The Secretary of Defense has the authority to and should award the Purple Heart to those killed or wounded in the Fort Hood attack, eliminating the need for Congressional action, according to House Republican Conference Secretary John Carter, who represents Fort Hood in Congress.
Carter today officially wrote Secretary Robert M. Gates that he was "deeply disappointed" that the DOD report on the attack "not only ignored the clear radical Islamic facet of the incident," but also failed to designate the attack as either an international terrorist attack or an act of combat by an enemy of the United States. Either designation by the Secretary would make all casualties of the action eligible for combat-related benefits and awards, including the Purple Heart.
Carter, Co-Chairman of the House Army Caucus, has introduced two bills dealing with the Fort Hood attack. The Military Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, HR 4267, protects service members from politically-correct disciplinary action for reporting or taking protective steps against radical Islamic threats. The Fort Hood Families Benefits Protection Act, HR 4088, would by law award both military and civilian casualties of the Fort Hood attack combatant status to ensure full benefits and eligibility for the Purple Heart and the civilian award equivalent, the Secretary of Defense Medal for Defense of Freedom. The bill has 94 bipartisan cosponsors.
"It should make no difference if they were attacked getting off the plane in Afghanistan or preparing to board in the U.S.", wrote Carter to Gates. "You possess the authority to make these determinations, which was previously exercised in the wake of the September 11th Pentagon attack, whereby all casualties were awarded the Purple Heart and received commensurate benefits."
Carter urged Gates to act in a timely fashion to award the same status to the Fort Hood casualties and not wait for Congress to legislate on the matter.