ARMY SECRETARY RYAN D. MCCARTHY: Good
morning, everybody. I'd like to make several announcements related
to the Fort Hood independent reviews. Fort Hood -- the independent
review of Fort Hood's command climate, so this will be a longer
murder of Specialist 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, 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 and some members of Congress, 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'll have an
opportunity to speak with them shortly and we will make their
available to the public.
Over the course of 103 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's senior leaders and provided
nine findings and 70 recommendations.
The findings of the committee identified major flaws with sexual
harassment and assault response prevention program from
implementation, reporting and adjudication; fundamental issues with
Fort Hood criminal investigation command field office activities
that led to unaddressed problems on Fort Hood; and finally, a
command climate at Ford Hood that was permissive of sexual
harassment and 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
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 interests 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
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,
247,000 civilians and their families. The People First Task Force
will analyze the findings and 70 recommendations in the report,
develop a plan to address the issues identified by the committee and
reevaluate current policy and programs. The Army will begin
implementation by March 2021.
The task force chairs are Ms. Diane Randon, assistant deputy chief
of staff, G2; Lieutenant General Gary Brito, the Army G1; and
Sergeant Major Julie Guerra, Army G2.
I've also signed a new Missing Soldier Policy. The policy will
assist in tracking and finding missing soldiers. It clarifies
expectations and responsibilities of unit commanders and law
enforcement authorities, focusing on the first 48 hours a soldier is
missing. It creates new processes for soldiers' reporting-to-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.
And finally, we need the right leadership. I've determined the
issues at Fort Hood are directly related to leadership failures.
Leaders drive culture and are responsible for everything the unit
does, or does not happen to do. I am gravely disappointed that
leaders failed to effectively create a climate that treated all
soldiers with dignity and respect, and they 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 and accountability,
I have directed the relief and/or suspension of commanders and other
leaders from the corps to the squad level. I have directed the
relief of the III Corps deputy commanding general for support, the
Third Armored Cavalry Regiment Command Team, and suspended the First
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 institutions 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, noncommissioned
officers, soldiers, civilians and their families with every fiber of
my being, because of the extraordinary things they do on a daily
basis. I'm confident in our leaders' ability to overcome this
challenge, and to continue to win our nation's wars while caring for
ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF GENERAL JAMES C. MCCONVILLE: Good afternoon. We
appreciate the work of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee
and the feedback that this report has given us. We own the results,
and you know, we've asked a lot of the Army and of Fort Hood over
the last 19 years during continuous deployments to combat, and we
know in the Army that we are not perfect. But what makes us the
greatest army in the world is that we recognize where we must
change. We acknowledge our issues, and we fix them.
Prior to coming here, I talked to Mrs. Guillen, Vanessa's mother,
and I told her that we're going to fix these issues and change the
culture that allowed them to happen. I told her we must, and will
provide a safe and secure environment for American sons and
daughters that serve in the Army. As the secretary said, we are
holding leaders accountable, and we will fix this.
Tomorrow, we are briefing the Army's senior leaders on this report,
and we will ensure it is understood and our plan to move forward
will be implemented throughout the Army. We have been trusted to
lead the world's greatest soldiers. It is our sacred duty to protect
our soldiers so we can defend our nation. That is what we do. Thank
COLONEL CATHY WILKINSON: Lita Baldor, first question.
Question: First question is; can you address just more broadly why just
(inaudible) General White is not included among those touched by the
administrative actions? Why not? And then also, how widespread do
you believe these problems are, beyond Fort Hood? Because you seem
to suggest that 19 years of war (inaudible) on -- on this, and maybe
as one of the causational factors. Is that what you are saying?
SEC. MCCARTHY: Lita, it's Ryan McCarthy. With respect to General
White, he was deployed for 13 months, and our -- and our standard
practice -- I'd like General McConville to comment, as well. But
General White was deployed for 13 months. Our standard practice is
that we -- we delegate a senior mission commander to take the role
of running the garrison activities. So in this case, it had been a
standard practice that we've used for, I think, over a decade in the
With respect to the comments that we both made related to where --
is, we don't -- we are concerned that there -- there could be other
systemic challenges across the formation, and that's why, to the
chief's point, we're going to utilize this report as a means to look
at systems and programs, and also, leadership approaches to how we
address these -- these -- these difficult issues.
Chief, anything you want to add?
GEN. MCCONVILLE: Just on General White, I think it's really
important. He did a fabulous job in Iraq over the last 13 days (Ed.
Note: 13 months). And leadership is about presence, and when you're
-- you're in Iraq for 13 months, that's why we appoint a general
officer to be the senior commander.
And as far as other issues, we're about excellence, and I said we're
not perfect, but we strive for excellence. We need to take a hard
look at ourselves. That's why we're the best army in the world, and
that's what we're going to do. We're going to take these results.
We're going to make sure that every single leader sees these
results. And some will say we reflect society. I don't want to
reflect society in these type of issues. I want to make sure that we
have an environment where everyone is treated with dignity and
respect, and everyone takes care of each other, and we expect our
leaders to do that, and that's what we're going to do.
COLONEL CATHY WILKINSON: And we have time for one final question in
the room. Luis Martinez?
Question: Mr. Secretary, General. You talked about how this is going to
change the Army, but why did it take a review panel, and why did it
take Vanessa Guillen's disappearance and murder for you to look
inward at these programs that obviously now, in retrospect, look
like they've failed massively?
SEC. MCCARTHY: I think the level, the caliber of work that was
provided in this independent review panel brought a fresh look and
helped us look at a lot of challenges that we have had, that are
potentially systemic, but some of them were also within the
leadership. So I think the fresh eyes, and having some other support
has helped us in this process.
Chief, is there anything you want to add?
Question: If I could follow up, sir?
SEC. MCCARTHY: Yeah?
Question: Yes, this is the leadership with regards to this issue but it
sounds like the report says that SHARP is structurally not working
and that is an Army-wide program, so then why can't you say that the
program itself needed complete restructuring or why wasn't it
updated regularly so that you could see that there were issues at
SEC. MCCARTHY: Really, this body of work has identified things that
we had not seen previously. That's why we have accepted all of the
findings in whole. You know, I previously have seen independent
panels that have looked at the mishandling of nuclear weapons, or
Walter Reed. A lot of great reporting, quite frankly, as well as
outside fresh perspective helped us to look at ourselves and see
challenges that we didn't see.
And, you'll have them come out here in a minute, but they helped us
and that's going to help us with the institutions so we can get
better across the board.
COLONEL CATHY WILKINSON: -- ladies and gentlemen, thank you. The
Secretary does not have much time. Yes, there was a press release
that should be in your inbox now.
COLONEL CATHY WILKINSON: -- the Fort Hood Independent Review Panel
will be out. We're going to switch, bring out the new panel and
they'll be here to take your questions. Thank you very much.
MS. CHAMBERLAIN: Good afternoon, thank you for joining us. I'm
Elizabeth Chamberlain from Army Public Affairs. Today you'll hear
from the members of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee --
Chris Swecker, Jonathan Harmon, Carrie Ricci, Queta Rodriguez and
This briefing will last 45 minutes, ending no later than [1:00pm]. Before I
introduce the committee members, I have several announcements. If
you RSVP'd for this briefing, you previously received an embargoed
press release, along with an embargoed copy of the executive summary
of the report of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee. That
embargo is now lifted.
Very soon, you'll receive an updated version of the press release
with a second release outlining the accountability actions Secretary
McCarthy just announced. The Army's new Fort Hood Independent Review
army.mil/forthoodreview, will go live shortly. On this
site, you'll find both press releases, a link to download the
136-page redacted report, and additional background materials.
This briefing will begin with an opening statement from Mr. Swecker,
on behalf of the committee. Afterward, the committee members will
take questions relating to the report and their findings and
For the Q&A segment, please allow me to acknowledge you before
asking your question. Please provide your name and affiliation.
Limit yourself to one question and one follow up. I'll call on
reporters in the room and on the phone line. I'll provide a warning
when we have time for one more question.
And now, Mr. Swecker will read an opening statement on behalf of the
CHRIS SWECKER: Good afternoon and thank you for attending today. My
name is Chris Swecker, I'm the Chair of the Fort Hood Independent
Review Committee. I'm a practicing attorney in Charlotte, North
Carolina, I'm also a counsel with Miller Martin out of Tennessee and
I'm retired from the FBI after 24 years, retiring as Assistant
Director of the FBI.
To my far left is Jonathan Harmon. He's Chairman of McGuire Woods
Law Firm. He is a nationally recognized trial attorney who
previously served as an Army officer at Fort Hood, in the 1st
Cavalry Division, after graduating from West Point.
To my immediate left, in the front, is Carrie Ricci. She is a
retired Army JAG Officer who served three years at Fort Hood,
including as trial counsel and is now a senior executive serving as
Associate General Counsel for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Just behind Ms. Ricci is Queta Rodriguez. She is a retired Marine
Corps Officer who served 20 years on active duty. She currently
serves as Regional Director for FourBlock, which is a
veteran-serving non-profit organization.
To my right is Jack White. He is a partner at FH&L Law Firm, where
his practice focuses on government investigations and civil rights
claims. He served as a law clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court after
graduating from West Point and serving as an Armor Officer in the
active Army and the U.S. Army Reserve.
So after that introduction, I'm going to read a very brief statement
and turn it back over to Elizabeth. On July 30th, 2020, the Fort
Hood Independent Review Committee was chartered by the Secretary of
the Army to conduct a comprehensive independent review of the Fort
Hood command climate and culture, and assess its impact on the
health, safety and readiness of its soldiers and units, particularly
as it related to preventing sexual assault, harassment, crime issues
affecting soldiers, and missing soldier protocols.
We began our work immediately. The committee members, who had never
met each other prior to their appointment, were tasked to organize
themselves, devise a strategy for the review, gather relevant facts
and complete a final report to the Secretary within 90 days.
All of the members have day jobs with significant responsibilities.
We couldn't cast those aside. However, we accepted this appointment
based on our shared belief that an independent body could indeed
assess the serious issues at hand, and if necessary, provide a road
map towards constructive change.
Each member of the committee accepted this appointment with the
intention and a hope of supporting the mission and well-being of our
brave soldiers. The final report was delivered to the Secretary of
the Army on November 6th. We briefed the Secretary of the Army and
the Army Command on November 18th of this year.
Before we go any further, let me emphasize that Secretary McCarthy,
Undersecretary McPherson and Chief of Staff McConville provided us
absolute independence to do our job. We were authorized access to
every available source of information and we were provided a full
Army staff, including a brigadier general, two colonels, several
lieutenant colonels and a master sergeant, each of whom stood ready
to support our mission.
Although the establishment of an independent committee of civilians
to review a U.S. Army command's actions is not unprecedented, it is
extremely rare and it reflects a sincere desire to identify the
issues and address them. The secretary and under secretary also
approved and facilitated the addition of five former FBI special
agents and civilian administrative support to provide much needed
assistance to the team.
We visited Fort Hood for 19 days in August and September. We
conducted 647 individual interviews. We did 80 group interviews,
which encompassed over 1,800 soldiers, and we conducted over 140
specialized interviews of various stakeholders on and off the post.
We retrieved and analyzed thousands of pages of documents,
commissioned 49 formal research projects, and conducted a survey
tailored for this review, which drew over 31,000 responses from the
Fort Hood Community representing what we were told is 100 percent of
the targeted audience.
The review focused on the period 2018 through 2020. However,
information from the last five years was considered if it was deemed
relevant to the review. After three months of diligent work, the
committee issued nine findings and 70 constructive recommendations.
The report leads off with finding number one, which states that the
command at Fort Hood was ineffective in its implementation of the
Sexual Harassment Assault Response and Prevention Program, the SHARP
This was due to under emphasis of the program outside the III Corps
headquarters, and a failure to culturally integrate the program
through the enlisted ranks to where almost 90 percent of sexual
assault victims are found.
The committee noted that while the Fort Hood leadership afforded the
highest priority to maintaining equipment, conducting field training
and ensuring deployment capability, a series of command elements
executed these duties in a manner that was at the expense of the
health and safety of all soldiers, but particularly for women at the
brigade level and below.
This dearth of command emphasis on the SHARP program adversely
impacted mission readiness in terms of morale, re-enlistments and
The committee also found that soldier accountability was not
strictly enforced and there were no missing soldier protocols for
first-line supervisors. This resulted in ad hoc responses to
soldiers who failed to report and may have been in jeopardy.
With respect to the crime issues at Fort Hood, the committee
determined that the crime environment within the surrounding cities
and counties is commensurate with similar size areas in Texas and
around the United States. However, serious crime problems on Fort
Hood have gone unaddressed because the installation is in a fully
Leaders across a series of commands failed to use best practices in
the areas of public safety to develop and execute crime suppression
strategies. The committee found that the serious crime problems on
the installation at Fort Hood require a proactive command action to
The committee also found that Fort Hood's CID detachment had various
inefficiencies that adversely impacted accomplishments of its
The committee wishes to thank the secretary of the Army, the under
secretary of the Army, and the Army chief of staff, and the Army
staff that they provided, for the strong support that they provided
to this committee.
So I just want to add that we were all fully immersed in all aspects
of the review, but each of us had a focus area. So when you ask a
question, we may have that person come up to the podium and we'll
switch positions, so bear with us as we do the switch.
MS. CHAMBERLAIN: Thank you, Mr. Swecker.
We'll now take our first question, which goes to Lita Baldor, A.P.,
on the phone.
Question: Hi, I had a question earlier so I'll let someone else ask. Go
MS. CHAMBERLAIN: Kyle Rempfer, Military Times, also on the phone?
Question: Hi, thanks for doing this. So we just heard that, you know, 14
senior commanders -- or 14 commanders there at Fort Hood were
relieved or suspended, but how far back do the problems that you
guys identified go? Is this something that just developed in the
past 12 months, or does this extend, you know, years back here? How
long has this been in development?
MR. SWECKER: Well, I'm going to refer to the report. We looked back
as early as 2014, there were issues that were called out. If you
look at it in terms of risk management, it became a known risk very
early in the process.
We did not fix accountability on any specific general officer or any
particular commander because -- for that very reason, particularly
in the last five years, which was really the more relevant time
period. It was not an act of commission, these were acts of
omission, if you will. These were things that were not done, these
were not things that were done that were to the detriment of the
soldiers, particularly the female soldiers.
Does anybody else want to add to that?
MS. CHAMBERLAIN: Okay, next question, Haley Britzky?
Question: Thank you. Haley Britzky with Task and Purpose. In your
conversations with soldiers and your interviews with them, can you
tell us about some of the points that you've heard repeatedly, some
of the concerns or complaints that they had regarding the sexual
assault and harassment program?
MR. SWECKER: Yes, the individual interviews, especially, were pretty
revealing. We interviewed, of the 647, 503 were female soldiers.
What we found was that there was a fear of retaliation -- all forms
of retaliation, stigmatism, ostracism, derailing a career,
assignments, work assignments and that sort of thing.
There was a fear, a founded fear that the confidentiality of the
reporting process would be compromised. There was a fear -- or there
was a lack of any appreciation for the results of the response
because it took so long to get an adjudication that people didn't-
never saw the adjudication, so they lost faith in that.
So there are other, many other things that came out of the
interviews, as you will read in the report, but let me open it up to
the other panel members. Does anybody else -- Well, I will say that
Queta and Carrie did the individual interviews and they may have
something to say about that, but they were very revealing.
CARRIE RICCI: I just want to add that one of the things that the
soldiers at Fort Hood, many of them needed, was to be believed, and
that was what we did. We listened. And so if any of them see this, I
want them to know we believe you. And that's a really important
takeaway, was to believe. That's all I wanted to add.
QUETA RODRIGUEZ: As Mr. Swecker just stated, I spent the bulk of my
time during the course of our time at Fort Hood interviewing these
individuals. As you mentioned, 503 of the 647 were women. We made a
very concerted effort to interview every single woman within
specific units, in particular the unit that Vanessa Guillen belonged
And what we did discover was -- which was one of the really shocking
elements or parts of the interview period, were the number of
unreported sexual harassment and sexual assault incidents. Of the
503 women that we interviewed, we discovered 93 credible accounts of
sexual assault. Of those, only 59 were reported. And we also found
135 -- I'm sorry, 217 unreported accounts of sexual harassment. So
that's a really significant number. Of those, just over half were
And so what we discovered during the course of those interviews is
that due to the lack of confidence in the system, that lack of
confidence absolutely affected -- affects the reporting of those
incidents. And obviously, if we're not able to capture those
incidents, then it's almost impossible to address that.
But again, as Mr. Swecker alluded to, there were other indicators
that this was a problem, and so that's something that the report
really focused on, and the interview period of all of those
individuals really focused on just letting people speak to us. They
knew that we were an independent panel. None of us are on active
duty, which I think was a very significant -- very significant in
their willingness to speak with us and to just believe, as Ms. Ricci
MS. CHAMBERLAIN: Okay. Thank you. Next question, we'll go to the
phone. Jasmin Caldwell, KCEN-6 Texas.
[UNIDENTIFIED]: It's difficult for those of us on the phone.
[UNIDENTIFIED]: Probably want you to identify yourselves before you
MS. CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, panelists, if you could -- committee members,
if you could identify yourselves before you speak, that would help
the people on the phone.
Good reminder. Thank you. Jasmin Caldwell, did you have a question?
Question: Hi, yes. You were just talking about the reported sexual assault
and harassment on Fort Hood. Out of the ones that were reported,
were they properly handled?
MR. SWECKER: It was all over the place in terms of adjudications. So
when you say "properly handled", the ones that were reported went
through the process. If they were sexual assaults, they went through
the Criminal Investigative Division, the detachment there for
investigation. If they were harassment, there was an appointed
investigating officer out of the brigade where the complaint took
What we saw were, and this may be an area where Ms. Ricci can
address as well, because she was a former JAG officer and she
concentrated in this part of it. We saw a lot of delayed justice, if
you will. The old saying, "Justice delayed, justice denied." But the
process was so long and drawn out that most people never saw the
actual result so there was no deterrent, or at least there was no
visible deterrent. We found that delays were built into the process,
and nobody was monitoring the lifecycle of a sexual assault or
sexual harassment complaint, so nobody really knew how long it took.
Nobody had the responsibility to track how long it took or different
parts of the process.
And then let me ask Ms. Ricci to come up and address that, as well,
if you will.
MS. RICCI: Sure. I don't have too much more to add. I will say that
at Fort Hood, they have really organized themselves well to
prosecute sexual assaults. They're not the easiest cases to try, and
they have some expertise. But what we found, as Chris mentioned, was
that there are delays in the process that become very troublesome
for a victim. Imagine that you're still waiting for justice more
than a year later.
So I can't really add too much more. It's all in the report, but we
did find some areas where improvement could be found.
MS. CHAMBERLAIN: Okay.
MS. CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, go ahead.
Question: Yes, I'm Terace Garnier with Newsy. I've followed this issue a
lot, as far as sexual assaults in the military, and one of the
things that I've found when I've interviewed different survivors,
and also, former OSI agents where one of the issues was they keep
changing those who are investigating it. So you have one person who
investigates, and he's like, "Oh, snap. I have to deploy. Let me
pass this documentation to someone else." Now they have to pick it
up. They're new to it. They don't know the case, and a lot of times,
that's what's dragging it on. And also, a lot of evidence is being
lost because of it. So what are you guys -- do you recommend ways to
fix that issue where you're not having multiple people investigating
the same issue, and just kind of passing it off from one person to
MS. RICCI: And so the report is very detailed about the criminal
investigation divisions and recommendations, and on that, I will
have Mr. Swecker continue to talk on that topic, as he did a very
Question: (inaudible), thank you.
MR. SWECKER: We did, indeed, look at the whole process. Everybody
has -- there are different components that have a role. The JAG
officers have a role. CID has a role.
What we found within CID -- and this may not be just at Fort Hood --
is that they were using Fort Hood as a training ground for CID
agents. High turnover, fairly chronic understaffing throughout the
time period that we looked at, and inexperience. So 45 special
agents assigned there, there are probably about 35, I think we
determined, that were actually working cases. Out of those 35, there
might have been three or four that had more than two years of
experience. So they were rotating through. They were coming out of
Fort Leonard, going straight to Fort Hood, un-credentialed,
apprentice agents, and then within two years, they were rotating out
So, to your point, there was a lot of attrition of the case agents,
and the agents working these investigations, many of them were
over-assigned. Some of the investigative tools that most law
enforcement agencies have, they didn't necessarily have at their
fingertips: cell phone tracking, mirroring or extracting information
from cell phones and mobile devices, which is very critical
investigative techniques in today's investigations. They needed more
and better equipment, and much faster turnover.
There were delays in other areas, as well, when a pass-off goes to
the JAG officers or to the command, military justice advisor. There
were delays there in getting an opinion of probable cause. There
were delays in getting an assignment of a victim counsel assigned to
the victim. So all of that combined and conspired to make it a very
long and drawn-out process.
MS. CHAMBERLAIN: Okay, yes, go ahead.
Question: Yeah, I'm Cristina Londono with Telemundo. I was wondering how --
how instrumental was Vanessa Guillen’s family in this investigation?
And who talked to her?
MR. SWECKER: I'm going to hand the podium over to Jack White, who
did talk to the family and has some perspectives for you on that.
JACK WHITE: So this whole committee was precipitated by the
unfortunate events with Specialist Guillen, and as we put together
our methodology, talking with the family to engage in a two-way
communication was important to us at the outset. At the outset, we
wanted to communicate to the family that their perspective was
important, and that something was being done about what they had
But in looking at the culture, we wanted to hear from them about
what their experience was when their daughter was missing, when the
search was ongoing, what were the interactions with the command. All
of that is a component of the culture. So Ms. Ricci and I sat down
with the family, Mrs. Guillen, Mr. Guillen, their daughters, and we
talked for hours to understand what their experience was.
Indeed, I spoke with Mrs. Guillen as recently as this morning to
inform her of what was happening today and to assure her that the
conversation that she had with us was meaningful. We learned a lot
about their experience and whatever we learned is reflected in the
report and will not be lost.
Question: Were they happy with the recommendations that are coming through?
Do they feel that it made an impact? Cause that's what they were
fighting for this whole time.
MR. WHITE: I do not want to speak for them. I walked away from my
conversation with Mrs. Guillen this morning believing that she is
pleased that there is progress being made. I do not believe that she
has had the benefit, that the family has had the benefit of
reviewing the report and our findings and recommendations yet.
MS. CHAMBERLAIN: Okay. Next question, we'll go to the phone. Matt
Cox, Military.com, do you have a question?
Question: Yes, hi, thank you for doing this. I did have a question about,
you know, your -- your findings on the Fort Hood criminal
investigation detachment. You know, one of the big things of this
was that the Guillen family, you know, said that Vanessa Guillen,
you know, she was told was a victim of sexual harassment and -- and
possibly assault and CID was very adamant that "well, we found no
evidence of that. We found no credible evidence of anything like
Are you saying that that's a flawed finding, and that -- did you
find -- was there any evidence or -- that you found or -- can you
speak to that, as far as what that says -- what these findings about
the CID detachment say to that -- whether there was evidence that
maybe had been overlooked? That make sense?
MR. SWECKER: That is the subject of a separate Army investigation,
which is going very deep into that area. I don't want to step on any
investigation. I will say this, there is a misunderstanding on one
part of that.
CID did not find any evidence that Specialist Robinson sexually
harassed Vanessa Guillen, and I'll leave it at that because -- we
looked at the Guillen case as a case study, in terms of the overall
broader topic that we were looking at and the subjects that we were
looking at, but once the separate investigation was announced, we
did not -- we are not the investigating body for the issues
involving potential sexual harassment, or any other issues involving
Vanessa Guillen inside her unit.
I'm not dodging this question, it's an ongoing thing and we don't
want to taint that investigation in any way.
MS. CHAMBERLAIN: Okay. Courtney?
Question: Hi, Courtney Kube with NBC News I have just two follow-ons.
Ma'am, you've mentioned a bunch of numbers about 503 accounts and
I'm wondering if you could just clarify them, you said there were
217 unreported accounts of sexual harassment. Is that correct? But
then you also said that -- some of them -- about half of them had
been reported. Can you just run through those numbers again? Do you
MS. RODRIGUEZ: Yes. During the course of our interviews, it was 647
individual interviews that included both men and women, but there
were 503 women that were interviewed. Of those, we discovered 93
credible accounts of sexual assault -- and again, those were just
individuals of soldiers who were telling us that this had happened
to them. Of those, 59, when we asked the question, which was part of
the interview, "did you report this or was it reported," the answer
was "yes," 59 of those. That was the extent of those.
For sexual harassment, we discovered 217 credible accounts of sexual
harassment. Of those -- and I'll give you that -- the specific
numbers that were actually reported --
MS. CHAMBERLAIN: For those of you on the phone, this is Ms.
MS. RODRIGUEZ: And all of these specific numbers are included in the
[UNIDENTIFIED]: I think it was 135, maybe?
MS. RODRIGUEZ: No, it was, I apologize, I don't know the number. It
is in the report. Yes, those specific numbers are actually called
out in the report.
Question: Thank you. And Ms. Ricci could I just get you to expand a little
bit on what you meant when you said that people just wanted to be
believed? Were people -- were women not coming forward with
reporting these incidents and not being believed and was that a lot
of what you heard?
MS. RICCI: It was two things. It was cases where there was either no
resolution or an unsatisfactory resolution, which happens, and once
it happens with one soldier, every soldier in the unit learns of
And for the other women in that unit, it became a sense that “they
didn't believe us” -- even if they served as a witness, “we weren't
believed.” And then other women would say "because of what happened
to this soldier, I wouldn't feel comfortable coming forward."
So there was an overall sense that there is that reluctance to
report because “Who is going to believe us?” Especially for a junior
enlisted woman and especially one who maybe isn't their star soldier
at the moment, there's that reluctance and that feeling that “We
won't be believed,” and there were soldiers who just didn't report
because they felt that.
So just being able to talk one-on-one and to hear their very
personal and sometimes very difficult stories, to be able to tell
them -- it was a little bit cathartic for many of them because
someone was listening and they felt that they were being heard.
So it was important to me to say "we heard you and we believe you."
MS. CHAMBERLAIN: Let's go to the phone. Carson Frame, Texas Public
Radio, are you on the line and do you have a question?
Question: Yes, thank you for taking my question. Essentially it boils down
to you've looked over the SHARP program and the criminal
investigative response at Fort Hood. How much would you say of these
issues are Fort Hood specific versus enterprise-wide, an Army
MR. WHITE: This is Jack White. I'll start here, I'm sure that Mr. Swecker will follow me.
I want to start with our charter. Our charter was to look at Fort
Hood, and that is what we did, but we are not oblivious to the fact
that this is one Army and Fort Hood is potentially emblematic of
other things going on in the Army. SHARP is an Army-wide program, so
some of our observations, while we saw them at Fort Hood, may very
well be similar at other installations.
A great number of our recommendations are Fort Hood-specific because
that's where we were on the ground. And at Fort Hood, our
methodology permitted us to kick the tires on just about everything
at Fort Hood. But some of our recommendations look beyond just Fort
Hood because, as I said, the SHARP program is an Army-wide program.
Some of our recommendations in other areas look beyond Fort Hood as
JONATHAN HARMON: This is Jon Harmon. You know, I agree with what
Jack has described, and it became very apparent as we were going
through the investigation and then afterwards, that the Army was
going to take these and apply them broader. And you heard from the
secretary and you heard from the chief.
And you know, as Jack indicated, our charter was just at Fort Hood
but you know, we have four of the five members on this panel have
served in the military, two of us at Fort Hood, and so we know what
it's like. And so we were very pleased to hear from the secretary
and the chief about using this Army-wide.
So again, our charter was focused solely on Fort Hood, but as Jack
articulated and as, again, the secretary and the chief have said,
they're going to use this to make Army-wide changes, which we
MR. SWECKER: And just to add to that, those 49 research projects
that we commissioned went deep and they made comparisons to other
installations across the Army, so we weren't -- as was mentioned, we
weren't oblivious to what was going on at other installations around
the Army. We made a lot of comparisons to how things were going at
other installations, and we also heard stories from soldiers who had
served at other installations.
So we did note, however, that in many cases Fort Hood was an outlier
in things like AWOL, suicides, and other issues in comparison to
some of these other installations. So there were -- Fort Hood was
enough of an outlier that we felt like we really, really had to
concentrate on what we had in front of us.
MS. CHAMBERLAIN: Sir?
Question: Hi, (inaudible) with Univision. We're talking about 70
recommendations and Secretary McCarthy said that he's going to take
all of them. I would like to know what the role of this panel will
be moving forward for accountability purposes to make sure those
changes are implemented.
MR. SWECKER: So the Peoples First Task Force has been established,
one of the colonels that we worked with very closely and supported
us is the chief of staff for that task force, we'll be in touch with
him and he'll be in touch with us. And we will be, in some sense,
not overseeing it directly, but we'll be watching the implementation
of these 70 recommendations.
We didn't expect -- nor do we ever think that -- all 70
recommendations would be accepted, so that's a bit of a surprise,
but I think it reflects a willingness on the part of the secretary,
the under secretary and the chief of staff to fix things.
It was a risk to bring an independent review committee in, we
recognize that. We could have gone anywhere and done anything, and
we wanted to do this right and we wanted to do this fairly, and
we're very happy with the way the Army has accepted these
recommendations as going forward.
MS. CHAMBERLAIN: Next question on the phone, Alex Horton, Washington
Post, did you have a question?
Question: Yes I did, thank you.
You guys have spent some time focused on sexual harassment and
assault. I was curious if you were looking at other kinds of
violence at Fort Hood to include, you know, other murders, other
high-profile incidents including those, you know, who disappeared
and were later found dead?
And I was curious, you know, what you have found in terms of Army
culture of how, you know, the brand of AWOL and the brand of, you
know, going missing contributed to a lack of interest in finding
MR. SWECKER: Yes, that was a big focus of the review and the report.
We looked at crime issues on the base, we looked at crime issues off
I think there was a perception, really based on media stories, that
there was some sort of crime wave around the surrounding area of the
base. What we found was that their crime rates in the areas
surrounding the base were relatively low in comparison to other
cities outside both major Army installations, but other
That's not to say that there weren't soldier victims off the base
and soldier subjects off the base because there's a large population
of active-duty soldiers living off-base, retired soldiers, separated
soldiers, and their families. So you're going to find victims off
But what we found, really, was that on the base, there were some hot
crime areas that were relatively high: violent felonies, sexual
assaults, sex crimes, drugs, positive drug tests were the highest in
the Army. So we found areas of crime on the installation that if you
compared them to civilian crime rates might be low, but this is a
military installation, it's a gated community, there are a lot of
tools that you can use to suppress crime.
What we found was that there were no proactive efforts to suppress
crime, to address drug issues, to address violent crimes. Suicides
were extremely high. And what we found was that because CID was so
inexperienced and so taxed for resources, they really didn't dive
deep on suicides to find out why, and what was happening that was
the trigger for the suicide. The death cases.
There aren't an anomalous number of death cases at Fort Hood in
terms of homicides, but the homicides that did occur got intense
media attention, and we looked very hard at those homicides.
And again, what we found was in the death cases, CID just needed
more experience and more continuity inside the detachment there, and
it may be systemic across CID that there just isn't enough longevity
at the post on the part of the investigators, so we made some
recommendations regarding making sure there are experienced agents
there, maybe going to more civilian investigators and it's something
we asked them to look at.
MR. WHITE: This is Jack White.
And Chris is speaking to some very valuable information on the
specific criminal -- the viewpoint from a criminal perspective, but
something else that we did here is, we looked at what is it that
leads a soldier to behave in this type of manner?
And in the process of looking at that, we looked -- one of the
things that the report contains is looking at the other armed
services, what they do well that might be able to be incorporated
within what we do in the Army, or what the Army does. And one of the
things that we found is that one of the other services looks at the
qualities in service members that lead them to violence, the kind of
violence that we don't want in uniformed personnel. And that fits --
that type of structure would fit well into an Army structure that
looks at the whole-soldier concept, the 21st century soldier.
So we are looking at the criminal component, but we're also looking
at making soldiers more respectful of the contributions of other
soldiers within their formation. And some of the other services do
that well, and there's some aspects of what they do that we can
bring into what we do in the Army.
MS. CHAMBERLAIN: Okay, question in the room? Mr. Glenn?
Question: Yeah, hi. Mike Glenn with the Washington Times. It's one thing to
relieve - for a bunch of colonels and generals to be relieved. Is
there anything in the report about sort of emphasizing the
responsibility of the first-line supervisors, the ones who actually
know something's happening, the squad leaders, platoon sergeant,
platoon leaders or because they're the ones who -- who would know --
will know something's going on before a division commander will ever
MR. WHITE: Okay, I'll start there -- this is Jack White again. The
answer is yes. But let me take your question a little bit broader.
Our question -- our mandate was not focused on attribution, and we
are very clear that the problem -- the problems that we saw are
cultural, and everybody is involved in culture, from the highest
levels to the one-on-one interactions between the squad leader and
his or her squad member. We address all of it without attribution,
because accountability in that way was not our mandate.
That said, yes, we focus on the importance of first-line leaders
knowing their soldiers and knowing where they are. Indeed, part of
what the DOD is focused on in, this whole movement toward violence
prevention and looking at the whole soldier is just that: those
person-to-person interactions, and we address that in our report, as
MS. CHAMBERLAIN: Thank you. Let's go to the phone. David Bryant,
Killeen Daily Herald, are you on the phone? Do you have a question?
Question: Yes, this is Dave Bryant of Killeen Daily Herald, and thank you
for taking my question. Basically, what I'm wondering is have y'all
made any recommendations to ensure that the lower-level units, such
as your squads, platoons and companies, actually comply with the
recommendation that y'all have made?
MR. WHITE: I'll let you --
[UNIDENTIFIED]: Actually, Jon, you want to address this one?
MR. HARMON: Sure.
So I view this as kind of tying-in with the question you asked a
little bit about: the first-line leaders. And when you have a chance
to review the report in detail, you'll see, as Jack said, and as
Chris has said, there are a lot of details in there that go to the
squad leader and the platoon sergeant in this sense: When we were
doing our interviews, both individually and from a group
perspective, one of the things we heard over, and over, and over
again, from platoon sergeants and squad leaders, was that they did
not have the time to really get to know their soldiers.
And for those of us who had served in the military before, it was
very, very shocking because we grew up in a time when platoon
sergeants and the squad leaders had sergeant time, and they knew
where their soldiers were, they knew their strengths, they knew
about their families and we heard that very, very frequently.
So you'll see woven into the report -- I wouldn't say that there is
a specific accountability line directed right at the squad leader,
but as you read the report, you will see that -- as Chris indicated,
with SHARP, and with some of the other programs, they weren't being
mandated down to below the brigade level, and that was certainly
true with respect to the platoon sergeants and the squad leaders
who, because of the operation tempo, because of the requirements of
maintenance and everything else, really were unable or did not take
the time, because of all of the other requirements and because it
wasn't emphasized, to get to know their soldiers.
MS. CHAMBERLAIN: Okay --
MR. SWECKER: I will say just to add, I think that the Secretary and
General McConville are very much on this topic. They've taken some
steps already, they took some steps even after the interim briefing,
to re-emphasize the role of the NCOs, the non-commissioned officers,
the first line supervisors in getting to know their soldiers.
So if they happened to not report one day, they know exactly where
to go to look for them, because they know them well enough and know
what's going on in their lives.
MS. CHAMBERLAIN: For those of you on the phone, that was Mr. White,
followed by Mr. Harmon, followed by Mr. Swecker. We have time for
one more question.
Sig Christenson, San Antonio Express-News, are you on the line, do
you have a question? Is that a no?
Steve Campion, ABC13 Houston, are you on the line, do you have a
Question: Yes, Steve Campion here with ABC13 in Houston. We've spoken to a
lot of the families of missing soldiers there at the base, including
Vanessa's here in Houston, and I wanted to see if you might be able
to address this. So many of them have told us when a soldier goes
missing there on base, there wasn't a sense of urgency in finding
that soldier. It was often seen that this person has gone AWOL.
Can you give us a sense of what your review found in terms of that
part of this equation? Was there this lack of urgency to find
soldiers who went missing there on base?
MR. SWECKER: There were two things that we think really impacted
that missing soldier failure to report dynamic.
One was -- from what we saw -- and actually, the Guillen case as a
case study is an example of it; the accountability for soldiers at
the first muster or the various musters during the day had slipped,
particularly during COVID, so and the part of that is the function
of the NCOs, again, not necessarily knowing enough about their
charges, their soldiers under their supervision to know what was
normal and what was not, in terms of not reporting.
The second part of it was that with all of the regulations and all
of the protocols in the Army and all of the procedures, there was
none for a failure to report. There are rules and procedures around
AWOL and when to carry that as a status -- as a personnel status,
there were rules and procedures around when to carry someone as a
deserter, when to put, enter their names into the National Crime
Information Center, NCIC, be on the lookout and that sort of thing.
But at the front, first line level, each NCO had to rely on their
own devices and their own judgment, and their own experience, as to
whether that failure to report was under suspicious circumstances,
or circumstances where the soldier might be in jeopardy.
And, so it was a slippage of accountability -- routine
accountability, combined with no real protocols or procedures in
place for the NCOs, in the first instance. So, we describe it as an
ad hoc response. Each response was different. There were no
They now have -- and we have looked at the missing soldier protocol
that the Army has put out and it's a very good one. It starts on
hour one. You know, in any missing person case, the first 24 hours
is extremely critical. You can't get started 24 hours into it, you
have to start on hour one, so, and hour two.
So that's where their
missing soldier protocol that they're
promulgating now, we think hits the mark.
MS. CHAMBERLAIN: Thank you.
That concludes this briefing. Thank you to the members of the Fort
Hood Independent Review Committee for their service on behalf of the
MR. SWECKER: Thank you.
Question: Is it all male and
female harassment? Or is there other type [sic] of harassment?
Mostly male and female....
Question: Mostly male and
female. But -- okay, thank you.