed up the ranks. Usually that’s come in the context of wartime exhaustion, as the Army needs to retain its junior-to-mid-level officers to keep functioning, and the way to do that is through de facto automatic promotion. (Or, put differently, you have to *seriously *mess up not to be bumped upward.) It’s not clear that’s what happened in Hasan’s case, but the problem is nevertheless structural. If the default position of the Army is to promote, particularly in needed specialties like the medical corps, superiors are unlikely to pay sufficient attentions to warning signs like Hasan’s increasingly anti-American rhetoric.
Apparently as many as eight officers could be disciplined over the Hasan case. The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing about the commission’s report next Thursday.