Could More Accurate Performance Reviews Have Prevented Maj. Hasan from Committing the Fort Hood Shootings?

Probably not.  But the reports may help Major Nidal Malik Hasan avoid the death penalty.  According to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune (8/26/13) by Molly Hennessy-Fiske, the Army psychiatrist convicted of killing 13 and wounding 30, had recently received a “glowing” performance evaluation (full report) from his immediate supervisors.  They wrote that Hasan “has unlimited potential” and that “he will certainly develop into a superb Soldier, scholar and Army physician”.  And, they go on to state, “Hasan is a bright and thoughtful officer who has contributed a great deal”, and his “unique insights into the dimensions of Islam to include belief, culture and moral reasoning are of great potential interest and strategic importance to the U.S. Army.”  Hasan’s reviews could very well have been accurate.  Why?

Performance reviews are not intended to be psychological profiles but rather evaluations of job performance against agreed upon objectives.  And, within that context, Hasan may indeed have been a solid performer.  Supporting comments by his rater cite specific examples of his initiative in co-leading and co-chairing projects, and other remarks indicate that Hasan completed the requirement of the degree program “on time and with above-average scholastic performance”.  On the whole, while any review can be inflated in its appraisal, one has to give the benefit of doubt that the rater gave careful consideration and time to completing this one part of the U.S. Army’s performance management process.

Bear in mind that Annual Employee Evaluations are only one part of an effective performance management program, the others being:  1) Setting and Clarifying Expectations, 2) Giving and Receiving Feedback, and 3) Coaching.  Hasan may actually have been a soldier who “Meets Expectations”.  To the extent that the resulting documentation is accurate, his job performance records may help to persuade the jury of 13 officers that convicted him to spare his life.  For that to happen, only one juror has to agree.

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