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Reference Number: No. 681-96




December 20, 1996



Deputy Secretary of Defense John P. White received a progress report on December 18 on the computer modeling assessment being conducted by the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA). A final report is not expected for several months. On November 2, 1996, White asked IDA to convene an independent panel of experts in meteorology, physics, chemistry, and related disciplines to review the modeling analysis done for the CIA using the U.S. Army's Chemical and Biological Defense Command's NUSSE4 transport and diffusion model. The modeling was part of the effort to understand possible nerve agent release and dispersal during the demolitions of 122mm rockets in the "pit" area at the Khamisiyah Ammunition Storage Area in southeastern Iraq after the war. The IDA panel is examining the Khamisiyah incident to see if the original model or any other models may be useful in determining the possible extent of chemical exposure as a result of these demolitions.

The initial modeling effort was based on a commonly used transport and diffusion model developed to study the tactical use of chemical weapons -- but one that is not valid for distances greater than 25 kilometers downwind from an agent release. IDA recommended examining some non-DoD models as well as a combination of models to compensate for the deficiencies of the initial model.

IDA reported continued concern about the inability to describe the many variables of the agent-munition release mechanism. The panel agrees with the CIA that "huge uncertainties remain" in the number of rockets present for destruction and the number of those rockets destroyed. Among the other major variables for which there remains much uncertainty are total quantity of agent released, mechanism of release, and purity of agent.

The sparse meteorological data available to reconstruct atmospheric conditions during the period of the demolitions is another concern. The nearest available source for surface weather data was 85 kilometers from Khamisiyah. The nearest source for upper-air data was over 200 kilometers away. IDA recommended a search for additional meteorological data.


White asked that the effort continue despite the many uncertainties and the very real possibility that no model or combination of models will significantly add to the knowledge of possible exposure of U.S. forces to chemical agents at Khamisiyah. IDA expects to deliver their final report next year.

The Defense Department announced a series of actions on October 22, 1996 to reach out and seek the help of 20,000 Gulf War veterans that may have been near Khamisiyah during the period March 4-15, 1991. These actions include telephone interviews, letters and surveys as well as encouragement to participate in medical evaluation programs.


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