Army Maj. Nidal Hasan killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others on Nov. 5, 2009, at Fort Hood, Texas. It was the deadliest mass shooting on a U.S. military base and one of almost a dozen such incidents that have occurred on Defense Department property from 2009 through 2020.
In a new report, the Pentagon’s inspector general says the Defense Department still lacks a consistent policy for dealing with active shooter threats. Instead, there are five different policies coming from each military service and the Pentagon’s own force protection agency.
The military’s law enforcement agencies “did not establish consistent policies, plans or training for responding to an active shooter incident,” according to the new IG report.
That means the military services and base law enforcement organizations “may respond inconsistently to an active shooter incident,” which “may result in a delayed and uncoordinated response that could increase casualties during an active shooter incident on [Department of Defense] facilities and installations,” according to the office’s investigators.
The military defines an active shooter threat as a “random or systematic killing in a confined populated area.” The Pentagon inspector general said 11 occurred on U.S. military installations since 2009.
Fort Hood was the scene of two such active shooter scenes. Others have occurred at Navy bases in Pensacola, Florida, and Corpus Christi, Texas, and at the Pentagon in 2010.
Hasan was convicted by a military jury in August 2013 and sentenced to death. On April 2, 2014, Army Specialist Ivan Lopez died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after killing four people and injuring about a dozen others in another mass shooting at Fort Hood.
Each of the Department of Defense law enforcement organizations “has different roles and responsibilities for responding to active shooter incidents on DoD installations,” the IG report stated.
The Air Force Office of Special Investigation, the Navy Criminal Investigative Service and the Defense Criminal Investigative Services all send their new personnel through active shooter incident-response courses during their initial training.
“However, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division personnel do not receive active shooting incident-response training during Army CID Basic Criminal Investigator Training,” according to the Pentagon IG report.
Several military bases also fail to coordinate their protocols for dealing with an armed threat with local civilian police departments, the Pentagon IG noted. The lack of coordination means military personnel might not know the procedures used by local law enforcement during an active shooter scene and whether they could conflict with their own methods.
A “diversified and joint response may include [law enforcement organizations] responding with patrol officers, Special Weapons and Tactics officers, or other trained personnel with specialized response equipment,” the IG report stated.
The military services have broad policies regarding coordination with local law enforcement agencies, but they don’t mandate that active shooter incidents be included in the installation support agreements.
“We determined that across the DoD and the military services, these broad, generic policies led to inconsistently developed installation support agreements and the lack of local [law enforcement officer] support during an active shooter incident,” the IG report stated.
The report also documented incidents of confusion at military bases over who is in charge during an active shooter incident. While the Air Force is the lead military service at Joint Base Charleston in South Carolina, Navy NCIS personnel are also assigned there along, with their Air Force OSI counterparts.
A member of the Air Force security detachment at Joint Base Charleston told the IG investigators that NCIS and OSI personnel would not be “first responders” during an active shooter scene. The senior OSI agent on base told them they would respond and continue a crime scene investigation only after the area was secure. However, an NCIS special agent told the auditors their personnel would be first responders during an active shooter scene.
“The lack of an overall [law enforcement] active shooter incident-response policy may result in a delayed and uncoordinated response that could increase casualties during an active shooter incident,” the report stated.
Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled the name of Nidal Hasan.