Army Considers Civilian Control of Criminal Investigations in Wake of Fort Hood Report

Vanessa Guillen's mural in Houston
Dawn Gomez holds her 3-year-old granddaughter, Saryia Greer, who waves at Vanessa Guillen's mural painted by Alejandro "Donkeeboy" Roman Jr. on the side of Taqueria Del Sol, Thursday, July 2, 2020, in Houston. (Steve Gonzales/Houston Chronicle via AP)

The Army's chief of staff said Thursday that the service has launched pilot programs that will send independent review teams out into the force to see whether the climate in units allows sexual harassment and assault to happen unchecked.

"We are doing some pilots right now where we have an independent review team going out to a unit and doing a survey of the entire unit, getting a sense of what is actually going down," Gen. James McConville told reporters at a Defense Writers Group discussion.

McConville's announcement comes three months after the Army publicly released the results of an independent review of Fort Hood, Texas, that revealed that the base's command climate allowed a culture of sexual assault and harassment to fester in the ranks.

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The chief said he sees "some value" in using independent reviews in the future since standard Army investigations don't always present a clear picture of the true atmosphere within a unit.

"We have done investigations before, but the investigations are more along the line of how compliant are you with, you know, how many sexual assault response coordinators do you have, have they been to the training?" McConville said.

Independent reviews "are designed to get into the culture and to get into the climate and then we can actually get after that," he added.

"I don't think it hurts to have people taking a look outside the organization sometimes; it's very hard to change if you are part of the system," he said. reached out to the Army on Friday for more details about which units will be part of the review pilot but did not receive an immediate answer.

The Fort Hood independent review also revealed that the Criminal Investigation Command (CID) detachment at the post was made up of inexperienced, overworked agents who failed to control the post's culture of violent crime and drug use.

The service is considering a proposal to redesign CID as an independent organization with civilian leadership instead of the current military police command structure, Army Times reported. Such a change could cost about half a billion dollars and take more than 10 years to complete, according to the outlet.

"We are taking a look at it right now. ... There are opinions on both sides," McConville said. "It may not be just making it all civilianized, and it may not be making it all military. There may be a hybrid in there, but we are not ready to make that final decision."

The Army does want to make sure CID has the "right level of expertise, especially on the sexual harassment side because we tended to view those as administrative-type investigations," he said. "I think it's very, very important that while we have sexual harassment, we have sexual assault, we have any type of racism and extremism, we [also] have the right investigators that can really have the skill sets that can get after that.

"The end state is to get the best law enforcement in place, so we can hold people accountable for these horrible behaviors that are in the Army," McConville said.

The Fort Hood independent review resulted in 70 recommendations to address major flaws in the Army's Sexual Harassment and Assault Response Prevention, or SHARP, program at the base. Service leaders are looking at those problems to see whether they exist across the force. The Army is also wrestling with how to rid its ranks of racism and extremism, problems that every service has been ordered to tackle.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III in February ordered each of the services to devote time daily to discuss the problem of extremism and extremist ideology, as military leaders try to determine how widespread these belief systems are among troops.

"What it really comes down to is, when we look at where most of the problems occur in the United States Army, it's with our 17-to-24-year-olds," McConville said. "Young soldiers come in the Army ... and they bring the culture or the climate from where they come from.

"And quite frankly, we have to change that in many, and we have to make sure they understand that there is no room in our Army for sexual harassment and sexual assault. There is no room in our Army for racism and extremism," he added.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at

Related: Fort Hood's Inexperienced, Overburdened CID Faces New Scrutiny in Army Investigation

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