Army to put civilian in charge of criminal investigations after string of murders, crimes at Fort Hood

FILE - In this July 9, 2013, file photo, traffic flows through the main gate past a welcome sign in Fort Hood, Texas. U.S. officials say the Army plans to put a civilian in charge of the command that conducts criminal investigations, in response to widespread criticism that the unit is understaffed, overwhelmed and filled with inexperienced investigators.(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)
FILE - In this July 9, 2013, file photo, traffic flows through the main gate past a welcome sign in Fort Hood, Texas. U.S. officials say the Army plans to put a civilian in charge of the command that conducts criminal investigations, in response to widespread criticism that the unit is understaffed, overwhelmed and filled with inexperienced investigators.(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

WASHINGTON – The Army is putting a civilian in charge of its criminal investigations, adding staff and freeing up more agents to work on cases, in a plan to address widespread failures that surfaced last year after a string of murders and other crimes at Fort Hood, Texas.

Army officials announced the plan Thursday but provided few details on how much the reorganization will cost or how long it will take, other than to say some changes will unfold over months. The changes are aimed at addressing complaints that Army investigators are overwhelmed and inexperienced.

The plan reflects recommendations made by an independent review panel in the wake of the violence at Fort Hood, including the death of Vanessa Guillén, whose remains were found about two months after she was killed.

A key change will separate the Army Criminal Investigation Command, or CID, from the Office of the Provost Marshall General, and instead of being run by a general officer it will be overseen by a yet-to-be-named civilian director. The intention is to improve the capabilities of the command and address the findings of the Fort Hood commission.

“We are very confident these organizational changes address the committee’s CID-related recommendations and lead us into the future,” said acting Army Secretary John Whitley, in a prepared statement.

Speaking to reporters Thursday, the CID commander, Maj. Gen. Donna Martin, said three of the larger Army bases — Fort Hood, Fort Bragg in North Carolina and Fort Carson in Colorado — will be the first to see some of the staffing improvements and changes. Some of those are aimed at freeing agents from other duties so they can concentrate on criminal cases.

She said this includes adding more support personnel, putting a new officer in charge of logistics and administrative duties, and having military police do protective and escort details that CID agents currently do. She declined to provide any estimated costs, but said funding will be provided over the next five years.

The decision comes amid heightened attention within the Pentagon on ways to address sexual assaults and other discipline problems in the military. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's first directive after he took office in January ordered senior leaders to look into their sexual assault prevention programs, and he later created a panel to study the matter.