Friday, November 20, 2009

Memo to President Obama: Fire Secretary of Defense Robert Gates...

His press conference dealing with the Ft. Hood Massacre failed the "red face test," IMHO. Obviously, General Casey isn't the only one at fault. After hearing this on C-Span radio yesterday, it's pretty clear that Admiral Mullen and Secretary Gates were on the same page. And setting up a yet another commission to conduct yet another investigation is a Bush-era move...From the weak response to the Ft. Hood massacre, his failure to take responsibility and his discussion of meeting with the Saudis, the official press conference transcript seems to cast an Islamist pall over Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen:

Q There is one detail of the investigation that, since it's already on the record, I'll ask you about. Yesterday, Attorney General Holder said he was disturbed by information that Hasan had e-mail communications with Anwar al-Awlaki. And I wonder if you were also disturbed by that.

SEC. GATES: I'm going to wait before I draw -- it's -- yes, it's disturbing. But before I draw any conclusions about it, I want to find out all the facts.

Q Sir, what is your advice to, say, an Army family right now, going in and out of Fort Hood or another base, that is now perhaps looking at their neighbors with suspicion? What are you telling them? What should they be watching for?

SEC. GATES: Well, I think that -- you know, I remember being on the outside of the government after 9/11, and the cautions that President Bush and others in the government exercised against identifying certain categories of people as -- as potentially suspicious.

And the thrust of their remarks was that, in a nation as diverse as the United States, the last thing we need to do is start pointing fingers at each other, particularly when there's no basis in fact for it. So until all the evidence is in, I think that the comments about how we treat each other still ought to apply. And I know this is an issue that's of concern to the services.

ADM. MULLEN: I would add to that, Kim, that it doesn't take this kind of direction to have leaders recognize the challenges that are associated with this. Every base, every unit, literally leaders have I think immediately grabbed this to look within, to kind of see where they are, and to look at what -- whether there's potential or not, and to reassure members and families that not only do we take it extremely seriously, we are looking at it, and to really come together in what is, you know, what was certainly a tragic, tragic incident, and a reminder of the times in which we live, and that leaders are in fact taking action, literally, before this guidance to ensure that it doesn't happen again.

SEC. GATES: Joe --

Q What is your message to the Muslim community in uniform? Because they're very -- they're caught by this incident.

ADM. MULLEN: My message to all those in uniform, including Muslims in uniform, is how much we appreciate their service, the difference that they make; that the -- I have, for my entire career, the diversity of our force is one of its greatest strengths; and that, not unlike what the secretary said, that no one should -- should draw any rapid conclusions. And we need to ensure that we treat everybody fairly -- I mean, before this incident and after this incident -- everybody fairly. And there are procedures that exist in all the services to look at our people and our programs, and evaluate ourselves routinely. And I am sure that leaders are doing that.


Q Will this review look specifically at the mental health ranks within the Army, where, you know, the allegation has been made that a shortage of mental-health professionals may have let unqualified people continue on rather than being drummed out. How specific to the case before us will this be versus a general look at personnel policy?

SEC. GATES: Well, I think they're going to -- as I've indicated here, they are going to look at how we deal with stress of our healthcare providers. And I would say that it shouldn't be limited only to mental healthcare providers.

You know, you talk to the -- you go to the hospitals, and you talk to the nurses and the doctors and those who care for these grievously wounded young men and women, and, I mean, their level of commitment -- and I can't imagine the burden on them of doing that all day, every day. And so I think one of the things, for their own benefit, if nothing else, is for us to take a look at how are we helping them deal with stress, given the circumstances that they face.

ADM. MULLEN: Can I -- I'd just add to that that clearly there is a shortfall, and it's across the department. It's about 20 percent or so. It's a little more significant in the Army, in terms of the statistics. And that is represented -- representative of the shortfall that we actually have.

In the country, we've recruited significant numbers in the last several years. We've increased the mental health providers for both members and families in the last several years, but we certainly haven't closed that gap.

SEC. GATES: And it gets harder as you get to more rural areas, in terms of finding the -- an adequate number of mental healthcare providers.

One of the things that we're looking at, for example, is whether the military medical education system can expand beyond -- how much it could expand beyond doctors and try and provide opportunities for the training of psychologists and counselors and so on. To -- in -- and we would pay for that in exchange for a period of commitment to serve and then go into the communities. Because one of the things that -- as the chairman has just implied, one of the things we're discovering as we go around trying to hire people all over the country is that there really is a national shortage of these folks.

Q Mr. Secretary, based on the facts that you have now, about Hasan and what happened that day, is it fair to characterize the shooting as a terrorist attack?

SEC. GATES: I'm just not going to go there. I -- as I said in the very first paragraph, I am first of all -- as the senior person in the departmental chain of command, I am the least able to render opinions on these kinds of issues. I'm going to wait until the facts are in. And we'll let the military justice system take care of it.

Q Do you think it's possible they'll draw a conclusion, to that end, as a result of the criminal investigation?

SEC. GATES: I have no idea.

Q One of the threats that's obviously being looked at is the issue of whether the intercepted e-mails should have been shared with the Pentagon earlier. Given your background in the intelligence world, how much of a concern is it, do you think? I mean, is that relationship -- as far as intelligence-sharing between civilian intelligence agencies and the Pentagon, is that what it should be?

SEC. GATES: Well, without reference to this case, I will tell you that the sharing of information, between the intelligence community and the Department of Defense and I would say law enforcement, is so far superior to what it was when I left government in 1993.

It's dramatically different and dramatically better. And so you know, one of the things everybody is looking at and, after all, the purpose of the president's requirement, in terms of looking at who had what intelligence when and shared it with whom, is to answer your question. And we won't know the answer to that until it's over.


Q Short of someone in the U.S. military making a direct, specific, public threat, when you're in the military, what is allowed and not allowed for someone who might be described as becoming self- radicalized? What are they allowed to do, in terms of making Internet or e-mail contact with people known to the U.S. government to be of a radical bent, to belong to certain groups which are not in line with U.S. government policy? What is allowed here?

ADM. MULLEN: Well, I think -- I mean, we all have private lives. And basically in any command, you typically are not overly involved unless -- in private -- in the private lives of people that serve, in the command, unless circumstances surface that there are some difficulties and challenges.

And leaders, mid-level NCOs in particular, are intimately -- oftentimes intimately involved with challenges that young -- that actually any people would have, across a wide spectrum of areas. And the expectation that leaders engage so is very much there.

So, as leaders become aware of something like this over time, you know, my -- not -- or something else -- my expectation is that that gets surfaced in the chain of command. And commanders, whether they're squad leaders right up through battalion commanders or ship commanding officers, are -- they routinely deal with these kind of things when they are -- when they are made known. The question is, how are they made known? And that varies depending on the kind of situation you're talking about.

Q So, Admiral, if you had a young sailor in your command making statements of a radical nature, what -- what would -- what would be the appropriate course of action?

ADM. MULLEN: My -- without trying to map it to the -- to the current incident, you know, my expectation is for -- you know, for any commander to -- certainly to be aware of those kinds of things, and then to take appropriate action; to certainly not sit idly by, but to address it. And there are a lot of different ways to address it. And you know, a single -- a single proclamation, if you will, doesn't, in and of itself, necessarily mean anything. You got to put it into the circumstances.

Q Let me ask you, what's your expectation of any sharing of information between the criminal investigation and this broad review you've laid out in terms of any patterns or any shortfalls they saw in the Hasan case that might not bear on the criminality aspect, but might show a systemic problem that your -- that your larger review should take a look at?

SEC. GATES: Well, clearly we are going to have to be careful as we put together the terms of reference and as we go forward to ensure that we don't do anything to complicate or jeopardize the criminal prosecution. And so we will have some very clear guidelines in terms of the information that we're seeking. But the information that we're seeking in this shorter review really is -- really can, I think, be almost entirely isolated from the criminal investigation because we're really looking at the whole rest of the country in terms of what are our security capabilities, what are our capabilities for responding to a mass casualty event. And that might not be -- that might not be an act of murder; it may -- it might be a natural disaster of some kind. How -- what are our policies and procedures? Going back to the first question, what are our policies and procedures in certain of these areas on how we deal with these certain kinds of problems.

So I think -- I think we can deal effectively with the questions that are being posed without creating difficulties for the criminal prosecution. But at the same time, there'll be some very clear guidelines.

Q Can I ask you -- we haven't talked to you since the -- this horrendous event, but what was your initial reaction when you heard this -- the -- heard of the shooting? And what are one or two of the unresolved questions in your mind as a citizen you'd like answers to?

SEC. GATES: Well, I mean, my reaction was, I'm sure, the same as almost everybody in the country. It was one of horror. And I would just answer the second part by saying the most important thing for us now is to find out what actually happened, put all the facts together and figure out a way where we can do everything possible so that nothing like this ever happens again.

Q Sir, I would like to ask you about your meeting on Tuesday with the Saudi Prince bin Sultan. Could you give us an update about that meeting? Did the prince deliver any request, any message? And what are your views about the conflict -- the current conflict in Yemen?

SEC. GATES: Well, we have a -- we obviously have a very close -- (coughs) -- excuse me – military to military relationship with the Saudis and an ongoing arms sales program with them. And I would just leave it at the fact that we reviewed the programs that are -- for which there are outstanding requests and those that the Saudis may be thinking about. We did discuss the situation in Yemen, and he -- the assistant secretary -- basically outlined for me the Saudi view of the situation there. I'd just leave it at that.

President Obama, It's time for some new blood, and new approaches, at the Department of Defense. Someone who can say "Yes, we can!" with confidence, clean house, and purge Islamist influence from the US military. Obviously, given the failures at Ft. Hood, their slowness to react, and their reversion to Bush-era scripts for "damage control," Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen are not up to the job.