In March 1991, after the conclusion of Operation Desert Storm, US Army demolition teams destroyed ammunition bunkers and stacks of munitions at the Khamisiyah Ammunition Storage Area in southeastern Iraq. The units performing the demolition believed that these were conventional high~explosive munitions, and procedures for rendering conventional munitions unusable were followed.
The US Government now believes that the 122mm rockets destroyed in one of the bunkers (Bunker 73), and an excavated area that became known as "the pit," were filled with a mixture of the nerve agents sarin and cyclosarin, and that the demolitions conducted by the US Army released an undetermined amount of this material into the atmosphere. No US forces reported nerve agent symptoms following these demolitions. Analyses of the bunker demolition, conducted by Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) under contract to the CIA, modeled an area that could have been contaminated by chemical agents, including at low levels. At the time, there was greater uncertainty about the release of agent from the pit.
Postulated causes of the health complaints of many Gulf War veterans have included the possibility of low-level exposure to nerve agent. This possibility has led to the need for further analyses to reconstruct the dispersion of nerve agents following the demolition. As a result, Deputy Secretary of Defense White and former Director of Central Intelligence Deutch asked the Institute for Defense Analyses to convene an independent Panel of experts in meteorology, physics, chemistry, and related disciplines to review the analyses of the Khamisiyah pit demolitions and subsequent movement of agent in order to:
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