McGuireWoods’ Jonathan Harmon Testifies Before House Subcommittee on Fort Hood Findings

December 17, 2020

McGuireWoods Chairman Jonathan Harmon was one of five civilian members who served on an independent review committee that conducted an extensive investigation of the command climate and culture at Fort Hood, as they relate to sexual assault, harassment and crime. The panel released its 136-page report Dec. 8, 2020, and members testified before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel the following day.

The review was prompted by questions and concerns raised by family members, Congress and various Hispanic advocacy groups during the investigation of the disappearance and murder of Spc. Vanessa Guillén, according to an Army news release. Committee members conducted a two-week fact-finding mission to Fort Hood, meeting with unit leaders, soldiers, members of the Guillén family, local officials, law enforcement and community groups.

The report contains findings and recommendations intended to benefit Fort Hood and the entire Army. In response, Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy announced measures to hold leaders accountable at Fort Hood, instituted a new policy on missing soldiers and formed a task force to address issues identified in the report.

“While the independent review focused on the command climate and culture at Fort Hood, the findings contained in the committee’s repot impact the entire Army of more than 1 million soldiers, 247,000 civilians and their families,” Secretary McCarthy stated.

The report’s release received national news coverage, including stories by The Associated Press, Reuters, NBC News, NPR and Stars and Stripes. In its coverage of the news conference announcing the committee’s findings, Reuters quoted Harmon saying he heard repeatedly from platoon sergeants and squad leaders that they did not have time to get to know their soldiers.

“For those of us who had served in the military before, that was very, very shocking,” said Harmon, a West Point graduate who served as a first lieutenant in the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division during Operation Desert Storm.

Stars and Stripes and Law360 included excerpts of Harmon’s responses in the Dec. 9 House subcommittee hearing. Harmon told the subcommittee that the Army’s firing or suspension of 14 Fort Hood leaders would not be enough to address problems identified in the report.

“It’s going to take a lot more work, a lot more oversight,” Harmon said. “I think as everybody recognizes, changing culture is hard. And it doesn’t come from just firing 14 people. And our report, I think, was very clear that the problems at Fort Hood were not the result of one commander, they were not the result of one administration.”