Congress is opening an investigation into Fort Hood
Two Congressional subcommittees announced on Tuesday that they are launching a joint investigation of Fort Hood.
In a letter sent Tuesday to Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, Reps. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) and Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) said that the Committee on Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on National Security, and the Committee on Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel would be investigating “whether an alarming pattern of recent tragedies at Fort Hood, Texas, may be symptomatic of underlying leadership, discipline, and morale deficiencies throughout the chain-of-command.”
The letter marks the most recent investigation into the Army installation since the death of Army Spc. Vanessa Guillén over the summer spurred a wave of demands for accountability and action.
Those calls only grew louder when another body was discovered during the search for Guillén, who was identified as Pvt. Gregory Morales, a soldier who had been identified as absent without leave (AWOL); and when another soldier, Sgt. Elder Fernandes, went missing in August and was later found dead.
Last week, McCarthy announced leadership changes at the installation and an internal investigation by a senior Army leader into every level of command at Fort Hood, and the actions they did (or did not) take starting on the day that Guillén was reported missing. That joins a review currently being conducted by a panel of civilians at Fort Hood, a review of Fort Hood's sexual assault and harassment prevention program, and others.
But Guillén's family and their attorney Natalie Khawam have long called for a Congressional investigation into Fort Hood.
In their letter, lawmakers requested that McCarthy provide them with extensive documentation, including any and all documentation and records regarding communication between Fort Hood leadership, military police, local and state law enforcement agencies related “to any sexual assault or harassment allegations” made by Guillén, Fernandes, Morales, and Pvt. Mejhor Morta — a soldier who died after a boating incident on a nearby lake over a weekend in August.
(While Guillén's family said she was being sexually harassed, and Fernandes had reported being sexually assaulted, it's unclear if Morales or Morta had made any of those allegations.)
The lawmakers also asked for detailed timelines of Fort Hood's response to the soldiers' disappearances and deaths; Fort Hood policies and guidance relates to searching for missing personnel and determining the status of soldiers who are AWOL; reports and surveys related to the command climate at Fort Hood and the occurrence of felonies at the installation; and all findings and reports produced by the civilian panel's review.
“As Members of Congress, it is our solemn responsibility to provide a full accounting of the conditions and circumstances that may have contributed to the recent disappearances and deaths of U.S. Army personnel at Fort Hood,” the letter says.
“Where appropriate, we intend to seek justice on behalf of those in uniform, and their families, who may have been failed by a military system and culture that was ultimately responsible for their care and protection.”