A Senate committee on Wednesday urged the Defense Department to take firmer steps to combat the threat of Islamic extremism within the ranks, calling the current procedures inadequate for heading off possible attacks.
The recommendations by leaders of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee come a day before the Pentagon is expected to release an internal review of the shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, that left 13 people dead. That review, led by two former senior defense officials, will propose ways to improve the military's ability to identify service members who may be a danger to others and quicken reaction times by emergency response teams.
Led by Connecticut independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, the committee's investigation of the Fort Hood has focused on whether the military missed numerous signs the accused shooter, Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan, had embraced a radical view of Islam.
In a Jan. 13 letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Lieberman, along with Sen. Susan Collins, the committee's top Republican, contend the threat of "homegrown terrorism" inspired by violent Islamic extremism is growing and the military isn't exempt.
As a result, the Defense Department's existing policies for dealing with personnel that become involved in gangs and racist groups need to be expanded to cover new avenues of violence, Lieberman and Collins say. Not only will that head off future attacks, it will protect Muslim-Americans in the military from suspicion, they said.
"Efforts by DOD to educate its personnel concerning what violent Islamist extremism is and what the warning signs of such extremism are — as distinguished from the practice of the Islamic faith — will increase trust between the thousands of Muslim-Americans serving honorably and their colleagues," they wrote.
Lieberman and Collins say their investigation of Hasan and the Fort Hood shooting is still under way and they will likely make further recommendations.
Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington, a Pentagon spokesman, said the department does not comment on correspondence between members of Congress and the defense secretary.
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