Army secretary to fire or suspend large number of Fort Hood officers to address command culture at base
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy will fire or suspend a large number of officers and enlisted soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, in what Pentagon officials call an unprecedented disciplinary action to address a pattern of sexual assault, harassment, suicides and even murder, CBS News has learned.
The announcement comes ahead of the U.S. Army's planned release of a long-awaited report Tuesday, after investigating the command culture at the base. The investigation was launched after the murder of 20-year-old Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen in April.
Guillen's death was one of at least 25 this year connected to the Army post.
CBS News sources who say they have seen the report and have worked alongside victims' families at Fort Hood say disciplinary action will be taken as a result of the report, and that includes reassignment and termination. The roughly 140-page report is expected to outline what is wrong on this base, and in the Army as a whole.
It is also expected to offer around 70 recommendations on how the Army can rebuild trust with its soldiers.
In a one-on-one interview with "CBS Evening News" anchor Norah O'Donnell, McCarthy admitted the Army has failed to keep its soldiers safe, especially from sexual harassment and assault.
McCarthy ordered the review in part because of what happened to Guillen.
"I wanted a fresh pair of eyes to help us understand the problem and fix it," McCarthy told O'Donnell.
Asked what surprised him, McCarthy said, "Just the scale and the concern about retaliation, the high numbers of individuals that were concerned about reporting because in fear of retaliation from someone in an echelon above them."
McCarthy said he is committed to change and last month he promised accountability and transparency within the ranks.
"Leaders, regardless of rank, are accountable for what happens in their units and must have the courage to speak up and intervene," McCarthy said in November.
Tuesday's report is expected to propose an action plan to fix the growing problems with leadership at Fort Hood with reassignment and termination part of that plan. Those problems were magnified by Guillen's murder. Her body was found miles off-base months after she disappeared.
Her sister Mayra spoke exclusively to CBS News correspondent Mireya Villarreal after the investigation was commissioned this past summer.
She told Villarreal she doesn't think the soldiers on the base are safe.
"It's one too many, either it's accidents or they claim to be accidents, you know, we don't really know the truth. Different murders outside, inside the base and, you know, at this point, I don't feel that anyone is safe in there," she said.
Before her death, Guillen told her family and friends she had been sexually harassed on the base. The Army said it has no evidence of an assault, but an investigation into her death is still ongoing.
Guillen's death launched a movement worldwide with thousands of former military members sharing their stories online. That rallying cry also led to legislative action. In September, Congress introduced the "I am Vanessa Guillen Act" to change how the military handles sexual assault within its ranks.
But Guillen's family is not confident Tuesday's report will provide them with any closure.
"We can't ask the wolf to guard the henhouse. We can't ask them to fix themselves. We need to step up as civilians or as the world together and do this for them because you know, our military, they're people too, and they need us," said Natalie Khawam, the family's attorney.
Khawam told CBS News the "I am Vanessa Guillen" bill has stalled in Congress, but they are hopeful to get a hearing sometime after the new year.
Some changes already are taking place. The Army has plans in place to overhaul its sexual harassment reporting program known as SHARP.
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