NOTE: UNEDITED DOCUMENT
PRESIDENTIAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE
ON GULF WAR VETERANS' ILLNESSES
Wednesday, May 1, 1996
Omni Shoreham Hotel - Diplomat Room
2500 Calvert Street, N.W.
The Presidential Advisory Committee convened at 9:10 a.m.
ADVISORY COMMITTEE MEMBERS:
JOYCE C. LASHOF, M.D., Committee Chair
ARTHUR L. CAPLAN, Ph.D.
MAJ. THOMAS CROSS
ADM. DONALD CUSTIS, M.D.
CAPT. MARGUERITE KNOX, M.N., R.N.C.
ELAINE L. LARSON, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., C.I.C.
ANDREA KIDD TAYLOR, DR.P.H.
DR. ROBYN NISHIMI, Executive Director
DR. MARK BROWN
ADM. JOSEPH CASSELLS, M.D. (ret.)
MR. CLIFF GABRIEL
DR. LOIS JOELLENBECK
MR. THOMAS McDANIELS, JR.
DR. JOAN PORTER
MR. JAMES TURNER, ESQ.
- - -
A G E N D A
Call to order and opening remarks 5
Designated Federal Office
Dr. Joyce C. Lashof, Committee Chair
Public Comment 7, 35
Report on research funded through 1995
Broad Agency Announcement
Mr. Michael Stitely 52
Dr. Susan Mather 58
Followup on chemical and biological warfare
(CBW) agents panel meeting
Major Tom Cross 26
Medical evaluation of possible CBW
Exposures in the Gulf War
Major General Ronald R. Blanck 96
Detection of CBW agents during the Gulf War
Gunnery Sergeant George J. Grass, USMC 133
Colonel Edward J. Koenigsberg, USAF 170
Lt. Col. Jimmy E. Martin, USA 171
Lt. Col. Arthur L. Nalls, Jr., USMC 178
Ms. Sylvia L. Copeland 236
Effectiveness of U.S. CBW defense measures
Mr. Mark E. Gebicke 256
Mr. Michael L. Moodie 271
- - -
P R O C E E D I N G S
MR. GABRIEL: My name is Cliff Gabriel. I am the new designated federal official for the Advisory Committee. It is my privilege to open this meeting and to welcome you to this meeting of the Advisory Committee.
Robin Nishimi asked me to give you a little bit of background on the things I have been doing before taking on this slot. I am the deputy to the associate director for science in the Office of Science and Technology and Policy. That is within the Executive Office of the president. I have been there for about two months.
Before coming to the White House, I was the executive director of the American
Institute of Biological Sciences. That is a sort of midsize professional association that
serves as an umbrella organization for about 40 to 50 smaller professional societies in
Before that, I spent some time at the National Academy of Sciences and the Board of Biology. My professional training is as a plant pathologist in agriculture. So some of this is a little far afield for me. But I am looking forward to working with the committee and look forward to interesting and enlightening testimony from our witnesses.
CHAIR LASHOF: Thank you very much, Cliff. It is a pleasure to have you. We welcome you and
hope you will enjoy our proceedings, and I am sure we can count on you for serving as our liaison with the agencies and the White House. Thank you.
We have a fairly heavy schedule for today, but before starting this session, I would like to thank the secretaries of Defense, Health and Human Services, and Veterans Affairs for their action plan to implement recommendations that the committee delivered to the president in our interim report in February of this year.
That action plan was delivered to us yesterday and released, I think, with a press
I believe that the very rapid acceptance and implementation of our recommendation shows that the government does care about what happens to its veterans and, more importantly, it really shows that this committee can have a positive impact on public policy issues concerning, past, present, and future generations of American servicemen and women.
We, as a committee, will continue to hold these public hearings around the country in
an effort to listen to the concerns and needs of our Gulf veterans, as well as explore the
many issues that are of importance in trying to understand just what is happening and what
is the Gulf War veterans' illnesses.
So I thank all of the committee and all of the people who have been participating in our deliberations for their efforts, and I think they have paid off.
And now we will begin with our public comment at this meeting. This is the twelfth meeting of the committee or a panel of the committee.
DR. NISHIMI: Joyce, if I can just
mention, the committee's copies of the action plan are being collated right now for you.
CHAIR LASHOF: Oh, okay. I am sorry. The rest of the committee has not gotten their copies yet. You will see how responsive the Administration has been to our recommendations. They really have made positive efforts in response to every one.
Our first public commenter is Charlene Harmon-Davis. Is she here? Would you come forward to the mike. The ground rules are five minutes for presentation, five minutes for questioning from the committee. Unfortunately, we have to keep to those schedules because of the total time table we have.
MS. HARMON-DAVIS: Good morning. I would
like to thank Mr. John Longbrake, who made it possible for me to speak in front of the committee this morning. As you know, I am a Persian Gulf vet. This morning I will bring to your attention the plights that I have been going through ever since I came home from the Persian Gulf.
In the Persian Gulf I was with the 1st Tactical Aeromedical Station, which means that I
had close contact with all of the veterans that came through the Aeroevac to Germany. My
job was hectic, and I had to do it because that is what I signed up for, but I know I
signed up for me to serve in the military, but I did not sign up for me to go through all
of the illnesses that I have been going through for the past five years.
The first time that I experienced any problems was the 31st of January. That is when I started out with my skin condition. I was stationed at Dharan from October to January, the beginning of January. From the middle part of January to the middle of March, I was stationed at KKMC. My first problem with my skin was when I was stationed in KKMC on the 31st. I broke out with a skin rash that ever since then has been with me. I have to go to dermatology every six months, so they know I am not contagious.
I have problems with my peers because my skin leaks and is like flaking out. It is like scarring up my face. So I am here to say that, along with the skin problems, I have been suffering from migraine headaches. They labeled me with PTSD because I have nightmares about chemical warfare, and my stomach problems, and my nervous system.
The reason why I am up here this morning
is to bring to the attention of, as I provided the documentation to you on the 21st and 22nd of February, when I was stationed in KKMC, the first day I was suffering from very severe headaches. I
thought it was my sinuses. So I went to sick call. They gave me medication. The following day I was on my way to work, but I had went to commissary first, the siren went off. I was the last one to get into the bunker because of a young lady that was in my unit she had broke her leg. So I was helping her get into the bunker.
Meanwhile, I was the last one to get there, so I was in the opening of the bunker. I looked up. I seen the patriot intercept SCUD missiles, and there was like a glow around it. See, I never seen it, so I never knew what to expect of a patriot intercepting a SCUD missile. I have seen it when it goes across the base, but I had never witnessed the impact it had.
After that, I got violently sick. I started out with my eyes running. My nose was running. I had a funny taste in my throat, and my eyes was tearing. I just got very nauseated, so I went to sick call. And the young man who took care of me had made a point to say that the persons who had my mask before I got there did not clean it, and I was like, "Well, no one had this mask but me. I took proper care. I was the one that break the seal in New Jersey. It has been on my hip ever
since I got into the Persian Gulf." So he tells me that I had to clean my mask out and for me to come back, if need be. But after that I didn't have any problems.
Upon returning home, I had two
miscarriages. My skin has gotten very worse, and then that is when I started with the diarrhea. My diarrhea has gotten so bad that I had to be seen at the clinic. For nine months they could not find what was the matter with me.
Both my stomach, I started out with migraine headaches. When I come around certain
chemicals like the cleaning agents that they use on the floor if it had ammonia base in it
I was sick as a dog. I have lost a total of 160 hours of work last year, and I work at the
Veterans Administration, and they are trying to give me a hard time because I am sick.
They tried to get me out on disability. I say, "Well, who going to pay a 30-year-old who is able to work, but when she come into a certain environment she cannot work?"
So, like I said, I have been labeled with migraine headaches, PTSD, irritable bowel syndrome, seborrhea dermatitis, patella femoral syndrome, unexplained numbness in my feet.
Now, when I first started going to the VA, they were saying, "Oh, there is nothing the matter with you." I was labeled as hypochondriac for two years. That is when they started sending me to the psychiatrist because they kept on saying, "There is nothing the matter with you. It is in your head."
But I said, "Well, my illnesses are
physical. It is not like I can make up these illnesses." I am submitting stool specimens that is so watery they said, "Did you urinate?" I said, "No, I went to the bathroom, and this is how it came out."
Like I said, I was seen at the clinic when I was pregnant with my daughter. They said I had AFB coccal in my system. They said I had Epstein Barr in my system somewhere, and I have a parasite. When I go to the VA and submit the proper details that they need, they can't seem to find it.
Now I am here asking for your help for all of the veterans here. I am speaking on behalf of New Jersey's. My unit people has lupus, gout, stomach problems, you know, and they can't come forward to explain how they are going through because "they are scared of the consequences" that the military will have on them because it is almost time for them to retire.
Now, I am not the only one in my unit that is suffering. There is a whole lot. I have a
young lady that is in my unit that has got parasites in her system. I can understand that
you will give us a fair hearing, and you will weigh the evidence that I have presented,
and the other veterans that have presented, too, but I cannot leave this podium with
people thinking that all of my illnesses for five years has been in my head.
I have documentation. The documentation that I have I could have been admitted in a hospital because I am seen in all of the clinics every month.
So I just want you guys to help us because we need somebody to look out for us. And, like I said, the Vietnam vets they have been in our corner because, if it wasn't for them, I guess, you guys wouldn't be sitting here listening to our testimony because they understand what we are going through because they have been there.
CHAIR LASHOF: Thank you. Are there questions from the committee?
MS. HARMON-DAVIS: I have pictures that I would like to be presented, as far as like how bad my skin condition gets.
CHAIR LASHOF: I will pass these around. CAPT. KNOX: Ms. Davis, you mentioned that
you were exposed to a SCUD missile or an interception of a SCUD missile? Is that what you mentioned?
MS. HARMON-DAVIS: Yes. I was sitting in
the beginning of the bunker, and I looked up, and I seen the SCUD missile was intercepted by a patriot missile, and when I looked up it was a glow like an orange glow around it. And then, after that, I just got sick.
CAPT. KNOX: But you had experienced symptoms prior to that event?
MS. HARMON-DAVIS: Not like that. During the four months that I was in the Persian Gulf before that, the three months, I have never had a problem with a SCUD missile attack, never, and they were coming constantly over our base.
CAPT. KNOX: But your health symptoms you feel are the result of that exposure?
MS. HARMON-DAVIS: Yes, I do. Because before I left, I was healthy. There was nothing the matter with me but an acne pimple. Now I am walking around with illnesses that--
CAPT. KNOX: Did you receive any other treatment like the pyridostigmine bromide tablets?
MS. HARMON-DAVIS: Yes, I did. I received
all of the shots. I took the pills like I was supposed to.
CHAIR LASHOF: Were there any other exposures during your course of duty or was it just that one specific--
MS. HARMON-DAVIS: Well, we had SCUD missiles landing outside of our job site, but there was no saying because I cannot recall the date where it landed because, when I got to work, the guys was in a line taking small steps walking towards the missile before they picked it up. This is why I was in KKMC, also.
CHAIR LASHOF: Any other questions? CAPT. KNOX: Can you tell us what VA you
have been treated at?
MS. HARMON-DAVIS: I am with the East Orange VA Medical Center.
CAPT. KNOX: Do you receive any compensation from the Veterans Administration?
MS. HARMON-DAVIS: 10 percent for my skin. CAPT. KNOX: 10 percent.
CHAIR LASHOF: Any further questions? [No response.]
CHAIR LASHOF: Thank you very much. We appreciate your coming before us today.
MS. HARMON-DAVIS: Thank you.
CHAIR LASHOF: Is Thomas Burnett here? If not, we will move on to Dr. William Baumzweiger.
DR. BAUMZWEIGER: Good morning.
CHAIR LASHOF: Good morning.
DR. BAUMZWEIGER: Thank you for inviting me to come here. Good morning everybody. Just a quick introduction. I am Dr. William Baumzweiger, neurology and psychiatry. I have been on the clinical faculty of UCLA for a number of years and then did a neurology residency at the Wadsworth VAMC. At that time, I saw veterans come back from the Gulf, and they displayed a number of physiological and neurological problems, in my mind, and, since then, I have been studying what they have.
Being a psychiatrist, I was not satisfied at all with the diagnosis that they were given of somatization disorder, post traumatic stress disorder. I felt that they simply didn't fit the
DSM for criteria for those diseases, and so I created a case study series with ten patients and intensively worked these patients up, and I am going to present some of those findings and give a theory about what might be going on to have caused those findings.
The theory does base itself on the hypothesis that this is a unitary disease. It may appear to have different manifestations in different individuals, but that there are certain core problems going on within the cerebrum and within the immune system, and this is a cerebral immune disregulation.
I believe that this is a neuropsychiatric syndrome induced by separate insult to the brain stem's neural-immune and attentional systems.
It appears to be a true neuropsychiatric syndrome induced by two or more subthreshold insults to the genetic control mechanisms of the immune and attentional brain stem function. Of course, you all remember your neuroanatomy from your health science course in college, everybody? Just in case, if you need a refresher, this is a very quick scan of the brain. We are going to be interested mostly in this little area down here, the brain stem, and this area here, the frontal lobe of the cerebral cortex.
Now it is a long way you would think from here to here, as well as from the brain stem to the limbic system, hippocampus temporal lobes and whatnot. But it turns out that this little area here is like the horse, and all of these guys are the rider on the horse, and you have got to notice this particular horse has one, two, three, four, five, six riders on it and, if the horse weakens, it has a lot of weight, and it is going to cause it to collapse.
In terms of the whole concept of Gulf War illness, there is no doubt there are multiple psychological and psychiatric presentations, and I can certainly understand why people thought that this was a psychiatric disorder. However, just because there are psychiatric manifestations, this does not mean that this is psychiatric disease. Many neurological diseases have psychiatric presentations, including Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, multiple sclerosis, on, and on, and on.
Just looking briefly at a cognitive neuroscience loop we call it, any kind of environmental problem will have a behavior and response and that behavior is the result of certain psychological processes, but the psychological processes in turn are caused by and cause brain events which reverberate, and you get this system.
Now the question is where is the primary
weak link here? Is it up here or is it down here? In Gulf War syndrome, what is going on is down in here, and this is what we call an epiphenomenon. The result of all of this is, of course, new adjustment problems and stresses leading to new behaviors and further stress on the system.
I am going to talk about something called nitric oxide ion, and this is going to brand new to most of you. You have all heard of oxygen, carbon dioxide. It was thought that these were the main
gaseous neurotransmitters and energy systems in the body. Well, neuroscientists were stunned over the last two/three years to find that nitric oxide, which is a simple chemical compound of gas form, is probably as crucial as oxygen and carbon dioxide in the human metabolism, and it is one of the main regulators of oxidative metabolism and oxygen metabolites and, as a matter of fact, it is so crucial that on the hemoglobin molecule there is even a site for nitric oxide, two sites, here and here, compared to only one for oxygen and one for carbon dioxide.
Nitric oxide is made generally in the lungs and blood vessels and, as it circulates, it
actually helps to keep blood vessels open. Without it, blood vessels would go into spasm
and the person can die of a heart attack. This happened to gun powder workers.
Nitroglycerin turns into nitric oxide in the body. Gun powder workers, of course, are
bathed in the stuff or used to be. They would go on vacation, and they would drop dead of
a heart attack because their body had gotten lazy, stopped producing nitric oxide. They
had coronary vasospasm, and they would die. Vasospasm in heart attacks, as you know, at
least anecdotally, a very serious problem with Gulf War veterans and this system may be
Now, Gulf War syndrome it is possible that circulating levels of nitric oxide ion produced in blood vessels in the lung may be decreased in Gulf War syndrome. The reason I am bringing this up first is that I want to talk about the clinical things that people are complaining about so this is not too abstract or esoteric. We will get down to the mechanism a little later.
CHAIR LASHOF: Dr. Baumzweiger, remember, you are limited to five minutes. You have passed that. We want to have five minutes for questioning. We are down to about three minutes at this point, and so I would like to ask you to try to capsulize so we have some time for questions, but I can't give you more.
DR. BAUMZWEIGER: I will do that. All of the things like mental alertness can be explained when we look at tests which show EEG changes, changes in the rate of time that is required for information to go from left to right in the brain. That could explain many of the mental abnormalities. In that brain stem I told you about, there are nuclei, which are crucial for maintaining frontal lobe function and integrating the behavioral responses to inputs. These nuclei are run by nitric oxide. If that system is damaged, then there is going to be behavioral abnormalities.
Now, what appears to be happening is you see startle responses in these patients, you
clap your hands by their ear, and they jump because their brain stem is not able to
maintain inhibition on itself, even if they know it is coming. This suggests that they
have been exposed to early on in life some kind of infection, viral, the lady mentioned
Epstein Barr mononucleosis, and then there was a second insult, and in the Gulf we are
almost positive that that insult was low-level neurotoxin. Predisposing insults can be
mononucleosis, herpes, et cetera, head injury, stroke in childhood.
Then, in the Gulf, there was a precipitating insult probably due to a neurotoxin and, of course, there were other things that people were exposed to as well. Organophosphates were in the Gulf we know because not only did animals die, but the fungal growth on ships and tanks was so bad that they had to blow it off with blow torches, and organophosphates cause fungal growth that is rapid and prolific.
Low-level neurotoxin turns into an ion of its own, a radical called organophosphones.
CHAIR LASHOF: I am going to have to ask you--your ten minutes are up. I would like to have questions. I know you submitted about 100 pages of testimony to us, which I, personally, have read and many of the other committee have. So I don't think we can take the whole audience to go through all of that.
I would like to start the questioning by first asking you for the terminology you used, your diagnosis is brain stem disregulation syndrome.
DR. BAUMZWEIGER: That is right.
CHAIR LASHOF: Is this a syndrome that is described in the literature? You didn't give references to it per se.
DR. BAUMZWEIGER: It is actually in the DSM-IV under encephalitis. There are chronic
encephalitis of multiple etiologies. I can give you the DSM 4 number for it.
CHAIR LASHOF: Secondly, could you tell me how many patients you have personally examined at this point.
DR. BAUMZWEIGER: At this point, I have examined about 25 patients; ten of them I have worked up, and the ten I was able to work up all had abnormal lab values, EEGs, MRIs, duplex scans of their blood vessels showing abnormality.
CHAIR LASHOF: In the testimony you submitted, you gave some laboratory tests, but none of the results from the MRI or the tests you just referred to.
DR. BAUMZWEIGER: Right.
CHAIR LASHOF: I wonder if you could submit those to us as well.
DR. BAUMZWEIGER: I would be happy to do that.
CHAIR LASHOF: Without names, obviously, to keep confidentiality, but we would like to see what positive laboratory data you have.
DR. BAUMZWEIGER: I would be happy to do that.
CHAIR LASHOF: Are there other questions other members of the committee would like to ask at this point?
MAJ. CROSS: Doctor, I have got a question. In some of the previous testimonies over the months, I have heard some cases where people have done testing on DNA, and they have found some damage was found in DNA samples. Is that something you looked into also in your research?
DR. BAUMZWEIGER: I haven't had the
facilities to do that, but that would be inevitably found because, when you have prior
insult, like, say, a viral in your brain stem, then you are
exposed to an organophosphate. The oxidated system is overloaded, and you get an over plus of something called super oxide. The oxidated system produces a rather toxic and very powerful ion, which can attack DNA and can activate certain retroviruses that are in the DNA. Dr. Urnovitz has talked about this. This will cause DNA breakage and, certainly, you will see an increased number of breaks in the DNA.
You have two radicals at least here, super oxide and then organophosphone radical and both of those can do that.
CHAIR LASHOF: Any further questions?
CHAIR LASHOF: Doctor, thank you very much, and we will appreciate receiving the additional information.
Has Thomas Burnett arrived yet? I guess not.
Julianne Hamden? Is Julianne Hamden here? Is Debbie Seipel here?
We have heard that one or two of the witnesses did have some car-pool problems and would not be here quite at this hour, so we might proceed on to go to the next item on the agenda, and when those people come back in, we will break in and come back to the public comment. That is not our usual procedure, but I do want to accommodate them if they come in later.
The next item on the agenda is the report on research funded through the Broad Agency
Agreement. Are our testifiers ready?
I guess we can't quite do that because our speakers who weren't scheduled until 10:30 haven't arrived yet either.
We are going to take a five-minute break and rearrange this agenda and be right back.
[Break taken from 9:40 a.m. to 9:45 a.m.] CHAIR LASHOF: As you know, the subpanel
of this committee met in Atlanta, Georgia, to explore the issues of chemical and biological warfare agents, which we are going to also explore in further detail today. But before we get into today's work on it, we would like to go to a summary of the meeting that was held in Atlanta. Tom Cross chaired that meeting, and I would like to ask Tom to summarize for us what went on at that meeting and brief us on the findings and discussion. Thank you.
MAJ. CROSS: Thank you, Dr. Lashof. Again, a subcommittee meeting was held on April 16th
of this year in Atlanta, Georgia. The purpose was to obtain information about possible
exposure to chemical and biological warfare agents during the Gulf War. Gulf War veterans
and other interested parties, which were a total of 12 individuals provided public
Invited speakers representing the
following organizations testified. Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for
Health Affairs, the Department of Defense Persian Gulf Investigation Team, also known as
PGIT, Mr. James Tuite III, former director of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee
investigation that he performed on U.S. dual use export policy to Iraq and the health
consequences of the Persian Gulf War. The
Central Intelligence Agency was presented. SAIC, a private computer modeling contractor retained by the CIA and the Gulf War Veterans of Georgia.
All of these speakers focused on three scenarios for possible chemical agent exposure during the Gulf War, and these are intentional Iraqi attacks with SCUD missiles, artillery bombs or land mines, accidental exposure of coalition personnel at contaminated sites and, finally, collateral exposure to fallout from coalition bombing of Iraqi chemical weapons storage facilities within Iraq itself.
Let me expound on these three points a little bit more. The first area, intentional Iraqi attacks. Some participants in a public comment period addressed reports from January 19th and 20th of 1991 concerning possible chemical incidents in the vicinity of the Port of Al Jubayl. Lieutenant Colonel Martin of PGIT stated that the Al Jubayl incident is still being investigated. In response to questions from the panel, Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Tuite, the nongovernmental witnesses, agreed that there was no widespread or intentional use of chemical weapons by Iraq during the Gulf War.
The second area of concern was accidental exposures. An incident that occurred on March 1, 1991 was also addressed. An Army Private First Class, David Fisher was exploring an Iraqi bunker for intelligence material and personnel and brushed up against the walls of the bunker. He had blistering at the site and sought medical aid. Fisher's company medic thought it was a heater burn, but eight hours later more blistering occurred. A Fox vehicle test of Fisher's flak jacket detected mustard agent. The panel viewed a video of this test.
In response to our inquiries, Colonel Michael Dunn, who was in charge of the chemical medical surveillance for Central Command diagnosed PFC Fisher's burn and reiterated it was his medical opinion that mustard agent was a causative agent.
Lastly, collateral exposure to fallout.
During a coalition air command, an Iraqi chemical agent manufacturer and storage sites
were targeted and destroyed. Mr. McNally, a representative of the CIA, and Mr. Tuite
presented very different models of atmospheric transport of the nerve agent saffron from
Again, responding to questions, Lieutenant Colonel Martin confirmed that Iraqi chemical munitions were found within a Kuwaiti theater of operations. This conclusion is in contrast to prior DOD statements.
Investigation of other possible collateral exposure in a Kuwaiti theater of operation are currently being pursued by both PGIT and the CIA, and that is it in a nutshell.
CHAIR LASHOF: Thank you very much. Mr. Turner, would you like to add anything?
MR. TURNER: Yes. Dr. Michael Dunn, who appeared before the panel, conducted the
training and medical surveillance in theater, and he also provided us information about
whether acute exposures would have been treated, detected, and handled within the medical
surveillance system. It is his opinion, which he supports by pointing to
the way that Private Fisher's injury was handled, Dr. Dunn is of the opinion that with 2,000 trained physicians and physicians assistants spread throughout the forces that are deployed in the Kuwaiti theater of operation that had there been other acute exposures to chemical agents they would have been detected and treated, and that is consistent with the medical records that have been reviewed to date by the PGIT.
CHAIR LASHOF: That is also consistent with all of the testimony we have had. The only testimony we have had on acute exposure is this one case of blistering; is it not?
MR. TURNER: That is correct.
CHAIR LASHOF: Mark, do you want to add anything?
DR. BROWN: Yes. Just quickly, I would add that our staff is actively looking at all of the issues that were raised about the possibility of chemical and biological weapons use, alleged use, during the Gulf. We have a number of staff who are working, essentially, full time on this one issue, who are focusing particularly on the issue of what health affects might be expected from these types of agents if exposure had, indeed, occurred.
CHAIR LASHOF: And we will get into some
of that later today. Are there further questions from the panel?
All of you have received in your briefing book the material with a transcript of
selected parts of the transcript. I don't know whether that raised questions that any of
you would like to explore further with Tom or Jim or Mark.
CAPT. KNOX: Joyce, I just want to declare that we agreed on the acute toxicity, but we really have no evidence yet about low-level chemical toxicity.
MR. TURNER: And, indeed, Dr. Dunn made the point that his training program was one to deal with acute clinical symptoms, not subclinical symptomatic presentations.
CHAIR LASHOF: Do I also read the testimony correctly that the veterans groups that have been putting forward the feeling of chemical warfare also agree that there was no major acute exposure and that their concerns are low-level exposure?
MR. TURNER Yes and no. In fairness to the full range of testimony that was presented, Paul Sullivan stated that there was no mass gassing. That does not eliminate in the veterans groups concern about incidents like Al Jubayl, where there is a site-specific incident linked to a SCUD intercept perhaps or some other event that happened on a specific date, and they are still concerned about the possibility that there was some kind of a use in that scenario. But the distinction is that there was no mass gas attack.
CHAIR LASHOF: Are there any other
questions? The other thing that was in the transcript was the detailed modeling and the two different results and two different models presented. Do any of you experts have views on those models and how one deals with two different model proposals?
MR. TURNER: Essentially, the difference
between the two models is how high agent goes into the atmosphere and the mechanism by which it is transported, once it gets to a higher altitude.
MAJ. CROSS: Jim, let me jump in here just
MR. TURNER: Sure. Please.
MAJ. CROSS: Even myself trying to go back in my mind and remember what we were talking about and understanding there are people probably out here that weren't at the meeting and probably don't know what we are talking about at this point. Essentially, one of the possible scenarios for exposure was under the collateral exposure to fallout theory, which means, essentially, if American forces attacked Iraqi chemical and weapons storage facilities within Iraq itself during the mass explosions of the facilities, you are going to have a plume that goes up into the atmosphere. Common CBW theory is that anything that goes up must also come down, but it will come down within a short radius of the explosion site and some of the modeling that was done was an actuality that if the stuff that goes up gets up high enough it can actually traverse long distances and, when it does, in fact, come down, it presumed that it may have come down over American troops within Kuwait. So that is, basically, the modeling that is going back and forth.
MR. TURNER: The other significant
difference between the two exposure scenarios that were laid out is the lower altitude, where it would only go up in a plume to, say, 40 meters would have acute toxic effects in the immediate vicinity and in subcasualty--not killing people, but making people ill for distances of up to 60 or 70 kilometers. The theory that Mr. Tuite presented, in contrast, suggested that low levels of these agents would be distributed over a wider area, but not the acute death and very ill people right at the site.
MAJ. CROSS: And it is, also, important, I think, to point out that I believe it was Mr. Sullivan pointed out that of all of the various possible chemical weapons that Iraqi was known to store and manufacturer, I believe most of the chemical weapons that can be considered would be diffused within the initial explosion and burned up. However, sarin, if I remember correctly, was one which Mr. Sullivan presented wouldn't necessarily burn up, and that is the one agent that would become airborne.
DR. NISHIMI: Responding, first, giving credit, it was Mr. Tuite--who is here in the audience--I wanted to make sure that the panel is aware that the sarin model was his. But in response to Joyce's question about reconciling the two models from the staff standpoint, we just received this testimony, and it would be staff's plan to discuss what to do next with the full committee once we have heard the full range of CBW issues today and tomorrow, just to let you know.
MR. TURNER: And, indeed, some of the
testimony we anticipate hearing today does address where an agent was and what sites were bombed.
CHAIR LASHOF: That is helpful. Any other
CHAIR LASHOF: If not, thank you very much. Thank you, Tom. It sounded like a fascinating meeting. I enjoyed reading the transcript and appreciate your chairing that and taking care of that.
I think we can go back, I understand, to the public testimony. Julianne Hamden, I believe, has arrived. Julianne, do you want to come forward?
MS. HAMDEN: The ground rules are--you weren't here when we went over them--five minutes for presentation and five minutes for questioning.
MS. HAMDEN: I will hurry. Good morning.
My name is Julianne Hamden. I am the wife of Army Cpt. Charles Hamden, who served in the Gulf. In addition, my brother, my brother-in-law, and my cousin also served in the Gulf. I was stationed at the National Security Agency during the Gulf War, so I wasn't over there. We are a military family. Every child in my family has either served or is still serving in the military.
Since my husband's return from the Gulf, our whole family has been sick. We were tested by the Drs. Nichols for mycoplasma fermentans, and we are positive. We have been taking Doxycycline and are much better. Without them, I would not be here today. I was bedridden with uterine pain, and doctors at Walter Reed told me I had "willed" my uterus to expand.
I come here today as both the spouse of a Gulf War veteran and as a representative for a large group of Vietnam era and Gulf era veterans who have been conducting our own investigation into the Persian Gulf War syndrome. 204,000 of our Gulf War veterans were also veterans of the Vietnam war.
Vietnam veterans, POW, MIA activists, church leaders, militia groups, civil rights groups and interested researchers and scientists have aided us in our search for answers. What we have uncovered includes evidence that Gulf War syndrome biological exposures may be linked to chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome. This was published in the Journal of Occupational Environmental Medicine, acquired immune dysfunction syndrome or AIDS, and may have relevance for other autoimmune diseases such as lupus and multiple sclerosis. In these diseases, an agent often referred to as Agent X or Compound X is believed to act as a viral catalyst reactivating Epstein Barr, human herpes virus No. 6 and other viruses. We believe that agent acts as anthrax and/or mycoplasma fermentans.
Our researchers have uncovered evidence about mycoplasma fermentans incognitus, and there are hundreds of reports about scientists worldwide who have conducted research on this organism, and those are the medical extracts that I gave you on both the anthrax vaccines and on the mycoplasma fermentans, and those are from Medline, so they are not classified.
Confidential sources have related to us that mycoplasma fermentans is a byproduct of
anthrax processing. As, for example, dioxin is the byproduct of Agent Orange. We ask the
confirm using their sources.
Mycoplasma fermentans has been shown to cause signs and symptoms similar to rheumatoid arthritis and can cause cardiovascular problems, tissue necrosis, organ failure and other damage to the body. Shyh Ching Lo of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology showed that this organism can cause death on its own. The Uniformed Services University of Health Scientists or USUHS, the military medical school, has been teaching about mycoplasma fermentans and Dr. Lo's findings since at least 1993 in their pathology syllabus.
Noted Pasteur Institute scientists,
first isolating HIV and AIDS, Dr. Luc Montagnier has stated that he believed that mycoplasma fermentans and HIV met, perhaps in Haiti, and became AIDS. He believes that mycoplasma fermentans is an important cofactor in AIDS and may be responsible for much of the pathogenesis of AIDS.
Specifically, we believe that some of the anthrax vaccines were experimental and that
they were designed to totally eliminate, but instead they only reduced the lethal factor
(LF) of anthrax. As stated earlier, if mycoplasma fermentans is a byproduct of the anthrax
production, it could have contaminated the anthrax vaccines. Mycoplasmas lack a cell wall,
and M. fermentans is a penetrating mycoplasma that hides inside the cells of the body.
The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV1) or in monkeys (SIV), would make a good shuttle vector and could elicit an immediate immune response. Drs. Garth and Nancy Nicholson found a portion of the HIV1 genome envelope. This may have been, we believe, that the HIV1 envelope was inserted into the mycoplasma fermentans. Dr. Facui of NIH has unsuccessfully used the HIV-GP120 envelope over 20 times in trials to develop an AIDS vaccine. In the April 12, 1996 journal Science, scientists from Salk Institute and Whitehead Foundation reported that HIV may be useful in gene therapy.
With reports of anthrax detected at KKMC in Audi Arabia and other exposures possibly by
residue of bombings, anthrax in the sand or anthrax in SCUD missiles with airburst CBW
warheads, it would appear that the anthrax vaccines worked, but there is no known vaccine
against the M. fermentans that is present in anthrax preparations. However, it is also
probable that additional anthrax lethal factor (LF) DNA was picked up by the veterans.
This would make the organism much deadlier and possibly more contagious than earlier
vaccine attempts, possibly by the M. fermentans.
We will present numerous medical journal abstracts citing both experiments to bread down the anthrax, which is what I gave you, for vaccines and also numerous mycoplasma fermentans incognitus research reports showing this organism present in urine, crossing the placenta in animals, and implicated in rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, lymphoma, et cetera. This information is not classified and has been share with us by our associates.
We are also curious about chronic fatigue
syndrome outbreaks, as Dr. Low, Dr. Cheney, Dr. Bell, Dr. Kamoroff have published a letter in which they state that antibodies against mycoplasma fermentans are not present in CFS. We would like to see the extensive supporting data. However, a subset of CFS patients respond to doxycycline therapy and recover, suggesting that mycoplasma infections may be causing CFS in some patients.
Is it possible that these outbreaks were
earlier aerosolized anthrax tests? Kleven and Fletcher utilized house sparrows and infected them with mycoplasma gallisepticum and mycoplasma synoviae by aerosol. AS outlined in "Is military research hazardous to veterans health? Lessons spanning half a century," Committee on Veterans Affairs, U.S. Senate, December 8, 1994, "The military has released chemicals and biological agents through outdoor open air tests for over four decades. Some of these supposedly safe chemicals and biological agents referred to as simulants were also released over populated areas and cities."
Lastly, we are curious about the fact that
multiple sclerosis outbreaks in Scotland appear to correlate to areas where British troops are known to have used anthrax in World War II.
Published in Aviation Weekly and other journals, pilots with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome have noted difficulty in concentrating while flying. Drs. Nicholson will also tell you the mycoplasma fermentans (incognitus) signs and symptoms are aggravated by high altitudes. We are concerned over the recent spate of military airplane crashes and would like the committee to investigate if they may be linked to sick pilots. We hear a lot of the pilots are afraid to come forward, and they are sick.
CHAIR LASHOF: I am going to have to ask you to--we have sort of run out of time. If you want to take another 30 seconds to wrap up, I would like to have some time for questions.
MS. HAMDEN: I will go to my end here. We are upset that the FDA is making
permanent the temporary ruling used during the Gulf War that allowed DOD to use these experimental treatments in the first place. We feel the FDA and the DOD have no respect for the health or welfare of our service members. We are angry at the government's response or lack of response to Vietnam veteran's exposures of Agent Orange, BZ and other mind-altering drugs and experimental vaccines used during the Vietnam War and their effects on service members' health and the birth defects of their children. Additionally, we maintain our conviction that our live men left in communist hands from all wars be brought home. In Israel one soldier is worth hundreds of prisoners. Until our government does right by its service members, past and present, DOD will continue to have problems in recruiting. The military may have to reinstate the draft. Do you want your children shot up with experimental vaccines and used as guinea pigs? Or do you want them doused with chemicals and abandoned in bamboo cages? As veterans who have been charged with protecting our countrymen, it disgusts us that our military have intentionally harmed our civilians with chemical and biological
I will stop there.
CHAIR LASHOF: Thank you. I am sorry to have to cut you short.
Are there questions the committee would like to address? Elaine?
DR. LARSON: I have a couple of questions. One i about what you might recommend in the
future. If, for example, there is a vaccine which is still experimental, you are
recommending that there be none rather than an experimental one. In other words, if all we
have is a vaccine that hasn't gone through the entire testing, your recommendation would
be that there would be no vaccine given.
MS. HAMDEN: No, that is not my
recommendation. As a matter of fact, in 1974, we have a veteran who received a very similar vaccine and had a very similar experience afterwards. So I think that there was some knowledge that the vaccine might not have worked. The FDA-approved anthrax vaccine is normally three shots weeks apart. They had drummed it down to two a few weeks apart. My husband, with the 101st Airborne, got one vaccine the day before they deployed. I don't believe that was the licensed anthrax vaccine.
So you saying that if the experimental vaccine was all we had, then why did only
150,000 people have to get it? I don't think that it was in their best interests. We did
have an anthrax vaccine that is used for veterinarians. Why wasn't that used? Does that
answer your question?
Or do I think we should never use them? I think that when biological testing first came out there was a lot more discussion about keeping it in closed rooms, and making sure it didn't get out because it could affect the public. And, since then, it is just like you put recombinant DNA in a humanbeing and you let him walk around. That is open-air testing. How do you know what you have got? And so many different live vaccines are going to recombinate on their own. I think we should be a lot more careful.
DR. LARSON: The second question is you are under treatment now with Dr. Nicholson?
MS. HAMDEN: No, I am not. They do not prescribe. I am under treatment from civilian doctors, and I was bedridden, and I had so much pain, and my stomach has come down somewhat because you get swelling in the small bowel, I believe, from the anthrax, and it was out to be about here, and people thought I was about to give birth. Luckily, we were able, actually, because Mr. Tuite had told us that the Nicholsons were working, so we got together with them, and we have been getting treatment since.
CHAIR LASHOF: How long have you been on Doxycycline?
MS. HAMDEN: Doxycycline and I mentioned penicillin off and on for a year-and-a-half. When they flare up, we take it. When it is not, we don't. We also take, of course, vitamins and so on.
CAPT. KNOX: I am confused about the anthrax vaccine, and maybe some of the experts on
the panel can clear this up. Are you claiming that the anthrax vaccine that we took in
was live recombinant vaccine rather than tenuated? MS. HAMDEN: Well, I don't know if they
have come out and said that, but I would think that would be a question that the committee could find out. I do know that the licensed one, in order to get effectiveness, you have to have a few weeks apart in taking this shots. Why would you go ahead and give the vaccine immediately before deploying the people? In the military's eyes I think they believe they need to be able to, if you have a biological event, give somebody a vaccine and be able to get them in. That is fine. But you also have to have a way to deactivate that when they come out. That hasn't been done, and that is what we are facing right now.
CHAIR LASHOF: Thank you very much. We appreciate your testimony.
MS. HAMDEN: Thank you.
CHAIR LASHOF: Debbie Seipel, I believe, has also arrived. I guess I will repeat the ground rules, since you weren't here. We would like you to limit your testimony to five minutes, and we will have five minutes for questions.
MS. SEIPEL: That is very simple to do today. My name is Debbie Seipel, and my husband is an active duty Navy Commander. He is currently in the study group at Walter Reed. I do not have a prepared statement today because I cannot turn the statement on what I would like to. It will be coming probably at a later date. Our complaints that we have with the system will before the Command within the next week to two weeks. The Command and the Walter Reed already have a portion of our complaints.
What I came here today is to say my husband was not even in the war during the war. He went over in September 1991. He was on board a ship recovering an aircraft. He is a helicopter pilot. Her mention about pilots not coming forward is very true. My husband did not say anything to anyone for two years, while he is still on flying status. He had diarrhea, chronic fatigue, and he learned to deal with it, so he could continue to fly. When he came to Washington, D.C., he checked in within two or three days and made his complaints known.
What I would like to say is, while he was there, he also was there for one month recovering the aircraft and came home. He had problems then continuing with the diarrhea, and he did get treated out there. Unfortunately, it is not in the records that he receive treatment. He did deploy on emergency deployment over there.
He then went back. He came home for a month and a half and returned December 1991 and stayed until April of 1992. He was based at Dharan International Airport. He had a detachment of 40 people with him. He had one helicopter out there. He continued to be sick and continued to get sicker while he was there and, of course, carried on at home. I would like to say that he did not receive care until two years afterwards in August of 1993. We do have problems with the system, and they will be forwarded through Command within the next two weeks, I would say.
What I want to say is that my philosophy
is whatever goes up has to come down. In the last two months, we have found out--we didn't realize anyone else was sick and could not locate anyone else that was sick, and he did not go on the registry because of command pressure--not command pressure--fear of, you know, he has a job and didn't want to lose the job, until November 1995. But in the last two months we have found that we have two children in our command from our Navy squadron that have neuroblastoma cancer. One was born in 1992 and was found in Stage 1, and she is now surviving. She has no problems. That parent did not make any connection to the Persian Gulf until September of 1995 when a second child from our officers squadron--we don't even know about the enlisted ranks--came up in September of 1995. She is nine months old, and she was found to have Stage 4 neuroblastoma cancer. We are talking out of 40 officers.
And we have also found in the last few months we have had a stillbirth since that time. This is a significant number. Agreed, it could be just one of those things that within 40 people you have at least one man sick, two children with the same very rare form of cancer and a stillbirth. I do not believe that. Whatever goes up, has to come down. The recent information that came out fits what I had said. My husband and people at Dharan International from our detachment and others were fed from a local contracted kitchen. They were fed the local fruit and vegetation from there. Whatever goes up, comes down and lands on what is grown. They were still washing--their fruits and vegetables that were grown locally and then fed to our families, our husbands--the vegetation, they were washing it in local tap water. My firm belief is that he ate whatever it is. I have no idea what made him sick, but there are too many problems right now to be ignored.
CHAIR LASHOF: Thank you very much.
MS. SEIPEL: Thank you.
CHAIR LASHOF: Are there questions?
MS. SEIPEL: Can I have one more thing? CHAIR LASHOF: Sure. I am sorry.
MS. SEIPEL: One other fact I wanted to add was the fact that you have children you do not even know about, and the reason being we have one of these children I am mentioning is currently under treatment, if she has not died in the last month. These parents want nothing to hear about, want nothing to do with the Persian Gulf registry. They don't want to have any connection with it, and I fully understand their point because I have had a sick child before. If they accept the fact that this could be related to the Persian Gulf, then that puts the guilt on the father to have caused his child to suffer, and they, at this point, are not looking at a very good prognosis on this child.
So you have children out there you do not
even know of. The mother of the first child and the father did not make any connection until they found out about the second child. At that point, in September of 1995, they did report and get onto the registries.
CHAIR LASHOF: Thank you.
DR. NISHIMI: Have you or your children
also been ill?
MS. SEIPEL: I suspect I might have some problems. My son, we have taken on because they do not recommend, you know, nutritional is very limited in the military. We have also undertaken our own therapy and found some things that have helped. My husband is still working and, according to someone I talked to recently, said, with his diagnosis, it is immobile or he is in a wheelchair, and my husband is neither. So, through our efforts, he has progressed. But I have symptoms, but I also am on the same program that he is on, and I am scared to come off. I am afraid of what the effects would be if I came off of what I am using right now as far as nutritionwise, the improvements we have made.
My son has a rash on his face, which they say is eczema, but he is not able to treat with the regular treatment for eczema. We did go to a dermatologist, and when I said, "My husband is in the Gulf," the civilian contractor doctor ignored it.
DR. TAYLOR: So you are not receiving medical treatment, but holistic herbal--
MS. SEIPEL: No, just straight nutrition, fruits and vegetables in a concentrated form.
CHAIR LASHOF: Thank you very much. We
appreciate your testimony.
We will now go back to the report on the research funded, the Board Agency Announcement. Mike Stitely will be presenting rather than Mr. Doyle, and Dr. Susan Mather. If you would both come forward and present.
CHAIR LASHOF: Good morning. We would like to thank the committee for the opportunity to provide testimony this morning. Mr. Doyle had an illness in his family and couldn't make it. My name is Michael Stitely. I am the chief of the acquisition policy for the Army Medical R&D Command at Fort Detrick.
In April of 1995, the United States Army Medical Research and Acquisition Activity, hereafter referred to USAMRAA, was asked to obtain proposals to study the incidence, prevalence and nature of illnesses, symptoms, and risk factors associated with a group of conditions collectively referred to as Persian Gulf War illnesses.
USAMRAA was selected as contracting agent
on behalf of the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Health and Human Services because of its extensive quality service in support of military medical research and development and special medical research programs of high Congressional interest such as breast cancer and medical advanced technologies.
This requirement was an excellent candidate for the recently promulgated research and
development streamlined contracting procedures as published in the Defense Federal
Acquisition Regulation supplement, Part 235.70.
The United States Army Medical Research and Development Command was specifically identified in that regulation as an approved contracting office for using this process.
The Persian Gulf War illnesses project met
all criteria set forth as follows. We expected procurement of research and development projects resulting in cost reimbursable contracts or grants valued individually at $10 million or less.
Under this procedure, a detailed written
solicitation is not prepared and mailed to individual requestors. Rather, a summary solicitation is announced and then published in the Commerce Business Daily hereafter referred to as CBD.
On May 9, 1995, USAMRAA announced in the CBD and simultaneously by public affairs news releases the intention to publish three research and development streamline solicitations relating to Persian Gulf War illnesses. On May 24, 1995, three solicitations were published in the CBD. The time between the announcement and the actual publication of the solicitation is designed to ensure potential offers have plenty of time to prepare their response.
The three actions were numbered 0008 epidemiology studies, 0009 pyridostigmine bromide
studies, and 0010 clinical research and other studies. They called for the proposals to be
submitted by 2 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on August 23, 1995. Cost reimbursement contracts
were anticipated, although the government reserved the right to award grants or
cooperative agreements. Each of the solicitations included evaluation criteria for
technical merit and costs, no preproposal conferences were held, and no set asides of any
kind were specified.
Two amendments were subsequently issued to each of the three streamlined solicitations. The first of these issued on June 21, 1995 briefly explained the streamlined R&D process and provided a text of the incorporated terms and conditions.
The second amendment issued July 12, 1995
answered questions from some potential offerors. Both amendments were published in the Commerce Business Daily and mailed to those who requested them. Neither amendment changed the deadline for submitting proposals.
On August 23, 1995, USAMRAA received a total of 111 proposals in response to the three solicitations. All of these proposals were submitted to our contracted peer review process. This process involves evaluation of proposals by subject matter experts who rate the scientific excellence and project relevance of the proposed research using the criteria published in the solicitation.
Establishing the peer review panels, evaluating the proposals, and preparing written
reviews required approximately three months.
The results of the peer reviews were provided to the three sponsoring departments in December of 1995. The joint review committee consisting of representatives from each of the sponsoring departments and using the published evaluation criteria, and the requirements for a relevant, well-rounded program, agreed upon proposals to be funded.
This selection process also required approximately three months. A total of 12
proposals were recommended for funding. We called
these the A list. Three were identified for funding. If additional funds subsequently became available as a result of negotiations, we called those the B list. The remaining 96 proposals were not recommended for funding. That became the C list.
A profile of the 12 recommended A list awards showed one award to small business, one award to a foreign college, two awards to nonprofit concerns, two awards to federal government agencies, and six awards to educational institutions.
A further profile of the recommended awards by topic shows four awards for epidemiological studies, two awards to support the pyridostigmine bromide studies, and six awards to support clinical research and other studies.
The recommendations of the joint review committee were provided to the Office of the Director of Defense Research and Engineering, who, on February 20, 1996, approved the selections and directed USAMRAA to proceed to make these awards.
All proposers were notified of their
competitive status and provided copies of the peer review comments on their individual proposals.
Negotiations are currently underway with
the submitters of the 12 proposals selected for funding. Negotiations will provide needed clarifications and refinements to the scopes of work and ensure compliance with applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations.
If additional funds become available as a result of those negotiations, similar efforts will
be started with proposals from the B list. Awards are currently anticipated to be completed by mid-
CHAIR LASHOF: Thank you very much, Mr.
Stitely. I would like to ask Dr. Susan Mather to
go ahead with her testimony, and we will have questions as to both testimonies presented.
DR. MATHER: I am primarily here to
describe the process that the research working group the coordinating board took. I know the Advisory Committee has asked in the past for a
better understanding of how the coordinating board, which is made up of the Department of Defense, the Department of Health and Human Service, and the Department of Veterans Affairs operates. In this case, DOD has the lead on the broad agency announcement, but did request that the coordinating board do a final review on the proposals, and the coordinating board referred this to the research working group of the coordinating board, which then set up the subcommittee, which I chaired, to look at the proposals, and the subgroup was made up of two representatives from the Department of Defense, and they were Dr. William Berg and Dr. Christine Eiseman, two from the Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Henry Falk, and from the Division of Environmental Hazards and Health Effects at CDC, and Dr. John Ferguson, who is with the Office of Medical Applications of Research at NIH, and then two representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Dr. Tim Garity, who is with the Office of Research and Development, and
Dr. Francis Murphy, who is with the Office of Public Health and Environmental Hazards.
The subcommittee met four times beginning December 15, 1995, and we completed our work on January 24, 1996. The first meeting was devoted primarily to procedural issues. No one felt that the subcommittee should re-review individual protocols. That process had been completed at the time we began our work, but we did request information from DOD, which would allow us to accomplish several goals, and these were established prior to review. The goals were to fund research of high scientific merit, as judged by DOD's merit review panel, to fulfill the requirements of the law requiring DOD to fund certain categories of research, specifically epidemiology, clinical research for the pyridostigmine bromide, both alone and with other substances, to fill gaps in the working plan for research on Persian Gulf war illnesses and to ensure that unnecessary duplication of other ongoing research did not occur, and, also, to allow as broad an approach to the research as possible. I think this was very important because in view of the very high cost of good epidemiologic research, the subcommittee spent a lot of time discussing whether it would be of greater value to fund one or two very high-cost proposals as opposed to a variety of proposers with lower budgets, and it was decided because of a large and wide range of unanswered questions and the continuing need to identify promising leads, that funding a greater number of proposals would be preferable to funding one or two high-cost and high-quality proposals.
The subcommittee requested and received
review summary statements on all proposals scoring better than 3.0 in scientific merit. The rating system was a 1 to 5 with 1 being superior. The summary statements were redacted for identifiers of specific investigators and institutions. The subcommittee also received a total budget request for each project to review.
Prior to receiving the summary statement, the members of the subcommittee had come to consensus on the areas they wanted to emphasize after reviewing a wide range of proposals with good science scores, the subcommittee then decided not to consider any proposal which received a rating less meritorious than 2.5. There were a lot of very good proposals. They were pleased with the quality of the reviews, both for scientific merit and for relevance. Each member then independently submitted a list of the top proposals for funding prior to the development of a final list.
All projects that appeared on anyone's list were discussed at a meeting. A consensus was achieved on the top ten projects, to be funded. An additional two projects, each of which received four out of six possible votes, were added to the final list, and that probably developed a list of 12, which eventually went over to the Department of Defense.
This list included three epidemiology studies, two involving pyridostigmine bromide, five clinical, one environmental and one Leishmania study. There were some adjustments recommended in
one study. Then, as was said earlier, three additional projects were recommended for consideration for funding if the total budget figures after the negotiation process allowed for additional proposals.
All of the proposals selected fell within the range of 1.0 to 2.3 in science scores, and they had relevant scores from 1 to 3. All other proposals with science scores in that range were then examined and re-examined to make sure that the rejection or what would be reviewed as rejection could be justified, and we felt that it could.
The chairman of the subcommittee reported
the recommendations to the research working group on January 24th. The working group, which is also made up of members from DOD, HHS, and VA discussed the proposal and then voted to approve the report and the following day the list was forwarded to DOD.
I think, in summary, the subcommittee reviewed research proposals for funding, which had been judged to be scientifically meritorious and relevant through an independent peer review process under the purview of DOD. Recommendations for funding were made based on priorities established by the research working group of the Persian Gulf Coordinating Board.
The final recommendations were submitted to DOD as a part of the Coordinating Board's active role in allocating the resources available for research on Gulf War veterans' illnesses.
CHAIR LASHOF: Thank you very much. We have a number of questions.
Dr. Mather, first let me ask you--we will go back to Michael Stitely--you made your final recommendations on January 24th?
DR. MATHER: That was our final meeting. CHAIR LASHOF: And it is now May 1st, and
the awards have yet to be made. What is the delay? DR. MATHER: I think maybe that is-CHAIR LASHOF: Okay, then Michael.
MR. STITELY: The actual awards with funding attached to them and the scopes of work and the evaluations did not arrive in USAMRAA until February 22nd. At that point in time, they were reviewed--
CHAIR LASHOF: What happened between January 24th and February 22nd?
DR. MATHER: Well, we sent ours to the Coordinating Board. This was a meeting that took place in Washington. The head of the Coordinating Board then forwarded them to DOD, and so I am not quite sure how that forwarding process went.
CHAIR LASHOF: It is a long distance from
one part of Washington to another.
CHAIR LASHOF: That is one month. Go ahead.
MR. STITELY: On February 22nd, when they arrived at USAMRAA, we assigned them to senior contract specialists, actually, because of the importance of the program, and asked them to immediately start their audit, negotiation, and review process. Normally, to award a research contract or grant, it takes between 90 and 120 days after it arrives in the contract shop. We have
numerous legal reviews. We have reviews done for federal, state, and local regulatory compliance. We have human subject and animal use. As I recall, several of these involve both humans and animals in protocols. So all of those were reviewed by different groups outside of the USAMRAA command, and when the results of those compliances were made known to us, then we entered negotiations with the individual contractors and grantees.
Several of the proposals needed modification to the scopes of work. Some of them because they had been six months in review and were now in our shop for award wanted to withdraw certain portions, look at certain portions, make modifications, which we allowed them to do. In fact, as we sit here today, one award has been made, and that is public information, and the other 11 are in final negotiation. We expect approximately half of those to be made in the next two weeks. The final awards probably will be made by June 1st.
CHAIR LASHOF: The suspense is going to kill us, but we will hold on.
Let me get back to your review process then for a bit. How are the actual reviewers selected for that initial review? Who selects them? Who is involved in that selection?
MR. STITELY: USAMRAA currently works under a contracted peer review process. The American Institute for Biological Sciences is the contracted entity who handles our peer reviews on any special requirement, such as BAS or streamlined solicitations where we expect multiple proposals. When those arrived in August, the American Institute of Biological Science's representatives took those proposals in the first two weeks, categorized them, divided them into the topic areas, set up five evaluation panels. They have a process by which they select from a cadre of doctors and clinicians across the country. They make that information known to us at the time the panels are selected. They commonly invite, and I believe in this case, the Army did attend each of the panel evaluation meetings where the presentations were made. I can tell you about their peer review process just briefly, and that is they assign each proposal to three individual reviewers. Those reviewers do a complete review and write-up of that proposal. They come back then to the committee and report the findings independently to the committee and then the entire committee votes one way or the other on the proposal and helps to assign scientific merit scores and military relevance scores. It is a contracted process that we have used for the evaluation right here.
CHAIR LASHOF: You mentioned that a representative from the Army sits in on every meeting.
MR. STITELY: That is correct.
CHAIR LASHOF: What is that person's role? Why is that process followed?
MR. STITELY: Normally, the technical program office wants to have a representative
there to answer any questions that the committee may have about military relevance, about
why certain things
were put into the solicitation process. They are there to observe for the Army and be the liaison for the Army to assure that any AIBS is providing the quality evaluations that we have purchased on contract.
CHAIR LASHOF: They don't enter into the decision-making process at all.
MR. STITELY: Normally, they do not. They answer questions.
DR. NISHIMI: Normally, they do not. Did they in this case?
MR. STITELY: I can't answer that. I was not in the room when the evaluations were performed.
DR. NISHIMI: To whom would the military observer then report?
MR. STITELY: He would report to the research area director at the Military Command at Fort Detrick, and they would normally then represent from there forward to our office the observations that they had from the evaluations.
DR. NISHIMI: So the Army observer would
file a report that would then end up in your box or a specialist box.
MR. STITELY: Correct. The contracting officer in each case appoints a contracting officer's representative. That representative is responsible for technical oversight. Our expertise is the law and negotiating contracts and grants. We have to assign technical experts to represent us in these technical findings, and that is what the Army representatives do at those meetings.
DR. NISHIMI: So the Army representative would be a scientist then or a clinician?
MR. STITELY: I believe so, yes. I think several of them are here and will maybe be testifying later.
DR. LARSON: Just for clarification then. As I understand it, there are two stages in the review. One is the scientific merit process and the other is the relevance process; is that correct?
MR. STITELY: Those are the two criteria that we stated in the solicitation.
DR. LARSON: The American Institute of Biological Sciences contract is for the scientific peer review; is that correct?
MR. STITELY: That is correct.
DR. LARSON: So the relevance issue
should--or is it separate from the scientific review? I thought that the second group was to look at relevance.
DR. MATHER: Well, we received a relevance score along with a scientific score. However, we felt that we were, in a sense, doing a second relevancy review.
DR. LARSON: Right. That is why I am confused. They were not separate then, the scientific review and the relevance. It seems to me there are two issues here; one, is scientific merit, how good is the proposal, and the other is how relevant is it, and how does it fit into the needs of research that haven't been answered, and it sounds like they were together.
DR. MATHER: I think that was a two-step process. The scientific reviewers also attempted
to give a relevancy, a military relevancy score because, as I understand it, that is their charge. We looked at it from a broader picture of not just what is relevant to the military, but what might be relevant to the veteran population, to a person's experience after the military. So we added to the relevancy review.
DR. LARSON: It is an odd way to do it because, generally, the scientists are not necessarily the same people who would look at the relevance. But, anyway, were the reviews blinded, the scientific merit reviews?
MR. STITELY: Again, I was not at the panel meetings, and I wasn't present.
DR. LARSON: We need to find out a little bit more, just for the record and our information, the process of the scientific review, we do not to find that out.
DR. TAYLOR: I just have a question. The review process, however, the persons presenting the proposals were asked to give relevance. There were two criteria; one was the scientific merit and the relevance of a proposal to the population. That is what you are saying; right?
MR. STITELY: Those were the criteria that was set forth in the solicitation. I am sure that the military representatives made the criteria known to the AIBS reviewers. I was not in the room, so I can't verify that.
DR. TAYLOR: But even the scientists, even though they were given a scientific review, they were also responsible for saying how relevant the project was for that specific proposal. What is the conflict?
DR. LARSON: Let me give a specific
example. Let's say with Leishmaniasis or with pyridostigmine, there has been a lot of research already in those areas. so it seems to me there are two issues; one, is was the project scientifically sound and put together well? The other is does it add something new that hasn't been added? Because, it seems to me, in some of these areas, the two I gave you, for example, we already know a lot. There is already a lot out there. There are some other areas we know very little on. So, if we are funding something on Leishmaniasis, it better add something new, and I don't think we have seen any evidence on this panel that, for example, Leishmaniasis is a major concern that hasn't been dealt with fairly significantly. So why are we funding one in that area?
And I don't think we can answer those questions until we know what the projects are that have been funded, and how the review for both merit and relevance were done and by whom.
DR. MATHER: The review by AIBS was for scientific merit and relevance. And then there was a departmental review in the context of the entire working plan.
CHAIR LASHOF: What is the general policy in AIBS as far as in selecting outside reviewers in terms of whether they have previous funding at DOD or the VA, whether that is considered grounds for not including them or including them?
What are the conflict of interest rules when you select your panel?
MR. STITELY: I am not a member of AIBS, so, obviously, I can't answer factually. But what I can say is, having worked on that contract in the past, as contracting officer, the procurement integrity rules, the conflict of interest rules are made known to AIBS. They are told they must be followed when they select the panel reviewers. I know that one of the specific criteria is no panel member may sit a meeting where his organization has submitted a proposal. Let's assume it is a large university. He will redact himself from the evaluation, if his university has submitted a proposal, whether his name is on it or not.
They take great pains to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest. Those are the instructions. I don't have the exact names of the reviewers or how the panel conducted its deliberations, but those may be available to Ms. Mather.
CHAIR LASHOF: I would assume that the-maybe I shouldn't assume--are the names of the reviewers available? Is that public knowledge?
MR. STITELY: In the past we have not made
AIBS deliver the names for public release. They are available for the government contracting officer's representative to look at. If he deems or feels necessary to look at them, we have not made them a contract deliverable so that they don't have to be released. That way we can protect the anonymity and the integrity of the research panels that do the evaluations.
They are certified to be qualified by AIBS to be sitting the panel. That is part of their contractual obligation to us.
CHAIR LASHOF: What is the general NIH policy on releasing public information?
DR. LARSON: Public information anybody who reviews a grant it is not something that you publish in The Washington Post, but it is something that is available on request. I think it is probably reasonable for us to request.
CHAIR LASHOF: I think we will request that the names of all the reviewers be submitted to the committee and their affiliation and relationship to DOD or VA.
MR. STITELY: Okay.
CHAIR LASHOF: Since one of them is
public, can you tell us which one has been funded and what that study is? Dr. Mather, do you know?
DR. MATHER: I don't know. My contact
ended on the 24th with this process.
MR. STITELY: If you give me a minute, I believe I can find that.
CHAIR LASHOF: While he is looking for that, Dr. Mather can you tell us a little more about what your panel did consider the most important priorities and what you weighed in looking at those?
DR. MATHER: I think we considered both because of the law which allowed this, we did consider that pyridostigmine bromide studies needed to be funded, and that was one of the issues. Clinical allowed a broad base of--
CHAIR LASHOF: Let me stop you on pyridostigmine bromide. Were the specific aspects of
the issue about pyridostigmine bromide that you
wanted looked and that you felt had not been adequate, did you identify those?
DR. MATHER: I think the more clinical aspects were important, but, generally, the science and how pyridostigmine bromide operate, but we tried to look at it as broadly as possible, but did choose those studies which were most meritorious.
CHAIR LASHOF: In the relevance, did you
specifically want to address the issue of the interaction of pyridostigmine bromide?
DR. MATHER: And other substances, yes. CHAIR LASHOF: And organophosphates. DR. MATHER: Yes.
DR. LARSON: Just following up on that, with regard to how you fulfilled your goals of
filling the gaps identified and also ensuring that there was no unnecessary duplication of other work, what lists were you provided with or did you get of ongoing work and ongoing research?
DR. MATHER: We used the list of federal-the research plan, the federal research plan. We, also, were aware of some of the work that was going on that was not federally funded as a result of appearances. We had had some briefings in front of the research working group of some of the infectious diseases used that were being looked at by nonfederal investigators as well.
DR. LARSON: Obviously, there are huge amounts of money going into this research, and we all want to make sure that it is being used as wisely as it can be, huge amounts of money.
CHAIR LASHOF: Don?
DR. CUSTIS: Assuming that this research will soon get underway, when do you expect some conclusions, some findings?
DR. MATHER: I would think publishable, in some instances, within three years.
DR. CUSTIS: Specifically, the pyridostigmine PB, when will that be available?
DR. MATHER: Hopefully, those are the
ones. I think the results and then the publication of the results are two different issues. Most of the funding, as I recall, most of the projects were within a three-year time frame. So that you would expect results within three years. I don't recall that any were longer than that.
MR. STITELY: I don't have any of the exact time frames or figures with me because it is not public information until an award is made. But the one award that was made was to Boston University for the neuropsychological functioning and "Persian Gulf War Veterans" was the title of the study, and the initial proposal was $346,000. I don't know what the final award amount was. I don't have that information with me this morning.
DR. MATHER: Do you have the name of the
MR. STITELY: Dr. White.
CHAIR LASHOF: I assume the committee will receive, as soon as they are all announced, copies of the protocol and the investigative--
DR. TAYLOR: I missed something. When will they be announced?
CHAIR LASHOF: We are saying by June 1st now.
DR. TAYLOR: By June 1st; is that the
MR. STITELY: We hope to have the last award made by June 1st. We are proposing start dates of May 1st, May 15th, and June 1st. For most of those that are in process now, we are trying to make those. Some of them, if they made it today and are signed today, will be public information within two days.
CHAIR LASHOF: So you will forward to us, as fast as they are made, the information as
to what was funded and the protocol and so on.
MR. STITELY: Yes, ma'am.
MAJ. CROSS: What are the lengths of these contracts? Is it your contention you are not aware of it or that, generally speaking, they can run upwards of three years?
MR. STITELY: I have not reviewed any individual contract proposals myself. I am one of the last reviewers in the award process. I did review the Boston award before it went out. I believe that was a three-year performance period. Most of them are between two years and three-year performance periods.
DR. MATHER: That is my memory of looking at all of those that scored, as I say, above 2.5 or below 2.5, since it is 1 to 2.5, that they were in the three-year range.
MAJ. CROSS: We are talking about 12 awards here. What is the total pool of money that is available to fund those?
MR. STITELY: These 12 awards, if awarded at the initial estimates, are between $6.5 and $7 million.
MAJ. CROSS: And that money comes from DOD. Which budget does that come out of, Fiscal Year 1995, 1996?
DR. MATHER: Research money is generally allowed over--it is in the 1996 budget, I believe, but it is allowed to be spent over a longer period of time.
MR. STITELY: Again, I don't have them in front of me. I don't want to speculate. But I can tell you that if it was a 1995 appropriation, which it may have been, it can still be awarded in 1996. Normally, an appropriation cycle runs two years.
MAJ. CROSS: I understand. Let's assume
that, then, would you assume there is more money going to be made available from the 1996 budget, and take it to the next step, what about the 1997 budget?
MR. STITELY: I have no knowledge of what may be available in 1996 or 1997. All I know is we are fully funding these, so, if the 1995 money is available, these 12 will be fully funded, a followon for 1996/1997, I couldn't speculate.
CAPT. KNOX: Dr. Mather, I am curious that the clinical issues that were funded, do you feel good that those were diagnoses or symptoms that are seen in the VA at high frequency?
DR. MATHER: Yes.
CHAIR LASHOF: Dr. Mather, you, also, stated that you had this debate whether you would fund a couple big ones or a lot of small ones. Does that apply to all of the areas or were you thinking primarily of the epidemiologic studies?
DR. MATHER: Well, I think we knew that
the budget was approximately $7 million, and it is possible for one or two epidemiologic studies to eat up that entire amount, and the decision was made not to do that. In fact, there were studies that would have, say, taken half of the amount of money. It was decided that it was of greater importance to address a number of questions rather than just one question, and I don't consider 12 a lot of little studies. They are significant studies, and I think the question they ask could be addressed, we felt, with the protocol and the budget that they had outlined. So we chose to do 12 rather than 2, but we had made that decision sort of before we looked at it, and when we looked at the proposals nothing was in or we looked at the summary statements and nothing that was in the summary statements changed our mind.
CHAIR LASHOF: Don?
DR. CUSTIS: An extraneous question just out of curiosity. Is the VA or any federal agency still funding any Agent Orange research?
DR. MATHER: Yes, we do have some
epidemiology work going on, and we are getting ready to fund a reconstruction model project on the recommendation of the Institute of Medicine that reconstruction modeling on Agent Orange has advanced or reconstruction modeling has advanced to a stage where this could be done at this point in time. So we are getting ready to look at that.
DR. CUSTIS: This is after?
DR. MATHER: 25 years.
DR. CUSTIS: I suppose 30 years from now we will still be studying Persian Gulf syndrome.
DR. MATHER: I think the issue of
environmental exposures, occupational or environmental exposures, soldiering is an occupation. I think this is something that the whole nation needs to be more interested in is occupational exposures and what that does to the people because, after all, it is the people who count.
CAPT. KNOX: But you only have one environmental study that has been funded; is that correct?
DR. MATHER: That is right. I suppose some of the clinical ones and epidemiology ones we are also looking at, but we felt there was one that really fell under the category of environmental rather than clinical or epidemiology. I remember which one it was, but I guess, since it hasn't been announced yet, I really shouldn't say, but I think it is one that is highly relevant to the Persian Gulf situation and one that we had heard a lot of veterans complain about an exposure that really has not been looked at in other issues through other studies.
CHAIR LASHOF: Without disclosing the specific studies, I think it would still be helpful to us to get a clearer picture of what you thought were the unanswered questions that you really want to give top priority to. I mean you said they are epidemiology. The pyridostigmine are clinical, but that is too broad. We would really like to focus in.
DR. MATHER: I think that there are neurocognitive problems. When you look at what
veterans are complaining about, what we are seeing, the most disturbing symptoms appear to be those that could be classified, I think, as neurocognitive memory loss, fatigue, those kinds of things we wanted to address, look at those issues. Infectious disease issues have been raised, and we specifically wanted to look at those issues.
CHAIR LASHOF: Let me be more specific and
poignant. We have heard a lot of testimony around the mycoplasma issue. Was that a top priority, and were you looking to fund further research on the mycoplasma issue?
DR. MATHER: We were certainly looking to that. Obviously, the studies that we looked at, though, were those who had meritorious scores. So we were limited. We did not dip down into less meritorious scores. If the science had not been judged good by the peer review process, we did not get down into those in order to fill certain gaps that we might have identified.
CHAIR LASHOF: But if you have identified gaps and you did not get meritorious proposals that would fill in those gaps, were you in a position to withhold certain funding and say, "We still don't have proposals to address some key issues. We will put out another call and specifically focus on these key issues"?
DR. MATHER: No, because I think there were other key issues that were addressed, and I
think that this is not the only--the question was raised will there be additional funding.
It may not be through this mechanism, but I think there will be funding to address some of
those key issues, which we are continuing to keep--
CHAIR LASHOF: Are there lists of key issues that you feel need to be addressed? We can then match against what was funded and what you believe are key issues still not? In other words, can this committee get from you a list of what you consider key issues that need to be addressed? Then we will get the funding, and we will know which key issues have been addressed and which key issues have yet to be addressed and what approach we can make.
DR. MATHER: Yes. I think it is important to keep in mind that this is not the only research to address those issues, and since this process was well along and there were very good studies proposed in here, we didn't feel because there was, perhaps, one issue that wasn't addressed, that we would stop this process.
CHAIR LASHOF: I understand that. But it certainly would help the charge this committee has if we could have from you what you believe are the key issues, which ones are now being addressed, which have yet to be addressed and what your plans are to try and address those. That is clearly one of the charges to us, and we would like your information around that.
DR. NISHIMI: I think you sense the
frustration here because Lieutenant Colonel Gackstetter sat before this committee last
October and asked for one month lead time before he could get back to us on some of these
very same questions, and I think the committee and staff have been quite patient in
letting it go to May, and so
we just want some sense of reassurance that, in fact, the information is going to be delivered to us in a timely fashion because this committee cannot address the president's mandate to evaluate the research without this information. There is no new money going out there right now. We need to evaluate this information, and so I just want to place that in context.
If I could ask Dr. Mather, going back, again, to last October, Colonel Gackstetter informed the committee that if there were any "point or evidence to suggest some area in which to point our research, we would be happy to point our research in that direction," and this was said in the context of research into low-level effects of chemical warfare agents.
So, given that we have DOD's Persian Gulf Investigation Team reopening investigations of whether there were possible low-level exposures to troops and given that the action plan that was prepared by the three secretaries indicates that DOD would devote more attention to the possible health effects of low-level exposures to CW agents, is it your assessment that research into the possible health effects of low-level CW is a higher priority now or any priority and were there any relevant research proposals of high enough scientific merit that were included in your pool for review?
DR. MATHER: I don't believe so. I don't think there were. I think at this point the evidence that I, personally, have is that there is still I mean people are looking into low-level chemical work there, exposures, but that there is no documentation specifically. It is an unanswered question in my book.
DR. NISHIMI: So research into the possible health effects of low-level CW exposure is not a research priority?
DR. MATHER: I certainly think that when the question is formulated and appropriate research proposals came in, that would certainly be a priority. But, at this point, I am not aware of scientifically meritorious proposals that have come in that have not been funded or they have not arrived so, therefore, it would not be possible to fund such studies. We have not gone out, I am not aware of a proposal for such studies, a call for proposals. But, at this point, the information that I have access to doesn't indicate that we are at that point yet that we could write a request for proposals that would result in scientifically meritorious--
DR. NISHIMI: Can you address sort of a second issue, which is that the action plan indicates that DOD will place a higher priority or devote more attention to the possible health effects of low-level--
DR. MATHER: I think that they certainly are looking into that question.
DR. NISHIMI: But that doesn't constitute research.
DR. MATHER: Right. At this point, the information that I am privy to that I have heard, as a member of the research working group and as the Coordinating Board, I have not heard
information that would allow us to go out for those kinds of proposals.
CHAIR LASHOF: There are two different issues here. One is was there low-level exposure, and what you are saying is you haven't heard evidence that there was, therefore, in your view-
DR. MATHER: It is an open question. CHAIR LASHOF: That is an open question.
But because that is an open question--make sure I am not paraphrasing you incorrectly--but, as I am understanding you, because there is an open question of whether there was or was not and that is under investigation, and we all agree that people are looking into that, because that isn't resolved, you are not going ahead to fund research as to what the effect, clinical effect, of low level would be if it had occurred.
DR. MATHER: Well, we looked at, in fact, there is an ongoing project in Birmingham,
Alabama, at the VA Medical Center there, where that was one of the original places where
large groups of veterans came forward with the belief that they had been exposed to low
levels. And, as far as I am concerned, in VA, it is an open question. We don't know the
answer to it. So we accepted that that was a possible exposure and are looking at them,
and I believe they have now examined about 200 individuals. They are preparing a paper for
publication to look at what, if there had been low levels of nerve agents and exposures,
what kinds of things would you expect to see based on similar kinds of exposures in the
occupational setting, and they are doing those examinations, but I don't think they are at
a point where they can publish their results yet. But that research is going on.
If that fulfills your criteria, what would you expect to see and the kinds of neurological deficits you would expect to see in cholinesterase inhibiting kinds of agents. Are we seeing that in these veterans? Yes, we are looking at that. That is research that is in process.
CHAIR LASHOF: And you are looking for clinical evidence in those who think they were exposed.
DR. MATHER: Right.
CHAIR LASHOF: So that would be one aspect of looking at it. The other is trying to get some more basic science animal or laboratory data around what prolonged low-level exposure would lead to. Is anything in that regard in--
DR. MATHER: I am not aware of anything. DR. LARSON: Joyce?
CHAIR LASHOF: Yes, please.
DR. LARSON: Let's pursue this. With the other thing that we now have heard testimony on in at least three of these committee meetings, if not four or five, and that is this mycoplasma fermentans incognitus. We have had people, both vets and scientists, testify that they have a hypothesis about this.
As I understand it, the CDC did invite an investigator to do some work in this, and he
did not come forth with an acceptable proposal because of problems with the sensitivity of
the diagnostic work. So part of the dilemma you can see our
dilemma is that, if scientists don't come forth and do credible research on it, we keep hearing testimony about hypotheses, and it is a little hard to document. On the other hand, would it be possible, with this as an example because it seems to be, one, and there may be others, to have a specific call for a proposal from the scientific community to look at this kind of a problem.
Now, granted there may be only ten people or twenty people in the country who could study who would have the credentials and the experience to study this, but it is very, very difficult to verify any of these hypotheses when the research that is being funded is not related to the problems that are being raised. And I understand your dilemma because you have to be the recipients of proposals that come in, perhaps. But perhaps with $7 million there could be some more directed kinds of calls for proposals going out. That is one thing.
The other thing is this raises an issue that we have been addressing since the first meeting, and that is these questions that aren't new with this war when are we going to learn and have a national memory that we need to start soon, not six years after, and I have to say, as an epidemiologic researcher, I am very frustrated by seeing that studies are being funded six years after a war, and I know very well, and many of us here in the room know, that there are certain
things you can't study six years later. So one of the things we need to do is make some
recommendations for the future, so that this doesn't happen again. We know, we can predict that there will be exposures. There will be epidemiologic questions. There will be clinical questions that will come up and the data we need to answer them has to be collected starting during the war, not five years afterwards.
CHAIR LASHOF: I agree. Are there other questions?
DR. JOLLENBACH: I wanted to ask Dr. Mather whether there were proposals with scientific
merit scores that were high, 1.5 or higher, that you weren't able to fund and, if so, what
DR. MATHER: I don't remember the research topics, but there were those that we were not able to fund, and we did look at each, individual proposal that scored higher than the ones that we did fund and justified at the time, the committee members justified, at least to themselves, that this should not bump a proposal that we had selected.
DR. JOLLENBACH: Did you look at breaking up, aside from those large epidemiology studies, when you considered other proposals, did you consider funding subparts of those?
DR. MATHER: I believe in some instances that was what was recommended.
CHAIR LASHOF: Are there any other
CHAIR LASHOF: I have a feeling we have more questions after we get the reports that we
have asked for, and we are looking forward to
getting those as soon as possible. The committee is running out of time, too, and we have got to be very clear as to what our research priorities are and what needs to be done.
Thank you very much. Did you want to say something else?
MR. STITELY: I was just going to say that, from a contractual standpoint, the 12 awardees will be public information as soon as they are made, but we want everyone to understand that they are protected right now by 41 U.S. Code 423, which is the Proprietary Source Selection Integrity Act, that means we do not release information to the public on contracts that are in negotiation at the current time until the awards are made, and then they are in the public domain. So they will all be available within the next 30 days.
CHAIR LASHOF: Yes. That we understand. MR. STITELY: Thank you.
CHAIR LASHOF: We are just sorry to take so long. That is all.
I think we are going to take a 15-minute break, and then we will resume with Major General Blanck.
[Break taken from 11:15 a.m. to 11:33 a.m.]
CHAIR LASHOF: We will resume now. Major General Blanck, Commanding Officer at Walter Reed Army Medical Center will discuss medical evaluation of possible chemical and biological warfare exposures. It is all yours.
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: Madam Chairman and members of the Presidential Advisory Committee, it is a pleasure for me to be here and share with you, in particular, the results of a trip that I made along with Senator Shelby and members of the then Senate Armed Services staff to seven coalition countries and one noncoalition country, and more on that as I go through my talk, in late 1993/early 1994.
The trip, to put it in perspective, was based on reports that we had received
concerning the Czechoslovakian--now Czech Republic--detection of low levels of chemical
warfare agents during the Operation Desert Storm. We had been, up until that point, that
is, in mid-1993, unaware of any confirmed detections, though, we were certainly aware and
very sensitive to the numerous reports of detectors going off, and we felt that it would
be wise to visit as many of the coalition countries as possible to include the Czech
Republic to look further into this and to try to get some kind of information on their
health status, what they thought of this, what they felt might be going on, and with that
as background I will proceed with my presentation, which you will see on the slide to your
right, if I can make this work.
I am an internist and seem to lack the coordination gene of surgeons, so I apologize if this doesn't quite come across.
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: I provided to the committee my 18 January 1994 trip report, which goes into what I am going to summarize in great detail and, therefore, would assume that it is available to the committee for any further review
that they might want to make and, obviously, I am always available for any comments, questions or observations.
We made two trips and, although it says eight coalition countries, actually, there were seven, plus we visited their Israel because of their intelligence services and general knowledge of the Middle East, a total of eight countries.
The first one were the dates that you see.
The second one the same. Czechoslovakia, actually, by the time we visited, was the Czech Republic, but Czechoslovakia was who was in the Gulf War. France and Great Britain and then the Middle Eastern countries.
As I mentioned initially, the trip was based on reports from Czechoslovakia, the Czech Republic, that they had detected a type G that has been misreported as sarin. They did not say sarin, specifically, they said a type G nerve agent was detected in low concentrations in the afternoon of 19 January 1991. As we questioned them and actually talked to the commander of the unit, who was in the desert and who made these detections, we found out that they had actually made three separate detections at different locations in about a one kilometer square area 20 miles south of Hafir Al Batin, which is somewhat north of King Khalid Military City, and there is a map in my trip report that documents exactly where this was.
They took an air sample on one of these occasions to their mobile lab, which is quite sophisticated, and we looked at and had checked and believed that it was fully capable of doing what they said, which is confirm the presence, through an enzymatic assay of a type G nerve agent.
Now we, of course, asked the question if anything else could have caused this
detection. They said they don't believe so. Others have other opinions, and I will touch
on that. But, as far as we could tell, they were both capable of and actually, therefore,
did detect very low concentrations of type G nerve agent.
They had no acute symptoms or real effects and, in fact, the detections were at such low levels that, although they suited up for the first detection, they did not for others and no one had any ill effects, near as we could tell, at that time.
On 24 January they detected very low levels of mustard in the air in King Khalid
Military City just on the edge of it--it is a sprawling city--and also were taken to an
area by the members of the Saudi Armed Forces where they found a damp two meter square
area and that tested positive for mustard agent. Where did it come from? There were no
missiles, no shells, no other evidences of how that might have been there, and we asked
the question, and they had no idea.
There were some SCUDS in the vicinity, though nowhere near to where the detections were made, and they went and checked the impact areas and were unable to detect any evidence of either nerve agent or mustard agent.
As to illnesses in the Czech soldiers who were present, they clearly had some. As I mentioned, there were no symptoms consistent with
that--in fact, no symptoms at all--of nerve agent toxicity during and immediately after the deployment. The Czech military medical command, at the request of the soldiers who were having some--a few of them--having some illnesses were invited in for a medical exam, and I had the opportunity to review all of those records and, in fact, interview a few of the soldiers.
Eight had no symptoms. Eight had conditions most of which were present before the deployment to the Gulf. One had stomach cancer, actually, that was diagnosed afterwards, had symptoms before the deployment, hepatitis, arthritis and so forth, and seven were still being evaluated. Some of the soldiers expressed concern that this may have been related to whatever was detected. The medical authorities did not feel that they were consistent with nerve agent exposure and, certainly, these were military physicians who were well familiar with the acute symptoms of it, at least had studied that kind of thing.
We visited Great Britain, who, when we presented the data, felt that their information was suggestive that something other than nerve agent might have caused--even the positive confirmation. When questioned further, they couldn't give a heck of a lot more information to us, but said that they would be in touch with our chemical folks, and I believe that subsequent to this our chemical folks actually got some of the Czech detection equipment to run some further studies to see if there would be any cross-reactivity not only in the immediate detection. That occurs all of the time. They are made so sensitive that anything it seems can set them off. But to see if anything would crossreact, a pesticide, for example, with the far more sensitive and specific detection or confirmation capability through this enzymatic method.
I don't know what the results are of that testing, but certainly that would be of interest to the committee and can get that information, I believe.
The British also felt that even if low levels were present, there would be little longterm health effects. They, as we, have studied in smaller numbers than had been in the Gulf the longterm effects of low-level exposure to chemical and mustard agent, and there have been several publications out from it. They were aware, as I am sure the committee is, of the 1982, I believe, Army-sponsored study by the Committee on Toxicology at the American Academy of Sciences that looked at several thousand who had been either accidentally or purposely exposed to low levels of nerve agent from the '50s up through the '70s and were unable to find any evidence of long-term illnesses. However, the caveated it by saying, clearly, further follow-ups would have to be done, and it was still a relatively short time between the exposure and the time that they did the follow-up study.
There have, of course, and alluded to there have been a few reports of very subtle neural behavioral changes and EEG changes in people
exposed to actually high-dose chemical warfare use. The chronic exposure to mustard
agent, by the way,
has been well documented in numerous studies, and there are all sorts of health effects to that. We did those studies and folks who worked with mustard during the war, and they were followed up.
Anyway, the British cast some doubt on
whether the Czechs really detected chemical warfare agents and said, "Thank you very much," and they continued with their own work and studies in conjunction with us.
We were surprised when we go to France to find that they believed they had detected mustard and nerve agent in the air a few days, actually, later than the Czechs reported it. We asked about that, and they said on one occasion they had confirmation done by the Czechs that, in their mind, validated their initial detection, but that the rest of it whereby their usual detection device is very sensitive, not particularly specific, they had no further confirmation made and felt that the concentrations were so low that they didn't even suit up. They believed that they have seen little evidence of any subsequent illness in the 12,000 personnel that they had in the Gulf.
We then came back for the holidays and returned to the Middle East for the rest of the two-tiered trip. We visited Saudi Arabia. They acknowledged the Czech detections. They denied any knowledge of where this might have come from, what it might have meant. They believe that there was no military significance because of the low concentrations, did not know of any other confirmed detection. We pressed them on whether they might have had any simulants that they used for training that might have caused these detections and whether there was anything else that they were doing in the area. Remember, it was members of the Saudi military who took the Czechs to where there was mustard agent in the ground, and they said there was none.
We visited King Khalid Military City, spoke with the health authorities. They said and continue to say that there has been no health consequences in that large area in that population, who, by the way, enjoy excellent health. The Saudis have a very extensive medical system and, unlike the Bedouins who wander in the desert who aren't as healthy, those who live in cities have a fairly high health standard.
We wondered about chemical pollution, industrial pollution in some of the areas might have caused some of the detections that had been reported, not specifically the Czech or the French, but other kinds of things. We were told that everything falls within EPA standards, and there is very little pollution. Just as we got off the plane in Al Jubayl, a huge explosion went off at a smoke stack. It turned out there was an ethylene glycol leak and a venting of it, and they were burning it off, and it was pretty impressive. Nonetheless, indeed, these kinds of things are well accepted and fall within U.S. standards. They actually maintain excellent control of pollution. But, clearly, there are pollutants in the air there as there are in any industrialized city or nation.
We visited Syria, who had 30,000 troops in
the desert. They were stationed with the Saudis
near King Khalid Military City, and they detected no chemicals and deny the existence of any illness in their soldiers.
Egypt actually had a chemical detection battalion, 300 of the 20,000 personnel they had in the desert. They used detection devices from the Western powers, but, also, they used the same Soviet-designed detection devices that the Czechs used. So they sort of used both systems. They took samples two times daily. They were very close to the area where the Czechs and the French made their detections. They had no detections, and they were aware of the French and the Czech detections, but didn't feel that it was particularly significant. They also deny the existence of any illnesses other than what one would normally expect in their populations.
And I should add that, of course, in all of these cases, the numbers are far smaller than the numbers of U.S. personnel that were there.
Israel, though not part of the coalition,
was visited, as mentioned, because of their knowledge of Middle East and all of that. What they said is that they had no information to confirm or deny much of anything. They certainly did not acknowledge that they had knowledge of any chemical agents used during the war. They certainly acknowledged that Iraq had chemical agents, both nerve and mustard, did not acknowledge that they or anybody else in the Middle East had any and were unaware of any untoward health effects in any of the countries in that area, other than what would be expected, clearly, because of the war itself in Iraq, and the lack of supplies and so forth.
We followed up on the populations in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, in particular, and have not, although there are some soft reports from Iraq itself, as well as Kuwait, that there are some illnesses that has not been confirmed, at least to us by the Kuwaiti health authorities, and the Saudis continue to say specifically in King Khalid Military City as well as the rest of the area that there is no unusual civilian illnesses.
Morocco made no chemical detections and, actually, weren't aware of any, and deny any illnesses.
Conclusions. Based on the information provided, my conclusion was that chemical warfare agents certainly some kinds of agents identified a that were detected. The Czechs confirmed those detections, which is unlike most of the reports of detections that we get. They actually went through a pretty sophisticated detection process. The U.S. sent sophisticated, a Fox vehicle actually, to where these detections were recorded and were unable to reconfirm or to validate these detections. So we sort of accept what the Czechs said without independently ourselves being able to validate it.
From my perspective--this is me talking, not the U.S. Government or DOD--I think presumption of presence must
be made, and we have always sort of presumed that, leading to two significant
questions. What was the origin and did it contribute to any illnesses,
whatever was detected.
I don't know where it came from, and I have read, and you have, and heard about all sorts of speculation and theories, and I think that is more of a political issue, and a very important one. It is not a medical issue. What the medical issue is did whatever was detected, and I presume low levels of nerve agents and mustard, contribute to health problems in the Persian Gulf?
I don't know the answer to that either, but I am very sensitive to it and, to the best
of our ability, we have tried to look for ways to determine if this were the case. Were
there clusters in units to where the Czechs detected this? Were there abnormalities and
neuropsychological testing? The VA has been very proactive. I think you are aware in
Birmingham of setting up a study that they either have or will report on at some point
looking for this and those who feel they might have been exposed to chemical agents. To
the best of my knowledge, at this point, it has not been very fruitful. We have not been
able to conclusively demonstrate such abnormalities that might be consistent with that
exposure, still, of course, might exist.
We worry a lot about the susceptibility of small numbers of individuals in this huge population that might have some effects that would not show up in studies with, as I mentioned, the Committee on Toxicology looking at perhaps 3,000 individuals or in smaller numbers of troops from other countries. Is there something that might make these people susceptible? I don't know the answer to that either, but I think it is a very real question, and what other factors might there have been to contribute to susceptibility? For example, the addition of the low levels of agents with pesticides with the pyridostigmine bromide and so forth and so on. And, as you know, there are many studies in place to try to get at some of these issues and, certainly, I would suggest that there might be additional basic research studies to look at this because we really don't know, for everything that I have said, that, one, there was or was not low levels of chemical agents, and, two, what, if large populations are exposed to that, the health consequences might be.
That concludes my presentation. I would be delighted to answer any questions.
CHAIR LASHOF: Thank you very much. That was really a very clear presentation. Andrea?
DR. TAYLOR: Thank you for your
presentation. There were a couple of questions that I had regarding two of the reports. One was from Saudi Arabia and the other from Egypt regarding chemical exposure or some detection of chemicals, and there is no mention of what those chemicals might have been, environmentally or otherwise. Do you have any information on that?
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: Yes. Thank you. I
neglected to mention that. Those slides are in my report. They were unclear as to
exactly what chemicals they were. One was Iran, for example. I think the Egyptians went
and detected chemicals that they thought were secondary to an airplane crash that had
occurred, and they simply said it
was industrial chemicals, certainly not, and they emphasize not chemical warfare agents, either nerve or mustard, but other sorts of agents, and they were unable, at that time, and we did not go back and ask for clarification of that. That was the same thing for the Saudis.
CHAIR LASHOF: Don?
DR. CUSTIS: General, in your conversations with Saudi officials, did you have occasion to ask them their explanation of the prevalence of dead animals and the implication?
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: We did. Of course,
we asked for our own veterinarians opinions, too, and I think, as you know, we actually shipped some animals back for extensive postmortem examination at Fort Detrick in conjunction with the Armed Force Institute of Pathology. Their explanation was severalfold. One, it is very common to find dead animals around there; sheep, camels, and that this occurred both before and during the Gulf War. There seemed to be more after the air wars started that they related to some of the Bedouins coming out of the desert and piling up the animals. The King gives a bounty to owners of dead animals when they do die. Our own veterinarians suggest that what I have just described is correct. In dealing with the remains have found that the deaths were due to the kinds of things that camels, and sheep, and so forth die from.
They were not impressed that there was either a great difference in animal deaths or that there were any unusual causes for animal deaths, and that is both the veterinarians on our part as well as the Saudis.
CHAIR LASHOF: Elaine?
DR. LARSON: Two questions. Are you aware of any country that has put into effect surveillance mechanisms that would make it possible for them to evaluate long-term effects?
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: No.
DR. LARSON: So you said there were no acute effects that they know of.
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: No acute effects, and they called folks back in for exams, that kind of thing, but as far as surveillance, no, I don't believe anybody has done that long term.
DR. LARSON: The second thing, I must have misunderstood in the first meeting that we
had testimony from DOD saying that there was no evidence of chemical and biological
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: I guess I will have to explain somebody else, always a dangerous thing, and I don't mean to do that. When I was dealing with this issue full time, I worked very closely with defense intelligence and other sources who concluded, based on the lack of confirmed U.S. detections plus the debriefing of high- and lowlevel Iraqis--some defectors, many enemy prisoners of war, plus the lack of finding weaponized agents or, in fact, any indication from papers, from storage, that such agents were positioned far forward to be used, the conclusion was, by DOD, and I believe remains, that there was no use. DOD has been careful to say, and did so both during and after my trip, that they accept the Czech report, but have not confirmed it on the U.S. point.
CHAIR LASHOF: Let me ask further what does that mean we accept the Czech report, but don't confirm it?
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: I think it is what I tried to do, as far as a medical kind of thing, presume, based on their report, that it was there and do everything we can to care for those who may have been exposed and look for it as a possible-doing the research, and so forth, and so on--agent of exposure, but that, based on the other kinds of things, they still don't believe that it was really used; that there is some other explanation, therefore, for the Czech report without coming out and saying that we disbelief the Czech report, which I certainly do not, and DOD has been careful not to say.
DR. LARSON: That is very convoluted language. I, for one, am confused. Either there was evidence or there wasn't, and it seems to me, at some points, we have heard there was absolutely no evidence at all, and then clearly there is some evidence.
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: I think you would have to say, from what I have said, and you have my report, that, as far as I am concerned, there must be a presumption made of its presence. Now does that mean it was really there? It means exactly what I have said. DOD doesn't have to use my words or take my report for anything more than--
DR. LARSON: But just pursuing this. Another thing we heard a lot of in our first meeting was the false alarms, our false alarms.
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: Right.
DR. LARSON: Have those all been shown to be false alarms and, if so, how?
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: The U.S. has looked as carefully as--and I think very carefully-genuinely and sincerely tried to find its own, our own, evidence for this. We have looked at equipment coming back. We have looked at filters that were used in the desert. We have checked the tapes on the Fox vehicles and all of that kind of thing and have not, again, been able to confirm that, and I think that leads to some of those other kinds of questions.
Clearly, there is some evidence for lowlevel use or we wouldn't be having this discussion, and you wouldn't have in your possession my report.
I don't know. Did I answer that?
DR. LARSON: Yes, you have answered it. It is just concerning that there seems to be, within the same organization, either two stories or attempts to say it in obtuse ways, and one doesn't want to see that kind of thing happening. It is disturbing.
MR. RIOS: General, let me ask you when was the first time you felt that we have to presume that there were low levels of exposure to our troops over there?
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: When I made this trip.
MR. RIOS: Before that you had no-MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: Sure. Based on the
evidence, I didn't believe that there was any evidence, and we have already had this
discussion of there is a lot of evidence against it, but you
are still faced with this report that we have otherwise not satisfactorily explained.
MR. RIOS: When was this trip taken? MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: 1993-1994.
MR. RIOS: And, before that, your position was that there was no evidence of any kind of exposure at any levels.
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: I am not sure I am high enough in the pecking chain to really have
a position. I was always willing to accept any kind of possibility, including that.
However, it did seem that, despite the detections that we have heard about, there was
little evidence of actual use, and it wasn't until this report and these detections that I
have already described that I felt we have to make that presumption.
MR. RIOS: And, at this point, DOD's position is that that is an open question; is that correct?
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: Yes. I think that is fair to say, certainly, from DOD at my level and the level at Health Affairs. Now what other organizations within DOD might feel, I don't know.
CHAIR LASHOF: Let me go back to this.
Obviously, you are the first person who has been willing to sit here and tell us that
you believe there was low level and that the Czech was a valid identification. How
widespread would that have been if this were the only evidence? Is there any way to judge
the number of people that might have been exposed, the duration of exposure, the level of
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: From everything that I can determine for this kind of agent, it would have been very, very brief and, assuming that there wasn't agent other places, it would have exposed very few people to it. Why do I say that? Because of the very low levels, No. 1, and, No. 2, because of the instability of the agent. It dissipates very rapidly. This is a volatile agent, and the fact that it wasn't detected just a couple of hours later by a vehicle that would have been able to do that suggests that whatever was detected was gone.
CHAIR LASHOF: So it was really a very brief period of time when you--
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: From what I have here, I can't give you a figure. A matter of less than two hours.
CHAIR LASHOF: Only in this one area, this one episode; right?
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: It is the only place that we have--
CHAIR LASHOF: Evidence.
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: Not only the detection, but the confirmation. Now, you can make lots, clearly, of assumptions based on this that, gee, maybe some of those detections were really of low level, that were such low level they were unable to be confirmed, et cetera, and maybe so. I don't know, but we have no evidence of that.
CHAIR LASHOF: Isn't it true that the Czech equipment is much more sensitive and able to identify lower levels than any of our equipment?
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: Correct.
CHAIR LASHOF: So that if our equipment
and the Czech equipment were in the same place at the same time, the Czech equipment would have identified it, and our equipment would not; is that correct?
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: Yes. They would have detected it. We would not have detected it. At the confirmatory level, however, they would have been able and have reported that even at the low level they were able to confirm. Had we done that at the same time, we also would have been able to confirm.
CHAIR LASHOF: But we don't try to confirm things we don't detect. Clearly, we don't go around looking for confirmation of something you have detected.
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: Absolutely. Yes. However, we did have that sophisticated equipment then go and repeat the Czech tests, and part of the reason I think that it wasn't immediately given credence and that there are still questions in some people's mind, more than mine, is that the U.S. confirmatory testing that was done only a couple of hours later, I think two hours, was negative.
CHAIR LASHOF: So that what we can
surmise--I will just follow-up, and then I will
turn it over to Andrea--is that the Czech equipment confirmed this, convinced you that it existed. Our equipment would have confirmed it two hours later. It wasn't there. Your feeling then is it was there, but it was very brief, it dissipated and was gone within two hours.
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: Correct.
CHAIR LASHOF: Thank you.
DR. TAYLOR: Which is common in a lot of occupational environments as well. You may have
something there for a period of time, an hour or so, and then when we actually test it
with equipment, whatever happened it has already gone away. So a similar type of situation
CHAIR LASHOF: Joe, do you have questions, please?
ADM. CASSELLS: Yes. General Blanck, I just wanted to follow-up Dr. Larson's questions about inconsistent testimony that we have heard, and this one is an apparent inconsistency on your part, and I want you to clear it up for us if you can this morning.
Both in your trip report and in your testimony this morning you say that presence must be presumed and that whether or not this was a contributory factor to any of the Gulf War veterans' illnesses is an open question. However, in a letter to the International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology challenging the assertions that were being made by Dr. Garth Nicholson, you appeared to dismiss the role of chemical warfare agents in Gulf War veterans' illnesses. Can you explain how that came about.
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: Yes. It is more
apparent than real, although I continue to consider it an open question because of some
of the things already described, because of the lack of other confirmatory testing,
because of the lack of illnesses in large Saudi populations, my belief, but it is not the
same as the evidence of the Czech confirmation, is that it is unlikely this has to do
with illnesses in Gulf War veterans--I think very unlikely--but I don't know that that is so.
CAPT. KNOX: I would like to just ask the question, in your opinion, General Blanck, why do you think that American veterans are ill and some of the other countries are not reporting any illness? Did they have better protective measures than we did? Is their standard of care different?
I would like to add that, having been at
KKMC, there were very, very, very few Saudis that were present in the hospital setting. The whole civilian population left during the war. So for them not to be sick I am not surprised.
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: But there were literally tens of thousands of Saudi soldiers and some--agreed, a lot of them left civilians remaining there who, though they are not formally surveilled, certainly have a formal mechanism for any illnesses and so forth. But getting to your real question, how come it is us, and maybe the British, and not very many other people I think has largely to do with the number of personnel we had. Remember, we had 700,000. The British were the closest to that, other than the indigenous Saudis, obviously, with 42,000 and then it goes down to 30,000 and so forth.
So, if we are talking about the kinds of numbers in percents from whatever went on there that have illnesses specific to deployment to Saudi Arabia, that is, opposed to the people who have illnesses that would have gotten those kinds of things had they remained here in the country. I think we are talking about a percent that may not be showing up in the smaller numbers of personnel from other countries.
CHAIR LASHOF: Andrea?
DR. TAYLOR: The other thing that I am thinking of, usually with a low-level exposure of a chemical, a one-time exposure incident that would disappear after a couple of hours, you really don't have a lot of information to show that they would have any long-term effects, particularly in a workplace setting. It takes an eight-hour exposure of low level over a period of time.
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: Or repeated
exposure, sure. Right.
DR. TAYLOR: Right. So with this we are saying one time it happened, one event possibly, and whether that would have any impact on, cause any health effects later on, there is a strong possibility that it could.
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: It is part of that reasoning that leads me to the conclusion already alluded to. I don't believe, but I don't know, that this was much of a causative factor. Could it be uniquely a particular individual? I don't know.
DR. TAYLOR: You mentioned something that
might have contributed to susceptibility, such as the use of the pyridostigmine bromide tablets or some other.
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: Sure.
CHAIR LASHOF: Go ahead, Tom.
MAJ. CROSS: General, were you surprised at the responses from the Israelis? Because, as
I recall, they knew that the Iraqis had chemical weapons, and they thought they were the
target, and I recall seeing videotapes of SCUD attacks and all of the civilians had gas masks and they were running around. But I did find it odd that the response they didn't have more illnesses detected. Did you find the same thing?
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: The Israelis clearly acknowledge the presence of chemical in potentially biologic weapons by the Iraqis and by extension by the Iranians. I think certainly the Iraqis we know used it in the war between Iraq and Iran and against the Kurds. Other than that, my sense was that they were unwilling to share much more information with us as far as anybody else having chemical biologic weapons, first.
Second, I believe that they were giving us the best information that they had, that there was no illness that they had detected out of the ordinary in the Mideast populations other than what one would expect in Iraq because of the shortage of medications and so forth.
MR. RIOS: General Blanck, given that you have one confirmed exposure that the Czechs detected and that our American equipment wasn't as capable as theirs was insofar as detecting low levels of exposure, is it possible that our troops could have had more frequent and longer exposure, but we never detected it?
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: Yes, that is possible, although, for many of the detections that we did have, which obviously from your question would not have been due to chemicals, had the chemicals been there at the time, the confirmatory tests for those false detections should have picked up that low level if it was as pervasive as we think. We did a lot of confirmatory tests.
MR. RIOS: But you couldn't do any
confirmatory tests if the equipment didn't pick it up.
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: That is exactly right. We did them throughout, though, and did not find that. But it is still possible that there was something present that we didn't detect and, therefore, not confirm.
CHAIR LASHOF: Let me follow that a little bit further. We had a lot of false positive alarms. Now for each of those false positive alarms, were confirmatory tests done at that time that would have picked up low level if those alarms had been due. The alarm may have been due to something else, but if there had been a low level there, that confirmatory would have picked it up or not?
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: Yes. A lot of detectors went off all of the time all over the place, and nothing much further was done, other than to suit up for a variety of reasons. But a lot of the detection--because it was felt that they were due to some other presence--a lot of confirmatory tests were--not all of the detections done which failed to confirm the detection, No. 1, and, No. 2, but at, at least that time, even though something else set off the detector, low level wouldn't, it didn't pick up low level. So you take air samples, and you do a confirmatory test, and the test was not positive, did not detect the presence of low level.
Now, were there other times that no
confirmatory test was done? There could have been some low level around. It wouldn't have set of the detectors, absolutely.
DR. NISHIMI: How much time lapsed between the alarm and then a confirmatory test?
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: I don't know.
DR. NISHIMI: It would vary?
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: I am sure that is right.
DR. NISHIMI: So if I knew your scenario, as in the Czech detection, it was two hours later, then you, again, wouldn't expect to see a confirmatory test; is that correct?
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: Well, but I think an air sample is taken at the time that the detector goes off, and so whenever the test is done you still have the sample that would be able to be tested.
CHAIR LASHOF: How did we decide or what else did we test for that explains the detectors going off?
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: There is a whole series of papers that describe why the detectors are made so sensitive and what it is that sets them off, which is virtually any kind of particulate matter as well as salt spray, that kind of thing, as well as probably volatile, and there is a whole list of them that I can't rattle off the top of my head. It is not my area.
And, again, the question to me at least, while I have made the presumption of the presence of low level at that time where the Czechs were, was, in fact, there is something else there that might have cross-reacted and actually been detected, and I have never had that question answered by the folks who looked at the Czech equipment. That would be an area to explore.
DR. TAYLOR: So from an environmental standpoint, some of the environmental pollutants we have never identified anything else in that environment that could have contributed to the alarms going off or sampled. For instance, you mentioned methylene.
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: We asked about pesticides and, near as anyone could tell, they weren't used in that area because it was an area through which people traveled. There weren't huge encampments, but where they were used, could they have drifted there in very low concentrations that set those off? The Czechs didn't believe so. The British actually suggested that as a possibility.
CAPT. KNOX: General Blanck, you mentioned
that the Czech system of detection was better than ours. I didn't hear your reply about their protective methods. Did they have equipment, more MOPP suits and protective masks that actually protected better against low-level chemical toxicity?
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: As near as I can tell, and I am going to give you a very inexpert
answer because I am not--the protection devices that the U.S. forces had were every bit as
good--I don't know that I would say better--but at least as good as the Eastern Czech and
so forth, protective masks and suits.
CHAIR LASHOF: One more.
DR. TAYLOR: Just one more question. It seems like I remember reading that some of the other reserve troops or service personnel from other countries were the required to take some of the same types of medication prior to going over, the vaccines and some of the other treatments?
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: Yes. We asked that,
and I didn't include it in the slides because it wasn't a focus, but all of the countries use the same series of vaccines except the anthrax and botulinum. I believe the British also used anthrax, though, some different from what we make, and I don't think anybody but us use the botulinum. Of course, the botulinum was used in 8,000 of the 700,000, the anthrax, in about 150,000 of our soldiers.
DR. TAYLOR: And the tablets as well, the pyridostigmine?
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: Yes. Most took the pyridostigmine. They all had it available.
CHAIR LASHOF: This wasn't related to your testimony, but since you mentioned the vaccine, just to clear up an issue that came up in testimony this morning, what kind was the anthrax vaccine? Was that an inactivated or--
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: Yes, it is killed vaccine.
CHAIR LASHOF: It is a killed vaccine. MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: It is made by the-CHAIR LASHOF: It is not a recombinant DNA
or any other.
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: No. Absolutely not. CHAIR LASHOF: It is just a straight
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: Yes. Somebody actually wrote me on that, and I have an answer going back. I am not sure it has been sent out. But we have looked at this up and down. Somebody actually asked if this was an experimental HIV vaccine. No, it was not. Was it a recombinant vaccine? No, it was not. We didn't even make it. It was made by the Michigan Public Health Department. I think they funded public health measures.
CHAIR LASHOF: That is what I thought, but we had some contrary testimony this morning.
MAJ. GENERAL BLANCK: Right.
CHAIR LASHOF: I think we better call it quits for lunch. We will break for lunch, and we resume at 1:30.
[Whereupon, at 12:20 p.m., the proceedings were adjourned to reconvene at 1:36 p.m. the same day.]
- - -
A F T E R N O O N S E S S I O N
CHAIR LASHOF: We are ready to resume the session. The first part of the afternoon
session prior to the break will be a discussion of the detection of chemical biological
warfare agents during the Gulf War. The first presenter will be Gunnery Sergeant George J.
Grass, U.S. Marine Corps. Gunnery Sergeant Grass, please come forward.
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: I would like to thank you for inviting me to come up here and give my statement. I am going to read my statement that I think everybody has. I am going to begin as follows:
I, Gunnery Sergeant George J. Grass, United States Marine Corps, do make the following statement:
Upon my arrival in Southwest Asia, I was assigned as NBC Fox Recon Vehicle Commander, Serial No. 5604, for 1st Marine Division, Task Force Ripper. Chief Warrant Officer Cottrell was the NBC officer for Task Force Ripper, but due to the mission and other circumstances, I was attached to 3rd Tank Battalion, which was the lead element of Ripper.
The NBC officer at 3rd Tank Battalion was Chief Warrant Officer Biedenbender. My overall mission was to provide the task force with a recon and survey of the battlefield in case of any NBC attack and report that information through my chain-of-command, which began with either Chief Warrant Officer Biedenbender or Chief Warrant Officer Cottrell.
Approximately 24 to 48 hours prior to the breaching operations, all of the Fox vehicles
were sent to the Northern Division Support Center for a final operations and functions
test. These tests included checking and verifying the Mobile Mask Spectrometer for
accuracy, among other tests.
The civilian technicians from General Dynamics performed these checks and determined that all of the Fox vehicles assigned to 1st Marine Division were fully functional and accurate.
During operations at both minefield
breaches, I was tasked with checking all eight lanes for any possible chemical
contamination that may be present. At the morning meeting at 3rd Tanks Command Operations
Center on 22 February 1991, the intelligence brief was, "Recon reports back that from
grid coordinates QS 756771 to QS 754773 there have been observed to be numerous Viscella
69 mines with a high probability of chemicals."
As my Fox vehicle drove through each lane, we monitored for both liquid and vapor contamination. The probe used to sniff for any contamination detected small traces of nerve agent in the air. The computer system notified us that the amount of chemical agent vapor in the air was not significant enough to produce any casualties. As a result, it was impossible for the Mass Spectrometer to run a complete check on the agent except by visually observing the agent and spectrum on the computer screen. These minute readings continued on the screen for the duration of each lane surveyed.
Once my Fox vehicle departed the first minefield breach, those readings went away. I do not remember the type of nerve agent that we detected.
I told Chief Warrant Officer Biedenbender and Chief Warrant Officer Cottrell face-to-face what had been detected, and they both agreed that, since we had no solid proof, there was nothing we could do about it.
Several Marines worked to complete the lanes while wearing only MOPP Level 2 and no gas masks while we detected these readings. No further chemical agents were detected as we checked the lanes for the second minefield breach.
After the task force had arrived and taken Al- Jaber airfield, I was positioned somewhere on the Northern side with elements of 3rd Tank Battalion monitoring for any chemical agent vapor contamination in the air.
The following day the smoke from the oil fires made daylight hours look completely black. The Mass Spectrometer was programmed with a sample of the oil fire vapors and labeled as Unknown No. 1. When the thick smoke was present, there was always a slight reading on the screen. These slight readings were the same regardless of the concentration or the location of the vehicle. Because these readings became commonplace whenever the thick smoke rolled in, it was easily recognizable when compared to an actual chemical agent appearing on the monitor.
As the Mass Spectrometer was monitoring for chemical agent contamination with the usual
readings from the oil fires, the alarm went off and the monitor showed a lethal vapor
concentration of the chemical agent S-MUSTARD. The vapor was in the air for several
minutes, which is more than enough time for the Mass Spectrometer to analyze the vapor. A
complete chemical spectrum was run and printed out as evidence of the contamination.
Upon hearing the alarm and observing a lethal vapor concentration of S-MUSTARD in the air, I called, "Gas" over the battalion net. After the proper chain-of-command was notified of the positive chemical agent, my Fox vehicle conducted an area of recon and survey to determine the limits of contamination.
While performing the survey, the S-MUSTARD readings went away and the only readings appearing on our monitor were typical readings from the oil fire vapors that we always had on there.
As we paused above Al-Jaber airfield, the winds were blowing approximately 10 to 15 miles an hour. The detection of positive S-MUSTARD reading was reported through 3rd Tanks Net Commanding Operations Center by Chief Warrant Officer Biedenbender and myself to the 1st Marine Division NBC Officer, Chief Warrant Officer Bauer. The Division stated that our readings were false and that the readings were produced by the burning oil fire vapors. We explained to him that we already knew what the oil fire vapors looked like on the monitor and the S-MUSTARD was clearly different and the distinct words S-MUSTARD was printed across our screen.
The Division then said it had been false readings from the fuel from the M60 tanks, the Amtracs, et cetera, that were around the Fox vehicle. Again, I explained to him that the Mass Spectrometer already had programmed into its data base that any fuel vapor comes up with its name and the words "FAT, OIL, WAX." The Division still insisted that we had false readings and abruptly signed off the net.
Chief Warrant Officer Biedenbender
instructed me to keep a printed copy as proof of our detection in case we needed it later.
After Task Force Ripper left Al-Jaber
airfield heading toward Kuwait City, several chemical attacks were reported to the task force from positive readings from personnel using chemical agent monitors.
My Fox vehicle was called to survey the area and verify and check for any possible vapor or ground contamination present. All surveys performed by my Fox vehicle were negative when called for these attacks, although the CAMs-Chemical Agent Monitors--had two three- bar positive readings. The next time my Fox vehicle had positive readings was from an ammunition storage area located just outside of Kuwait City.
On 28 February 1991, I was now part of
Task Force Ripper's main element, reporting to Chief Warrant Officer Cottrell. During
the intelligence brief that morning, they stated that the Iraqis had established a 3rd
Armored Corps Ammunition Supply Point or AFP just outside of Kuwait City and that sources,
EPWs or enemy prisoners of war, have stated that there were chemical weapons stored there
somewhere. I was informed that my task was to survey the entire ammunition supply point
and locate any chemical weapons that may be stored there.
Chief Warrant Officer Cottrell directed me and called back nonchalantly as finding some "HONEY." My Fox vehicle set out and began conducting a survey of the area. While monitoring for chemical agent vapors and an ammunition storage area next to the 1st Battalion 5th Marines pause or location, the alarm on the computer was set off with a full distinct spectrum across the monitor and a lethal vapor concentration of S-MUSTARD. We drove the Fox vehicle closer to the dug-in bunkers and fully visible were the skull and cross bones either on yellow tape with red lettering or stenciled to the boxes or some had a small sign with the skull and crossbones painted on it. On top of the boxes were artillery shells.
A full and complete spectrum was taken and printed. I notified Chief Warrant Officer
Cottrell of the "HONEY", and he instructed me to return to Rippers Main but to
be aware that some VIPs and the media were there. As we continued driving to the ammo
storage area, the alarm sounded again. The chemical agent HT-MUSTARD with a lethal dose
came up across the monitor. A full spectrum was completed and a copy printed as proof of
detection. Before driving out of that area, the alarm sounded once more showing a positive
reading of BENZENE BROMIDE. Again, a full spectrum was completed and printed as evidence
of vapor contamination. Positive readings of S-MUSTARD, HT-MUSTARD, and BENZENE BROMIDE
were all within a hundred yards of each other near grid coordinates QT 766395. All
ammunition was either from Holland, Jordan or the United States. Completing the technical
escort course several months prior to deployment to Southwest Asia and being a former
ammunition technician for six years, and I was the NCOIC of an offensive chemical unit at
Marine Wing Weapon Unit Atlantic at Cherry Point, I observed several signs
of possible chemical weapons storage. They were blue, red, and green-colored fire extinguishers with each group in its own specific area. Also, this particular storage area had bung and open top 55-gallon drums that were painted all blue, red and blue, green or white and green. Each set of drums were grouped according to its color and whether the color of the drums were solid or striped. No other area of the entire 3rd Armored Corps Ammunition Supply Area that my Fox vehicle checked was designed or set up like that area.
Our regimental S-2 was notified. Upon arrival at Rippers Command Operation Center, myself, Chief Warrant Officer Cottrell and other officers were taken into a Command Post tent. I explained to them all about the S-MUSTARD detection at Jaber airfield, and of the S-MUSTARD, HTMUSTARD, and BENZENE BROMIDE detected at the ammunition supply point.
I showed them the comparison between both S-MUSTARD detection tickets, and they all agreed that Division must be notified. As I was standing there, one of the officers contacted Division. When he hung up the radio, it was determined that I would meet an explosives ordnance team at 0700 at Division headquarters located at Kuwait International Airport and escort them to the ammo storage area the next morning.
I gave my superior officers all of the printed out Mass Spectrometer spectrum tickets taken from the positive readings at Jaber Airfield and ASP. I never saw those tickets again after I had given them.
My Fox vehicle arrived a little late due to the directions and destruction blocking some of the roads at the International Airport. At approximately 0800 I spoke to Chief Warrant Officer Bauer at Division, and he informed me that the team had been held back at Jaber Airfield and would arrive around 1400 or 2 p.m.
Two other Fox vehicles were kept at Division. Since I still had thousands of ammo bunkers to survey and the area was about 45 minutes away, I asked Chief Warrant Officer Bauer if I could have the two Fox vehicles assist me on my survey, since both crews, obviously, had no mission.
Chief Warrant Officer Bauer emphatically told me that those two Fox vehicles were not moving and refused to listen to reason.
When the explosive ordnance team finally arrived, I escorted them to where the chemical weapons were detected. Upon arrival, the EOD team donned full protective equipment and entered the area. They worked in the area for approximately one hour. Upon completion of their mission, they deconned themselves and verbally acknowledged the presence of chemical weapons in the storage area, but stated their main concern was to catalogue lot numbers to see if those lot numbers had come into the country after sanctions were imposed on Iraq.
We escorted the EOD team back to Division
and never heard from them again. Task Force Ripper and my Fox vehicle departed Kuwait the next day. Since returning from the Persian Gulf, I have spoken to almost every Fox vehicle commander from
both 1st and 2nd Marine Division, and every one of them has verbally acknowledged the positive identification of chemical agents in their area of operations.
That is the end of my statement, ma'am. CHAIR LASHOF: Thank you very much. Are
there questions that anyone would like to direct? Mr. Turner?
MR. TURNER: Thank you. Gunnery Sergeant Grass, you discussed three separate incidents, and I would like to walk through each of those three with you if I could. First, on February 22, 1991, while monitoring minefields breaching operations, your unit detected small traces of nerve agent. Now that detection was made with an air monitor; is that correct?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: We were present through minefield breaching.
MR. TURNER: Right.
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: We checked for either liquid or vapor contamination.
MR. TURNER: Was that a mass spectrometer reading that you generated in that particular detection?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: Yes, sir, it was. MR. TURNER: What happened with the tape
from that Did you print a tape?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: No, sir. There was not enough contamination present for us to run a background check on it and print a ticket out as proof.
MR. TURNER: So you could just see it on the screen, but you couldn't actually produce the tape?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: Yes, sir.
MR. TURNER: Now no one at that point conducted a test with an M256 kit on this February 22, 1991 detection, did they?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: Yes, sir, that is correct.
MR. TURNER: Now, the second incident was a few days later. Can you help us fix that in time, the Al-Jaber Airfield?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: Actually, we went across the first and second minefield breaches, and it was probably after we went across the second minefield breaches because the first one we weren't having too much resistance. The second one we had a whole lot of resistance, and they held us up a little bit. So it was probably the next afternoon.
MR. TURNER: So February 23rd is probably
your best estimate?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: Yes.
MR. TURNER: And in that incident, at AlJaber Airfield, your Fox unit detected sulphur mustard; is that correct?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: Yes, sir.
MR. TURNER: In that incident, you were able to print out a ticket with the mass spectrometer?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: Yes, sir.
MR. TURNER: What happened to that ticket? GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: What happened was it
blew through the air, and it first hit the alarm on the Fox is set off to go if there
is any kind of lethal vapor contamination. The alarm went off,
and we ran a background check on it, since it was in the area, and once that was done I contacted Division or, actually, 3rd Tank Battalion, since that was the immediate one and let them know that that was going on. The next I passed it up the chain-of-command to Ripper so that they could notify all of the rest of the units that were possibly around Jaber Airfield with us. We ran the background check on it and everything and printed that ticket out.
MR. TURNER: What happened to that ticket? Did you submit that up your chain-of-command, also?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: I held onto that
ticket until I gave it to the people up there at Kuwait City at our final resting place.
MR. TURNER: So it did go up the chain-ofcommand as detection; is that correct?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: Yes, sir, it did. MR. TURNER: Are you confident that the
readings that you got at Al-Jaber were not produced by smoke from the oil field fires or other contaminants?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: Yes, sir. The oil fires were constantly on there. We had programmed
into the mass spectrometer a sample of what the oil fire vapors were looking like, whether
it was a small concentration where you could actually see somebody or the only way you
could see somebody because it was so black was if you actually had bodily contact. The
vapors were still the same. They read nothing on the screen. We put into there Unknown No.
1, so every time the oil fire vapors kept coming up, it ran Unknown No. 1.
MR. TURNER: So you were familiar with the spectrum that the oil fire smoke generated on your screen, and you knew what that looked like.
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: Yes, sir. That was
on there constantly.
MR. TURNER: Now, did anyone conduct an M256 kit test at this Al-Jaber incident?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: No. The reason that they didn't is because the Fox's program was 60 known chemical agents in it, including S-MUSTARD and several others and the dusty mustard among others. The M256 kit can only detect eight different chemical agents, and those are not part of the ones that can be detected. As a matter of fact, I sat next to people with the M256 kits, as they were preparing to perform selective unmasking, after I had already shown them that there was nothing out there.
MR. TURNER: What response did you receive from your chain-of-command to the sulphur detection that you had at Al-Jaber? What did they say caused that?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: At first they said--I was relaying information to Chief Warrant
Officer Biedenbender, and he was relaying information to Chief Warrant Officer Bauer, who
was at Division, and I am not sure who he was talking to, but as the conversation went on,
I remember Chief Warrant Officer Bauer asking Chief Warrant Officer Biedenbender if we had
ran a mass spectrometer on it, and I explained to him that my supposedly $800,000 computer
system on there is a mass spectrometer, so I can't run that. But I told him,
yes, we did run a full spectrum on it, and they said it was from the oil fires, and we said, no, we already know what that is. They said it was from the fuel or the vapors from the tanks, the five-ton humvees, the TOWs, all of the rest of the vehicles that I come in contact with constantly throughout the ground war, and any type of fuel vapor comes up fat oil wax.
MR. TURNER: So as a trained NBC officer whose commanding a Fox unit, you are confident that the readings you got were not caused by diesel fuel or oil smoke or other environmental contaminants?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: That is correct. MR. TURNER: I would like to turn to the
third incident that you discussed, which I believe is 28 February 1991, and this is an Iraqi ammunition supply point outside of Kuwait City; is that correct?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: Yes, sir.
MR. TURNER: Now, there your Fox unit detected not only sulphur mustard, but also
HTMUSTARD and BENZENE BROMIDE in a bunker that contained artillery shells. Is that your
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: As we went into this ammunition supply area, it was next to the 1st Battalion 5th Marines, this ammo bunker, just at this area most of the ammo storage area was wideopen space with dug-in ammo bunkers. This particular area here had built up berms, meaning sand was built up around this thing, and it wasn't easily accessible. I had to go off the road. As a matter of fact, it was probably within a quarter of a mile or within that vicinity or maybe half a mile from Kuwait City. And, in order for anybody to get to this bunker here, they had to go off the road through a path through an open field, up over a hill, around a couple other hills and into an area. Once you went into this area here, they had a dugin fancy looking Winnebago at the front of this ammunitions storage area right here. Once you went into this area, there were gates. It was all bermed up with sand all over the place.
Once we went into this area here, we were looking for vapor contamination, and it just happened to be that the 1st Battalion 5th Marine said we have an ammunitions storage area over here. Why don't you come check it. That is the reason that we went out to that particular area. As we were going through that area monitoring for vapor contamination, our alarm went off, and S-MUSTARD came right across the screen in a full force, and the whole time that we were doing a background check on it, which was different from back at Jaber Airfield, it was full the whole time. As a matter of fact, we had to turn the alarm off because, if we didn't, it was going to continue alarming.
As we were backing up to the bunker
checking to make sure, pulling into the bunker and making sure our systems were
correct, sitting on top of the open boxes were artillery shells either from Jordan,
Holland or the United States that had a flat base plate just like an artillery shell would
be, and they either had green bands on it or whatever color bands that that country was
going to use to mark for chemical weapons.
MR. TURNER: Now, you say those artillery shells were from Holland, Jordan or the United States. What leads you to believe that?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: I sat there, and I read the boxes. I have also got some pictures of some ammunition right here, also.
MR. TURNER: You will provide those
pictures to the committee?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: Yes, sir.
MR. TURNER: Mr. Ewing will take those if you would provide those to him.
At this ammunition supply point outside of Kuwait City, again, no 256 kit tests were conducted, were they? You didn't run a 256 kit, did you?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: Yes, sir, that is correct.
The S-MUSTARD was not the only thing I found at that ammunition supply point at this
MR. TURNER: At this last location, I believe you said that you also assisted an explosive ordnance demolition team who came the next day to examine it. Did that team actually destroy the munitions that were at that site, do you know?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: I watched everything that they did. The other three members of my
crew went over there and were more or less looking at the Winnebago, the gold, and
pictures of Hussein and everything else that was over in the other area, couches, and
those things. I watched everything that they did. They went in there and got in their
chemical protective equipment. They had clipboards. They had a little monitor, a little
hand-held kind of machine. I am not sure what that was, and went inside the area, and they
walked around the area that we showed them, and they were writing things down. When they
got done, they decontaminated themselves and there was nothing destroyed while I was
MR. TURNER: Nothing while you were there. You said that the explosive ordnance demolition team members acknowledged the presence of chemical munitions there. What did they say?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: They said, yes, you are right. There are chemical weapons stored out there. They didn't specify, but they said there were chemical weapons stored there, but their job they were not sent up there to verify that. They were up there to check the lot numbers on the ammunition that was stored up there to verify that that ammunition, so they could turn it back to somebody else to see if those rounds were coming after sanctions were imposed on Iraq. I used the lot numbers. That is the way that they track those.
MR. TURNER: Do you know who the members of that explosive ordnance demolition team
were? Could you give us some guidance on how to get in touch with them? Do you know a unit
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: No, sir, I don't. MR. TURNER: Did you keep a log or notes
during your time that you were over in the Gulf? GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: Yes, sir, I have that
right here, too.
MR. TURNER: Would you provide that to Mr.
Ewing so he could make a copy for the committee? GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: Yes, sir.
MR. TURNER: That is all I have.
CHAIR LASHOF: Thank you very much. Andrea?
DR. TAYLOR: I am just curious about the detection equipment that you had, the mass spec. What was the detection level? Did you have any way of knowing what the actual concentration was of the chemicals that you found at all, the airborne level concentration or exposure, other than noticing that it was mustard agent?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: Yes, ma'am. When it is printed across the screen, we run it through an ion chamber, and it breaks down to atomic mass and atomic weight. I remember that all of the atomic masses were all over 300. When the vapor concentration would come up on the screen and that would all be printed out as part of that ticket, yes, ma'am.
DR. TAYLOR: Is that written somewhere? Do we have like vapor concentrations listed of these particular agents anywhere?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: I don't have access to that, but I am sure that the schools where
Fox vehicles are being trained would have that, yes, and whoever programs chemicals into
the mass spectrometer I am sure they would have that information.
DR. TAYLOR: The other question that I had was, when you say lethal vapor contamination, what concentration are we talking about at that point when you identify it?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: Lethal vapor concentration means that it will produce casualties in
over 50 percent of the people exposed.
DR. TAYLOR: So, I guess, the question then as a follow-up would be were there people in this area during the time that you recognized that these levels were lethal concentrations?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: At Jaber Airfield? DR. TAYLOR: Yes.
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: There were all kinds of people, yes, ma'am.
DR. TAYLOR: They were there.
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: The one at the ammunition supply point by Kuwait City I know, specifically, that 1st Battalion 5th Marines were there. Everyplace I went throughout the Gulf War, except for after we got--I was attached to Task Force Ripper's main element by Kuwait City--my protection was a TOW vehicle, which was mounted on the back of a humvee. So they were, at least, exposed to everything--
DR. TAYLOR: That you tested.
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: Yes, ma'am.
MR. TURNER: So there is no confusion, when you get on the net and say, "Gas, gas, gas," that means people go to full protective gear when they hear that, doesn't it? They got to MOPP 4 when that alarm goes out; isn't that correct?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: Yes. It is typical
that someone in the military, I am sure, in the Marine Corps, me being an NBC
specialist I teach thousands of people every year, after year, after year, and when
somebody yells, "Gas, gas, gas," you
stop breathing, close your eyes, and put your protective mask on.
DR. TAYLOR: So they were near the
exposure, but they were all wearing protective equipment.
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: Everybody was dressed in either MOPP Level 2, which means without the gas mask or with the mask on, yes, ma'am.
The ones that were not with their mask on, when I yelled, "Gas, gas, gas," that does two things. It makes them put their mask on. If they don't have it, it also notifies them that there is a contamination in the area.
DR. TAYLOR: So what do they do if they don't have their gear? Do they take cover? I am just trying to figure out what happens.
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: They have their mask, yes, ma'am.
DR. TAYLOR: They do have their mask that they can--
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: When we prepared to cross the breaches at 11 o'clock the night before was MOPP Level 2, which meant the jacket, the trousers, and the boots. The mask and the gloves, the mask is on their side, and any time contamination is called across the radio or they think that there is contamination or they see somebody showing symptoms of contamination, they will mask themselves. Their mask is always on their side.
CHAIR LASHOF: At the time you identified these exposures, to your knowledge everybody did mask up. Did you see anybody that didn't put on their mask or that had any acute symptoms? Did you encounter any people who claimed they had symptoms at the time you identified the mustard?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: Ma'am, I didn't say that they had symptoms. I said that, if they
see somebody showing symptoms, that is also one of the requirements that they would use
for that right there. But, to answer the question, ma'am, it is common knowledge for the
Marine Corps units that when somebody yells, "Gas, gas, gas," especially in a
combat environment, they are not going to stand there and ask you why. They are going to
react the way that they have been trained, and I am confident, even though I didn't sit
there and watch everybody within the entire task force or within my hearing voice, I am
sure everybody put their mask on within 9 seconds like they are supposed to.
The people that were around me, when I finally did my survey of the area and came up negative, when I got out of the vehicle, as a matter of fact, they don't take their mask off until the Fox vehicle or myself say the area is clear.
CHAIR LASHOF: Elaine?
DR. LARSON: You said that you never saw your tickets again after you turned them in,
which I assume is not uncommon because that happens all of the time. Have you, for
example, ever been asked not to say anything about this?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: No, ma'am, I haven't. DR. LARSON: How did we find you to
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: Actually, in 1993,
when I saw Chief Warrant Office Cottrell--I was on Okinawa, and I saw him on the Far East Network--and right at that time right there I knew he was saying something about his Fox vehicle commander, which was me. So I brought it right to my chain-ofcommand, and I said we can stand by for me getting subpoenaed because I was the actual one that was out there doing it, and I just relayed the information up to Chief Warrant Officer Cottrell. So I have been waiting for this since 1993, ma'am.
DR. LARSON: And you are still on active
duty. You are not going to get in any trouble or anything.
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: I don't expect to do that, no, ma'am. Yes, I am still on active duty.
DR. LARSON: Thank you.
CHAIR LASHOF: Isn't there a routine method--I don't understand all of the detection methods, but this morning we heard about the Czech methodology and then confirmatory tests. The Fox, I gather, is a fairly sophisticated one. Is that a confirmatory or are there further confirmatories beyond the Fox?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: To answer your question, ma'am, I don't know what will check the
Fox because, as I was reading my statement, there were several supposed chemical tests
between Jaber Airfield and up there by Kuwait City, and these were by chemical agent
monitors that had two and three bar readings, and chemical agent monitor is one of the
pieces of equipment that the Marine Corps and others have within their system. As I am
getting no reading on my Fox vehicle and that equipment--speaking of the chemical agent
monitor-has two bar readings because there are quite a few things that give the chemical
agent monitor a false reading, whether it is three people on the inside of a closed up
humvee smoking or whatever it may be.
As a matter of fact, I checked, and I made sure that those instances right there, my Fox vehicle is used. If there is something that checks the Fox vehicle, I don't know about it.
MR. RIOS: Sergeant Grass, while you were over there, did you observe a lot of these detectors that the individual troops carried did you observe a lot of them going off at one time or any instances like that?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: Speaking of the chemical agent monitor, sir?
MR. RIOS: Yes. The ones that are carried by the individual troops.
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: They carried M256 kits, and they also carried the chemical agent monitor. But, yes, when they had their readings-
MR. RIOS: Did you observe them going off? GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: No, sir, I didn't. MR. RIOS: You didn't see any troops that
had those monitors and observed that they went off in high numbers?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: I didn't watch them do that, sir.
MR. RIOS: In your training in this area, is there a procedure that calls for verification once there is a detection observed?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: Yes, sir. If you get
a positive reading on the M256 kit, you are going to use another M256 kit to verify that reading. If you get a positive reading on the chemical agent monitor, you are normally going to use the M256 kit in order to verify that chemical agent monitor.
But the chemical agent monitor and the
M256 kit can only test for specific things. The Fox vehicle had 60 chemical agents programmed into them. As far as I know, there is no MVC equipment, except for the Fox vehicle, that can detect specifically S-MUSTARD or dusty mustard or pyridostigmine bromide or any of the other uncommon types of chemical agents.
As a matter of fact, sir, I was called quite a few times to check because, after a
while-getting back to your question, ma'am--if they saw liquid laying on the ground from
dumped over barrels at some of the Iraqi positions, they called the Fox vehicle. They put
their masks on and called me, and I went over and backed up and showed them, okay, this is
diesel fuel or this is lubricating oil or whatever it would be. They got to be that
paranoid over there, where everything they saw they thought was a chemical agent.
CHAIR LASHOF: The Fox vehicle is the most sensitive of field equipment that we have; is that correct?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: Ma'am, I can answer that by saying, during the Gulf War, the Army had 50 of them, and I am not speaking for the Army, and the Marine Corps had ten of them. Five went with the 1st Marine Division and five went with the 2nd Marine Division, and I am currently a member of the Marine Corps Chemical Biological Incident Response Force, and we would respond to any terrorist activity in any Department of State or Department of Navy installation worldwide, and we also have two Fox vehicles on that team.
But, I guess, my answer would be, as far as I know, yes, ma'am.
CHAIR LASHOF: How long have you been in the chemical and biological warfare detection aspect?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: Since 1984.
CHAIR LASHOF: Since 1982? GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: 1984, ma'am. CHAIR LASHOF: 1984.
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: Yes.
CHAIR LASHOF: Further questions? MAJ. CROSS: Joyce, let me clarify
something. I think the terminology is I wouldn't say sensitive. There must be a sensitivity to the equipment on the vehicle. I would say it is the most sophisticated chemical detector that the military now has. One of the reasons is because it is all computer operated and, as he suggests, what you can do is you can preprogram into the vehicle into the computer's memory readings of oil, fuel, as he suggested. So, if it detects chemical vapors, it knows what it is detecting.
CHAIR LASHOF: You believe it.
MAJ. CROSS: You have got to sit in one of these vehicles. It is like a Star Wars vehicle. It is a nice piece of gear, as we would say.
CHAIR LASHOF: We need to wrap it up, but
we will take a couple quick more questions. Elaine?
DR. LARSON: Just to clarify here, you say in your last sentence that you have talked with most of the Fox vehicle commanders from the Marine Corps and virtually every one of them acknowledged some positive identification of chemical agents in the area. You report three specific ones here. I assume you were monitoring on sort of an ongoing basis. These are the only three you saw or had? That is one question.
The other question is how does that jive with, again, what this committee heard at our first meeting from the DOD that there was no evidence from our armed forces that there was any evidence of chemical and biological warfare?
Take the first one first, and that is, just to put it in perspective in terms of how prevalent it was, you had three positive episodes out of how long of monitoring?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: To answer that question, being a former ammunition technician, and
I was also in charge or the noncommissioned officer in charge of an offensive chemical
unit, and I have been doing this job here since 1984. Prior to going to the Gulf War, I
finished up the technical escort school, and I know what chemical weapons look like, and I
also can read the words "Jordan Ministry of Defense" or something like that,
whatever it said on there, and "Holland," and I know what the chemical weapons
from the United States look like. The instances with the three detections I am sure that
we detected those.
DR. LARSON: Nobody is questioning that. Others have reported that as well. I am just wondering how frequently those were, in other words, getting a sense sort of back to the question asked earlier did this occur very rarely? But you say almost everybody had these reports from the Fox vehicles.
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: The people that I have talked to, ma'am, didn't necessarily find
the same type of chemicals that I saw. Some saw different ones. It all depended on which
area that they were in.
DR. LARSON: But these were all officially reported.
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: Yes, ma'am, I am sure they were. That is protocol for somebody that detects any kind of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.
CAPT. KNOX: Gunnery Sergeant Grass, do you have to wear protective gear in one of these Fox vehicles to be prevented from being contaminated yourself?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: The Fox vehicle has an overpressure system in it. To answer the
question, you don't have to, but you wear the chemical top and bottom as precautionary
measures in case you have to break open the top. I have a machine gun up on top. Although
I was not an offensive vehicle, and I had plenty of armor and weapons around me, if I had
to return fire, I would have to break open the top of the vehicle, the top hatch or door
of the vehicle that was pretty big, about the size of a manhole cover. If I open that
right there up, it was big enough that it was going to expose the rest of us. At that time, I would have to put my mask on before I open up that vehicle and make sure everybody else in the vehicle did.
We had an M8 alarm inside the vehicle to let us know, just in case, when we opened up the top above me or any of the doors if any kind of contamination was coming in. But the Fox vehicle comes equipped with an overpressure system which forces air out.
CAPT. KNOX: Has your health been good since that experience in the Gulf War?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: When I first got back, I had a slight memory loss, but I recovered from that. I get headaches probably once or twice a month sometimes, and I have a slight rash. I don't have any of the other kind of symptoms that other people would have.
CHAIR LASHOF: Thank you very much. We appreciate your testimony.
DR. CUSTIS: Joyce?
CHAIR LASHOF: Oh, I am sorry, Don.
DR. CUSTIS: That last question is what I was going to ask and follow it with do you know whether or not any of the other marines who served in Fox vehicles suffered any subjective illness?
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: All of the ones that
I have spoken to, if they have, they haven't told me, and I am sure that they would have told me.
CHAIR LASHOF: Thank you very much. We do
appreciate your coming forward.
Now if I can ask Colonel Koenigsberg, Lieutenant Colonel Martin, and Lieutenant Colonel Nalls to all come up.
COL. KOENIGSBERG: First of all, thank you for inviting us back again. I am Colonel
Koenigsberg, director of the Persian Gulf War Veterans' Illness Investigation Team, which
is under the direction of the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. Your
committee requested at this time we discuss two issues related to the possible detection
of chemical warfare agents during the Persian Gulf War.
Since your requests were about two very specific investigations, I brought with me the members of my staff who are the most knowledgeable about each of these subjects. As we investigate this, we are finding that in each of these there are more questions that need to be answered, and every time you pull a thread out, there are more threads that appear and more questions that appear.
Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Martin, who will
speak first as an Army Chemical Operations Officer and will present the findings on the Czech and French detections, and Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Nalls of the Marine Corps, a Marine Corp Harrier pilot, will present findings on the Marine Corps breaching operations in Kuwait.
LT. COL. MARTIN: Before I begin, I would just like to point out the map we have before
you. It has, with the red dots, indicates the suspected chemical facilities that were
bombed during the period 19 through 24 January, 1991. Hopefully, you have before you a
matrix which tells the dates that those facilities were bombed.
On the view graph, I have a table which indicates the detections, which I will describe in my testimony. I believe it is also in the written testimony, the same thing.
This afternoon, I will provide the results to date of our investigation into the reported Czech and French chemical agent detections which occurred in January of 1991 during the Persian Gulf War. Our investigation into the circumstances surrounding these detections, including whether they may be relevant to possible low-level chemical agent exposure is still open.
According to Senate reports, the report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Persian Gulf War Health Effects, various unit logs, and other open sources, Czech and French teams detected nerve and blister agents in Saudi Arabia during the first week of the air campaign of Operation Desert Storm.
The degree of credibility attached to each of these detections varies considerably based on the official position of the countries involved, equipment used for the detection, and corroboration from other sources.
There appears to be some ambiguity about how and when the events occurred. First, much of the French and Czech information concerning the detections has been difficult to confirm at this time. Information from other sources is sporadic and uncertain.
Second, although some of the detections were reported in U.S. operational logs, the U.S. could not confirm the detections at the time they were made.
Third, even if we assume the detections are valid, it is difficult, if not impossible at this point, to determine the source of the agent.
After sorting through many sources and
much conflicting information, the Persian Gulf Veterans' Illnesses Investigation Team has compiled this table listing nine U.S. coalition chemical detections in the Persian Gulf. As you can see, all of the detections occurred roughly within the first week of Operation Desert Storm. Likewise, they all occurred in the general vicinity of King Khalid Military City and approximately 65 kilometers northwest of Hafir Al Batin.
The first event occurred the morning of 19 January 1991. Two Czech chemical units about 25 kilometers northwest of Hafir Al Batin, supporting the Fourth Saudi Brigade, detected low levels of nerve agent at two separate locations approximately two kilometers apart.
About 30 minutes later the Czech detachment supporting the Twentieth Saudi Brigade detected low levels of nerve agent about 25 kilometers further northeast.
The Czechs considered these detections to be one event. The central command CENTCOM NBC desk logs refer to Czech chemical detections that morning. U.S. chemical reconnaissance troops were called in to verify the detection, but were unable to confirm the presence of any agent at any of the locations.
The same day a French chemical unit
reported detecting infinitesimal amounts of mustard
and nerve agent about 30 kilometers from King Khalid Military City. We found no other evidence to substantiate this French detection.
On the following day, the 20th of January, CENTCOM NBC logs indicate a Czech nerve agent detection in the French sector with the French requesting U.S. confirmation. U.S. chemical detection teams were unable to confirm the presence of any agents.
On 21 January, CENTCOM NBC logs indicate that French unit detectors near the ammunition storage facility at KKMC went off. The French reportedly contacted a nearby Czech chemical detection unit, which confirmed the presence of trace quantities of nerve and blister agents.
The last two reported detections occurred on the 24th of January. That morning, a Saudi liaison officer reportedly led members of the Czech chemical unit to an area ten kilometers north of KKMC and 50 kilometers southwest of Hafir Al Batin. At that area, the Czech team found a spot in the sand about 1 square meter in size where they detected mustard agent. This detection was confirmed by the Czechs using portable laboratories.
Additionally, the Czechs told Senator Shelby's delegation that they detected mustard at an engineer school in KKMC about two to three days prior to the 24 January mustard detection. We have no other evidence to corroborate that detection.
The French reported to the Shelby
delegation that on the evening of 24 or 25 January at a logistics facility approximately 27 kilometers south of KKMC French detectors indicated the presence of nerve and blister agent. They also told the delegation that a Czech unit confirmed the presence of infinitesimal amounts of nerve and mustard agent and decontaminated the area.
The Czech chemical agent detections which occurred on 19 and 24 January have been studied extensively, are well documented and are substantiated. The chemical detection equipment used by the Czechs concluded the Russian-made GSP11 chemical agent detector alarm, which provides continuous monitoring capability, portable CHP71, a chemical analyzer used as a back-up for the GSP11, and a portable laboratory which uses a paper detection method as well as wet chemical analysis, the U.S. cannot independently verify the Czech detections, but places a measure of confidence in their findings based on assessments of their technical competence and the sensitivity and reliability of their equipment.
To this point, we have not determined what French detection equipment was used in their
reported incidents and, therefore, cannot accurately assess their capability.
As I mentioned in my previous testimony, the possibility of a unit's exposure to low-level chemical agent concentrations is a difficult problem to investigate. The reported Czech and French detections delineated here are certainly germane to this possibility. There is no evidence of any chemical agent attack. There were no SCUD or artillery attacks and no enemy activity in the area when the detections occurred.
Previous chemical agent downwind hazard models indicate that many tons of chemical agents would have to be instantaneously released from An Nasiriyah, the southernmost bombed site assessed to have contained chemical munitions to get detections at the concentration detected by the Czechs. If there was a large instantaneous release resulting from coalition bombing, a large downwind hazard area capable of producing a significant number of immediate casualties would most likely occur.
Thus far, we have found no evidence to
support this. Additionally, the battle damage assessment associated with these strikes at An Nasiriyah does not support an agent release of that magnitude.
Currently, we are working with CIA to develop an enhanced chemical downwind hazard model which considers the effects of weather patterns based on actual weather data. This model, which should be completed soon, should provide more refined data to analyze.
We believe the Czech detections on 19 and 24 January to be credible. Even though the French chemical agent detections are less verifiable, we cannot discount them in our efforts to determine the source of the contaminant.
We are continuing to investigate on a priority basis the reported coalition detections and reported U.S. detections during and after this time period. Our investigation into the possibility of low-level chemical agent exposure remains open.
Thank you for this opportunity to testify before this committee, and I will be followed by Lieutenant Colonel Nalls, who will now review the Marine Corps breaching operation.
CHAIR LASHOF: Thank you very much, Lieutenant Colonel. Lieutenant Colonel Nalls?
LT. COL. NALLS: At this time, I will
provide results to date of our investigation into the reported Marine Corps chemical agent detections associated with Task Force Ripper and other Marine Corps units reporting incidents of possible chemical mines and chemical attacks. These are still open investigations being conducted by the investigation team.
There were personal accounts of chemical detection alarms, accounts of transitioning through various MOPP levels and other events which led people to believe that chemical weapons were encountered as the first Marine expeditionary force attacked north through the minefields in Kuwait.
Task Force Ripper, with the name adopted
by the Seventh Marine Regimen of the 1st Marine Division. However, other Marine units in the area had reports of possible chemical encounters, not just Task Force Ripper.
The most cited event and the specific event that I have been asked to address today
occurred in the early morning hours of 24 February 1991 with the 1st Battalion 6th Marine
Regimen reinforced and was reported in the monograph, "U.S. Marines in the Persian
Gulf 1990 to 1991 with the 2nd Marine Division in Desert Shield and Desert Storm,"
which I will refer to as the 2nd Division monograph.
One, six, as it is known in Marine
terminology, was reinforced by Company C, Eighth Tank Battalion and Company B, 1st Assault Amphibian Battalion. By virtue of the fact that this report of a possible chemical encounter with a chemical mine was reported in an official document that has been referenced by several veterans publications.
After an extensive investigation into the
events surrounding this particular incident, we are unable to substantiate that this event occurred, as originally recorded in the 2nd Division monograph.
The investigation began by researching the
official logs and records followed by personal interviews, including the author, researching medical and casualty records and reviewing written statements from previous investigations.
We, also, sought any supporting documentation and analysis by the subject matter experts, such as the capabilities, the limitations of the Fox vehicles and other sophisticated detection and monitoring devices, as well as any expert analysis of Fox vehicle tapes, et cetera, which are available.
The purpose of the 2nd Division monograph, the author, Col. Dennis P. Rostkowski, United States Marine Corps Reserve, caveats his work with a statement which I would like to quote.
"This history is intended to be a first effort at presenting the Division's actions, operations, and contributions to victory in what was a time of national crisis and intense military activity written so close to the time involved, many of those source materials, which ordinarily would be available to a researcher of the war are not yet returned to the Marine Corps Historical Center. What this history can do is guide the efforts of those researchers and writers who will come later. They will be able to balance what is written here against those more complete records, which will be available to them, and they will be able to correct any errors of fact which may have been made."
We now have more complete records. The 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions, which were the ground maneuver elements of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, were assigned a total of ten Americanized West German Fox vehicles. One of these vehicles was attached to the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regimen, on 17 February 1991, just one week prior to the actual attack. The battalion had just completed a 90-mile move to the final tactical assembly area and was progressing with their final attack preparations.
The 2nd Division monograph details a chemical detection by this particular Fox vehicle on 24 February. According to the 2nd Division Monograph, a Fox reconnaissance vehicle moving through red lane 1, a minefield breaching lane, detected "a trace of mustard gas originally thought to be from a chemical mine."
This detection was reported up the operational chain as a nuclear biological chemical NBC 1 report and recorded as an entry in the Marine Corps Combat Operations Center Watch Officer's log.
The 2nd Division Monograph later goes on
to report that, "A second Fox vehicle was
dispatched to the area and confirmed the presence of an agent which had probably been there a long time. Unknown in origin, it was still sufficiently strong to cause blistering on the exposed arms of two assault amphibian vehicle crewmen."
The author credits this account to Chief Warrant Officer 3 Thomas C. Ashley, USMC, now retired. I contacted Mr. Ashley, who was a trained NBC specialist with a 5702 military occupational specialty and, at the time, was assigned as the 2nd Marine Division NBC officer under the G3 corroborations.
He was stationed in the command post and was an expert on chemical attacks, defenses, and procedures. He would also have been immediately aware of any reported chemical incidents or injuries that happened within the Division, since any NBC reports would have been forwarded to him.
I interviewed Ashley about the events
attributed to him in the 2nd Division monograph. His own recollection, which differed from the monograph, was that the Fox vehicles were disbursed throughout the 1st Marine expeditionary force with four vehicles assigned to the 2nd Marine Division. The remaining vehicles, according to Ashley, maintained their preassigned lanes with their maneuver elements and pressed on with the attack through the minefields. He stated that no other Fox vehicle were dispatched to Red Lane 1 to confirm the detection. Rather, they maintained their preassigned lanes.
He, also, stated that the detections, as officially reported to him, were momentary trace amounts and that the Fox vehicles were unable to get a full spectrum readout, and that they were not "confirmed in accordance with the established NBC procedures." There were no Fox vehicle tapes of the detection forwarded up the chain.
I would like to comment about the word "confirmation." The 2nd Marine Division operational plan stated, "Assume all Iraqi mines, missiles, artillery, and aircraft attacks to be chemical until proven otherwise."
Operationally, the first reactions when a chemical attack is suspected are to presume a protective posture, MOPP level, pass the alarm and attempt to confirm the chemical agent presence. This confirmation is usually done with a different source, such as an M256 detection kit, but simply rerunning the test again with the same sensor does not "confirm" a chemical agent.
In this instance, confirmation by another source was impractical since the Division was on the offensive and maintaining the momentum was of paramount importance.
The authoritative guidance on the setting of MOPP level requirements to mesh with the mission is the Army, Marine Corps Field Manual 3-4, NBC Protection. This document defines the MOPP levels, the deviations allowed and, most important, the threat assessment process. It advises commanders to balance the threat of exposure and the mission degrading effects of MOPP level against the factors of "mission, environment, and soldier," to determine the appropriate MOPP level.
It, also, addresses the operational
procedures to be followed in a chemical environment. The battalion followed the established procedures to the letter. With this in mind, as the detection was made and the alarm sounded, the battalion transitioned smoothly to MOPP Level 4, which provided the maximum protection and maintained the momentum of the attack with no second source to confirm the chemical detection. Even if there had been a second Fox vehicle, that would not have been sufficient to confirm a chemical agent, since a false alarm could be duplicated in both vehicles.
Lack of confirmation, however, does not mean that this was not a genuine chemical mine. It certainly did not have any acute effect on the upwind Marines, who unmasked and reduced their MOPP level back to 2 at the direction of the battalion commander. The ultimate detector in the combat scenario is the human body. No acute effects and no injuries were reported.
In addition, up to this point, there have been no chemical mines found in Kuwait or Iraq. The 2nd Division monograph also addresses the chemical agent as "still sufficiently strong to cause the blistering on the exposed arms of two assault amphibious vehicle crewmen."
This has been a particular point of interest, and we have tried to verify whether this happened and identify the injured Marines. Chief Warrant Officer Ashley would have been one of the first people to become aware of any NBC injuries. Every Marine was aware of the potential for Iraqi use of chemical weapons and trained in how to respond, continue fighting, and report. Any suspected chemical injuries would certainly have surfaced. Chief Warrant Officer Ashley stated no such injuries were reported up to the Division level.
I researched the personnel records of the battalion, including the supporting reinforcements, and they showed two casualties for 24/25 February, both gunshot wounds.
Additionally, official Marine Corps casualty records were researched and no chemical
exposure-related wounds were reported. There were no chemical-related deaths and no purple
hearts awarded throughout the entire Marine Corps for any chemical injuries.
I, personally, have spoken to many Marines about this particular incident and no one has been able to provide the names of the Marines who were reportedly exposed.
I, also, contacted the Battalion
Commander, Colonel T.S. Jones in a written statement which he originally made in 1994,
and I asked him to re-evaluate and substantiate, and he said, "As indicated by the
log entries you have seen, a Fox vehicle alerted on a chemical attack in Bravo Company
Sector. Both lead companies in the Battalion Alpha Command went to MOPP 4 immediately and
proceeded with the breaching operations. As wind was moving heavily from the east, I felt
it prudent to downgrade MOPP condition of C Company, lead company moving on the right, to
MOPP Level 2. I have no knowledge of any subsequent M9, M256 test that reported a positive
reading relative to the
aforesaid alert. There were no indications from Marines that the alert was, in fact, positive. I aggressively pursued any potential medical problems associated with the attack and saw absolutely no evidence of any. I feel confident that any chemical attack in our sector would have surfaced. I can categorically state that no one came forward who claims any evidence of medical problems resulting from chemical and/or biological weapons."
As stated, Colonel Jones, after hearing of
this incident, aggressively tried to find elements of his battalion, including those reinforcements that were assigned to him for the breaching operation and remained with him for a month afterward in Kuwait that showed any signs of a chemical injury. There are no medical records, no casualty records, no purple heart citations, no log entries or any other information, classified or unclassified, that substantiate the statement that two Marines were chemically injured.
Detections by other Marine units were similar in nature. After looking deeper into the circumstances, the methods of confirmation, the medical records, and talking with the principals involved, we have not been able to substantiate them. In fact, every instance where a chemical detection caused the unit to upgrade to a higher MOPP level was later determined to be a false alarm.
To quote the 11th Marines Command
chronology, "During combat operations, the regimen experienced 14 incidents of chemicals being detected which resulted in an increased MOPP level. All proved to be false. This was mainly due to battlefield conditions that included heavy smoke and an oil mist from the burning oil fields that caused sensors and detectors to give false alarms."
This is just one incident of approximately
30 separate incidents that I am investigating, and this is a snapshot of where this investigation is at this particular point in time. I still have several key individuals to locate, interview, and leads to follow before I will be able to close out this investigation.
I will be happy to answer any questions you have.
COL. KOENIGSBERG: I think one thing we would like to point out in this is these are open investigations. There are certainly things like Gunnery Sergeant Grass brought up today that need further evaluation and that these keep popping up to do that. But when Colonel Nalls and Colonel Martin say we have looked into something and have not found anything, that means, at this point in time, we have not found anything. That does not mean that the door has been closed and that we are saying nothing occurred.
CHAIR LASHOF: Thank you. That is very helpful. Because, clearly, one of the questions I
was going to ask is that you had not commented on Gunnery Sergeant Grass' presentation
and, if he alerted the Marine Corps several years ago, at least two years ago if I heard
him correctly, I am surprised that he hasn't been interviewed and his description
investigated by you and other members of your investigative team by this point in time.
I am assuming you will do so.
You, Lieutenant Colonel Nalls, are responsible for conducting the investigation of incidents involving all of the Marine Corps; is that correct?
LT. COL. NALLS: Yes, ma'am.
CHAIR LASHOF: Are you the only one? LT. COL. NALLS: The only one
investigating the Marine Corps incidents? CHAIR LASHOF: Yes.
LT. COL. NALLS: I am the only one on the team. I have other people that I have enlisted to help me. The Marine Corps Historical Center, when I have a problem, I will say, "Have you seen anything about this across your desk?" and whatnot, and I contact them, and they have been very helpful. So, even though I am the only investigator, I consider that I have a staff that has been very helpful to me.
CHAIR LASHOF: And you are focusing on the chemical warfare issues as part of the
investigative team; is that correct?
LT. COL. NALLS: Yes, ma'am.
CHAIR LASHOF: And your background in chemical warfare is this your field?
LT. COL. NALLS: No, ma'am, it is not. I am a Harrier pilot, and I was assigned to the team as an operations analyst. So I have been digging into the operational type of records, and quite a bit of it has been an education for me into the chemical detectors. I am also an engineer, so I get into the ones and zeroes.
CHAIR LASHOF: You agree, I mean, from this list, that the Czech detections are credible, and by credible I would assume that that means they are valid or not?
LT. COL. MARTIN: Yes, ma'am. We believe that the Czechs probably detected the presence of low-level chemical nerve agents.
CHAIR LASHOF: I have a little trouble with the statements in here that you accept that they are credible and valid, but you don't have evidence that there was any release of chemicals. Let me see how you worded it. It seemed to be a contradictory conclusion.
LT. COL. MARTIN: Yes, ma'am. We don't know where it came from, the source of the agent.
DR. NISHIMI: But I think Dr. Lashof--if I
could put words in her mouth, which I have already started to do, so--
CHAIR LASHOF: Go ahead.
DR. NISHIMI: Dr. Lashof is questioning how you make the connection between the fact
that you accept the Czech detections as valid and credible, yet do not posit that there
was any exposure to U.S. troops of low-level chemicals.
COL. KOENIGSBERG: We didn't say that. DR. NISHIMI: So would you accept, then,
given that you agree the Czech detections are valid and credible, is it DOD's position that U.S. troops were exposed to low levels?
COL. KOENIGSBERG: First of all, we do not set DOD's position. If you want to know what
the investigation team has found, we can comment on what we have found, but we can't tell
you what a DOD position is.
What we have found is what Colonel Martin is saying, and that is that we accept the fact that the Czech detections were done in a credible manner. They did everything they were supposed to do, and they have very valid equipment, and the people were extremely well trained. We have no reason to believe that they did not detect something. What we are having trouble figuring out, and that is what you are asking, Dr. Lashof, it is like so many other things, yes, that is credible. Now sit down and try and figure out where this could have come from, and that is what we are having problems with.
DR. NISHIMI: Would you say that because there were low levels of chemicals present that
the possibility exists that U.S. troops were exposed to low levels of chemical warfare
COL. KOENIGSBERG: I think the possibility exists, yes. If they were detecting something, then you could not say that the possibility didn't exist. I think then the major question becomes can you tie that to anything that happened to the people? I think this is where some of this starts to fall apart.
DR. NISHIMI: I think that even
acknowledging that the possibility exists is important, and I am a little bit confused as to why you then won't just say that, given that there were low-level chemicals detected, that, in fact, U.S. troops were exposed, why you are not able to reach that conclusion.
COL. KOENIGSBERG: We are dealing with a few incidents, and I think we need to look--
DR. NISHIMI: I am not asking for
widespread here. I am just asking for a generic statement, no matter, one, two, four, a hundred, thousands. U.S. troops were exposed to low levels of chemical warfare agents. Would you agree with that statement?
COL. KOENIGSBERG: I think that is still to be determined.
DR. NISHIMI: Let me try this a different way. For PGIT investigations, what would be the triggering event for you to reach the conclusion that U.S. troops were exposed to low levels of chemical warfare agents?
COL. KOENIGSBERG: I don't know that there is some triggering thing. We are looking at each particular incident, and we can determine if that incident of detection was correct or not. If, certainly, more of these detections come out to be positive, and we can prove, like the Czech ones, that they are valid, then I think this will set up a pattern, which can then say, okay, there was a widespread exposure.
What we are talking about is a very small area around Hafir Al Batin, and the question is, when you say, well, if we don't know what caused it to be positive, then how can we say who in that area was exposed at this point? I think there may be a time when we get enough of these put together and say, yes, here is a pattern that shows there was some kind of a drift or there was something else. Then you could say, yes, there was definite exposure.
DR. NISHIMI: I don't see why DOD has to
have a pattern. Even if we limit it to the Hafir Al Batin situation, that is important for those people in the area. And so for PGIT to accept a valid detection, but then not
reach the conclusion that the U.S. troops in that little area, let's just talk about that one area.
COL. KOENIGSBERG: In that little area,
there were not U.S. troops. The two vehicles or the two detections that occurred were both accompanying a group of Saudis through that area. The other detection was also in an area where, immediate, right in that immediate vicinity there weren't U.S. troops. There were troops some distance away, but they were not right there where this was. So can we say that, yes, indeed, there was a low level that occurred at that one site and 20 kilometers away where there was a U.S. troop that that person was exposed? I don't know how we can say that. I don't know what you would suggest that we take as a reference that tells us that.
DR. LARSON: Could I ask just about the
specific incident about Gunnery Sergeant Grass had talked about. That is not in the 30 that you have investigated yet; is that correct?
LT. COL. NALLS: No, ma'am. That is one of the--actually, there are several incidents that he made reference to that are all being investigated. We are taking every one of those seriously.
DR. LARSON: But you said that every
instance where a chemical detection caused the unit to upgrade to a higher MOPP level was determined to be a false alarm. Does that include the ones that he reported?
LT. COL. NALLS: That statement came from the 11th Marines. He was not part of the 11th Marines.
DR. LARSON: That is right.
LT. COL. NALLS: That statement only refers to the 11th Marines.
DR. LARSON: My question is this: In order to be verified or confirmed or whatever you call it, say, in his incident, he reported with this ticket that went up through the hierarchy, if you don't find that ticket somewhere, you will say that was not confirmed; is that correct? Because, see, then we can't confirm anything.
LT. COL. NALLS: Or, if there were no 256 kit tests run or some other bit of
confirmation type evidence. But I am not trying to skirt your question or anything. I want
to be fair, and I would like to add some more to this. The incident I spoke about today on
the 24th, the minefield breaching operation, was with the 2nd Marine Division on the
western side of the battlefield. Gunny Grass was on the right-hand, eastern side of the
battlefield, and I am just getting deeper and deeper into that investigation. So far, I
have read his statements. He has made a couple. I have read statements and testimony from
other people associated in the chain-of-command, Warrant Officer Cottrell, Sergeant Mason,
who was the operator in Gunny Grass' vehicle, and I have also spoken with a chemical
engineer at the Army's Chemical and Biological Defense Command, who analyzed every single
tape that made it back to Edgewood. He is
the expert who looked at every single piece of evidence scrap that came back, and there is a written report of that, and we have just been made available that, and we are going to get ahold of that.
DR. LARSON: I was just trying to get an answer to the question that Dr. Nishimi asked,
and that is what would it take to just--regardless. I mean it may have nothing to do with
any long-term effects, but let's just get the facts here, and here is a credible,
active-duty person testifying saying something, but what you are saying is, if there
isn't, for whatever reason, either lost, burned up, whatever, not a paper trail, then that
is never confirmed as true, and that will--
DR. NISHIMI: Let's see. Let's try and get the train of general investigation here. You have these incidents. DOD admits that the Czech detections were valid. PGIT needs some other additional piece of confirmatory information. If they don't have that confirmatory information, chemical casualties, logs, whatever, then there were no exposures. Is that a correct--
COL. KOENIGSBERG: No. I think what we are trying to do is gather the facts, at this point. I think that is what seems to be the confusion here. We are trying to get the facts together on each one of the incidents. Once we get all of the facts together, then it can be looked at.
DR. NISHIMI: Then how do you determine whether there was an exposure or not?
CHAIR LASHOF: They are not willing to. Let me put it this way: I gather what you are trying to say to us is these are the facts as we have got them. We are not trying to draw any conclusions. We are not willing to draw a conclusion until our investigation is complete.
COL. KOENIGSBERG: Not at this point. CHAIR LASHOF: We, on the committee, can
take these facts, and if we have to draw a conclusion, we may draw a conclusion.
COL. KOENIGSBERG: Absolutely.
CHAIR LASHOF: But we will not get you to draw a conclusion today.
COL. KOENIGSBERG: I think it is too early, Dr. Lashof. The question that Dr. Nishimi keeps asking about what will determine it I think there are a lot of things that the investigation will never be able to determine, one of which is the low level because some of that is going to have to come out of research and other areas, where they look into what does low-level exposure do, and is this what is causing these people to be sick?
CHAIR LASHOF: We are trying to separate
that. We are trying very hard to separate the discussion of whether low level caused illness. That is a whole area of investigation, and it isn't in your realm to investigate. So I am not asking you did they get exposed to low level and is that the cause of the illness. What we are trying to ask is what are the criteria you are going to use to come up with a conclusion that there was low level, there was not low level or there was possible, and we still don't know, and we don't think we will ever know? I mean, those are the
three ways you can come out of your investigation, as far as I can see. You are either going to come out that there was low-level exposure at a few places, one or two places, no places, whatever. There may have been, and we are worried.
DR. TAYLOR: But then the incidents you have here you are saying all proved to be false.
LT. COL. NALLS: I am sorry. What?
DR. TAYLOR: The incidents all proved to be false?
LT. COL. NALLS: That quote came from the 11th Marine Regimen Command chronology, and everyone that--I haven't looked at all of those 11 incidents, but what I am saying is that every incident that I have looked at there has been some procedural error or something that leads me to suspect that it is not confirmed.
DR. TAYLOR: So with our own equipment of detection--let's go back to the previous testimony that we just heard where you can identify that there were mustard agents and some other agents identified, were they testing in a similar fashion with the group that you have already, the incidents that you have investigated?
LT. COL. NALLS: There were a lot of ways that a chemical alarm was sounded.
DR. TAYLOR: Not just an alarm, but the detection equipment that was used, the Fox
equipment and some other things. I am just trying to figure out from what has been
concluded here was this with the use of the Fox equipment and other equipment that would
test the type of chemical or the kind of chemical that they identified and that those
chemicals that they did identify were all Fox?
LT. COL. NALLS: Yes, ma'am. Everything I have looked at, every single thing I have looked at has been false.
MR. TURNER: There is no confirmation.
DR. LARSON: There are two different
things here. Have been proven, have been shown to be unconfirmable is different than have proven to be false.
LT. COL. NALLS: Okay. The word "false" came from the Command chronology.
DR. LARSON: Which is it, had been shown to be unconfirmable?
LT. COL. NALLS: That is correct.
DR. LARSON: That is not the same as proven to be false.
DR. CAPLAN: May I just follow that up and ask why with an $800,000 Fox vehicle out there you would want to confirm it with this kit or visual observation or something else? The previous testimony said that the Fox vehicle was unparalleled as a moving chemical laboratory. Why isn't that sufficient?
LT. COL. MARTIN: The Fox vehicle is a vehicle which is operated by specialized troops at higher levels. In the Army, we have six per Division. It is not readily available and at the disposal of all the units. The procedures that we have said is, if an alarm goes off, an MA chemical alarm, an M256 kit, which is issued down to probably squad level is used to confirm the presence of some sort of contaminant, chemical
It is a very good detection device. It compares whatever sample it takes from the air with 60 known--whatever is in the computer--and it is a very good system.
DR. CAPLAN: The question is why would you want to COL. KOENIGSBERG: The
question is why would you want to confirm it with another--I think that, from what we have been able to find out talking to the experts on the Fox vehicle that know this, there are problems in doing it. They were brand new to the U.S. troops. This is the first time that U.S. troops went into any kind of environment to use it. As far as we have been able to find out so far, all of the tapes that were taken and sent back were reviewed by people that have a little more expertise in chemistry and looked at these.
What we have got to go back and take a look at now is some of these tapes that Gunny Sergeant Grass is talking about and see if his were part of those tapes. But, in going back, they find there are some problems in terms of reading the tapes and in terms of doing it because the system, and I think your staff went out to Aberdeen and got a briefing on this, it is a very complicated system, and it is not that simple, and it is a qualitative system, not a quantitative system. So it can't tell you exactly levels that are out there. It does tell you the levels of the molecule in trying to determine what chemical it is that it is detecting, and that is what is out there in the graphs.
DR. CAPLAN: Let me just follow-up that question then. Today, if we had a detection at some site by a Fox vehicle, would we have to have some other method of confirming it to be believe there was an adequate detection?
COL. KOENIGSBERG: During the war, they always tried to define something in two places to back one another up and say that this is it. Now, whether they will change the position, say, for somewhere else that they suspect it, and they may very well, after everything that comes out and after they have done a lot more studies with the-they have done a lot more studies with the Fox, they may come out now and say that the standard operating procedure is you don't need it.
DR. CAPLAN: So it is a matter of policy then for valid detections--forget about exposures or anything else--just valid detections require independent corroboration by a different testing agent, period.
COL. KOENIGSBERG: That has been the criteria that they have tried to use, and that is what makes it difficult in confirming because in-
DR. CAPLAN: It especially makes it
difficult if the test that you are carrying in the kit can't test for the chemical that the sergeant reported earlier you can't test for.
COL. KOENIGSBERG: It does. It does test for mustard. The 256 kit does test for mustard.
DR. LARSON: Is there a similar
investigation going on in the Army with those 50 Fox vehicles of how many reports were
there from those vehicles of exposures? Do we have
information on that?
COL. KOENIGSBERG: There is material at Aberdeen on the tapes, as I have said before, that came back. A lot of the incidents were similar to what Gunny Sergeant Grass said and that Lieutenant Colonel Nalls has stated. They pressed ahead. They went ahead and got what they had to get done. And, in many of these instances, no tapes were ever obtained to go back and review.
Of the ones that did come back, they did review all of these back there, and they found many problems in the reading of it. Now, we don't know, in this particular instance, about Gunny Grass' tapes, whether they made it back, whether they were specifically reviewed.
When you asked the question about Colonel Nalls and his ability in the chemical warfare, we have been talking extensively to the folks who were the experts out at Aberdeen that review these tapes and know all about the chemical and know this system of picking up the four high molecules and all of this kind of stuff, and we are relying on a lot of that for our back-up information.
DR. NISHIMI: So PGIT accepts that the Czech detections were valid, but you are looking for confirmatory evidence; is that fair?
COL. KOENIGSBERG: Yes, ma'am. We are checking every one of these detections we can get
our hands on, and we are trying to determine a pattern.
DR. NISHIMI: And you need confirmation to make a determination?
COL. KOENIGSBERG: There are two things that are going on. One is we would like to have some confirmation. In most cases, the U.S. because of things like, in this particular instance, where they didn't have time to go do all of the testing, as the Czechs did, they used three different tests to confirm theirs. So you would have to put a lot more validity in it. Most of the ones we have, there is no second confirmation. All you had is the first one. And there is enough reason in many of these detections to believe that there are contaminants that could cause it. Now the Czech equipment does not get affected by some of these contaminants that some of our equipment does and so, therefore, it is a little more specific and makes it more credible.
So we are trying to take apart each one of the instances and see if we can go back and find somewhere that a confirmation was done, and we can say, okay, here we have got a confirmed one. We can mark that on the chart, like we are doing here, and say this one is confirmed, this one is confirmed, and this one is confirmed.
Now, the other pattern we are going to do is looking for a pattern because what we are
trying to do is get every alarm that went off, whether it was confirmed or not, and then
put that on a plot and see if there is some kind of a pattern that shows up that this
stuff went off, that the alarms went off here, and then they went off down here, and then
they went over here, and that we could show there has been some kind of a drift or any
kind of a pattern of exposure, even on the ones that are not confirmed.
DR. NISHIMI: Who would make the
determination, given that some of the Czech detections were valid, that, in fact, U.S. troops were exposed to low levels regardless of any other confirmatory data that you may or may not gather? Who would make that determination?
COL. KOENIGSBERG: I don't know at this point. We can present all of the facts and put
it together, and we can brief this to our superiors up there. They can look at the
material that is coming in from the research, which they have a better knowledge of than
we do. You can put all of that together and say, "Okay, here is evidence that there
was exposure." If we got enough sites that we could prove that they were positive
reactions, where we showed a pattern, then I think you could say what you are saying, and
that would be the inference from it.
DR. NISHIMI: I don't think there needs to be a pattern or a lot of sites. This strikes me as you shoot at me, but you miss me. Therefore, it didn't happen.
COL. KOENIGSBERG: Well, I don't see it that way.
DR. CAPLAN: Can I put that another way? Why isn't the pattern of many first reports--let's just call them reports--from a variety of technologies and a variety of means sufficient to say it is corroborating enough, even if we don't know where the detectors are going off or what is drifting where or what the exposure pattern might have been? If you have got a scatter like on your map or we have got a series of these reports out there, doesn't that lend probative force to the idea that the $800,000 machine picked something up?
COL. KOENIGSBERG: Oh, I think there is a
very good likelihood that all of these things picked it up. We would just like to confirm them.
DR. CAPLAN: But, I mean, the pattern
itself of multiple reports, if we had three as opposed to 30.
CAPT. KNOX: And then, still, who makes the statement? We have had a two-star general. We have got three colonels and a gunnery sergeant, and you all work for DOD, and we don't have any position statement.
COL. KOENIGSBERG: I think the deputy secretary of defense is authorized to make a position statement for what Department of Defense is. I am a worker bee. We are doing investigation. We are trying to get the facts together that we can provide to our superiors so that they can take a look at it and take what position they are going to take.
I think they have given us carte blanche to look at anything that we possibly want to. There has been no restrictions placed on us. We have been told to go out, dig into anything as deep as we can, and when we find things, to bring it back to them and let them know, and that is exactly what we intend to do.
DR. LARSON: I am confused. If the Czech equipment is so much better than ours because
of the confirmatory nature of all of this, why are we spending all of this money for
machines that we now say aren't--I mean, are we going to switch to the
Czech stuff? I thought we were one of the hightech places in the world, and we could do these things. Why is our equipment inferior?
COL. KOENIGSBERG: I don't think inferior is the word. It is not as sensitive.
DR. LARSON: Are we going to move to a three-test confirmatory system?
COL. KOENIGSBERG: I really don't know. That is out of our area of expertise. I have no idea what is going on in the Army or Navy or Air Force as to what they are doing with the equipment we have.
CHAIR LASHOF: Let me try once more to walk through the steps you are going to go, so that we have a clear picture.
You can end up with there are X number alarms that have gone off. We have looked at all of them for everything we can possibly can. Of the X number, we have been able to find data that shows that they were false. Hold that for a minute. Let's stop there and say what kind of data would convince you to say we know that this was false? What are you looking for that will enable you to say we know that this was a false alarm?
COL. KOENIGSBERG: We are not. We are looking for confirmation.
CHAIR LASHOF: That is different then. So you can't make a statement to us that we investigated umpteen and umpteen were false, when you can't tell me what criteria you are using to decide they are false. You can say we were unable to confirm. We have X number of reports that we are unable to confirm. I think it is very important in an issue like this to be very clear what our language says. I am the kind of scientist, when I do an experiment, I can prove it right, wrong. I can confirm or not confirm or I can leave it ambiguous. At this point, I just don't know what you are telling us when you say, "I have investigated everything I can, and they were shown to be false." What showed you they were to be false?
And you are now saying, as I question you, that we can't say they were shown to be false. All we can say is we were unable to confirm these.
COL. KOENIGSBERG: I think, if you go back
to his written testimony, in there, what he is doing is quoting what was said. It was not Colonel Nalls saying it. See, there is a statement in there that quotes in the 11th Marine Command chronology that all proved to be false, and that is what he was referring to. We don't use false as what we are doing. It is a matter of confirming.
CHAIR LASHOF: But it says to quote the
11th Marines Command chronology.
COL. KOENIGSBERG: Right.
CHAIR LASHOF: So it is your position today that of those that you have investigated,
you have been unable to confirm any. The Czech's you accept as credible, but, to your
knowledge, no Americans were in the area where the Czech was, so that that is not evidence
that Americans were exposed. It is evidence that there was some chemical release in that
area, and you have no reason not to believe the Czechs. You have every reason to believe
them, since you have nothing to
point out against it, and you are satisfied it was accurate.
COL. KOENIGSBERG: The statement that you make about no Americans I will have to qualify a little bit. We have not done a lot of research to know that there wasn't a single person assigned. I do know that there was one American with the Czech team that was part of the team that did the detection. There may have been a person here or there. But where the detection was made, was where the Czechs were, and it was in a very, very low level that they detected it. We don't know of where else in that area there was a possible detection because there has been no reports of any in surrounding areas where the Americans were.
CHAIR LASHOF: So there is a potential
COL. KOENIGSBERG: There is potential, yes, ma'am.
CHAIR LASHOF: But that is all.
COL. KOENIGSBERG: Yes, ma'am.
CHAIR LASHOF: We can't rule out that potential.
COL. KOENIGSBERG: Yes, ma'am.
DR. LARSON: The important thing for us, though, is what would you say was evidence of confirmation that you would accept? I mean, is this a correct statement: At this point in time, it is highly unlikely that you will ever be able to confirm exposure?
COL. KOENIGSBERG: At low levels.
DR. LARSON: At low levels.
COL. KOENIGSBERG: At higher levels there should be what we have used--there are two
different areas of confirmation. Your one is the area of what do you use in the field. In
the field it is two detections, and you go to MOPP gear, and you stay in it until you get
a negative reading on the 256, and you come out of your MOPP gear at that point.
In terms of the investigation, we have the ability to be able to go back and look at everything. So we would look at medical logs. We can look at death reports. We can look at autopsies.
DR. LARSON: No, no. We are not asking about illness.
COL. KOENIGSBERG: But that is part of the confirmation.
DR. LARSON: Oh, well, you see, then this is a logical problem here because you are using something to confirm, which is irrelevant information. What we are asking for is a two-stage thing. First, simple question, were there exposures, period, not if the exposures resulted in any adverse effects. And that, when you are using that second piece as evidence for the first, we will never get anywhere.
CHAIR LASHOF: Certainly, I can understand for high-level exposure. That is fair enough.
COL. KOENIGSBERG: That is right.
CHAIR LASHOF: If there is high-level exposure, whether you detected it or not, if everybody was dropping dead from mustard, they were exposed, and you didn't have to detect it. But what we are talking about is this whole question of
low level. No one is arguing now that there was high level. I think it has been generally accepted pretty across-the-board by the veterans, and DOD, and I believe us, that there wasn't high-level massive exposure.
DR. CAPLAN: I want to try one other question about just detections. You looked at a number of these cases now, and, in your talking with experts about the Fox vehicles, in particular, that we use, if an experienced operator, someone well trained with a good history of experience in chemical and biological warfare operating one of these vehicles detected low-level presence of something, would you offer an opinion as to say whether you think that is sufficient to believe that there is a detection? In other words, I am pressing you about the second confirmatory test policy. It seems to me we have heard testimony from an experienced officer, maybe new to the equipment in terms of there, but a lot of experience, a pretty good piece of technology out there, I think I know what it is doing, what it takes to confirm something, to chew it up in the middle of the machine and get a spectrographic analysis out of it, and punch a ticket out of it, would you feel confident saying, "I have got to get a second. I need some other test kit. I have to see something else before I am ready to say the Fox vehicle can tell me that something is out there"?
I am just curious about your opinion. I
understand the policy.
COL. KOENIGSBERG: I would have to say, in a case like Gunny Sergeant Grass, where he is as capable as he is, and has the knowledge, and did the things that he did on it, one would have to assume that this is a positive reading, unless there was some other evidence that came up that said to the contrary.
DR. LARSON: So, in that case, you would not publish that by saying we are unable to confirm or would you? That is your question.
COL. KOENIGSBERG: We have not gotten to the point of saying--I think there are going to be cases that we can confirm absolutely or that meets criteria confirmation. I think there are going to be those that we feel are very highly probable, and that is probably the way we will report it, and then there are those that we have been totally unable to come up with a second reading on, and that will have to all be factored in.
CHAIR LASHOF: It would help to know what are your criterion. You just said "that meet our criteria." Now what are the criteria that you are using to put something--I mean, as I said, there are three classifications: Proven to be false, unconfirmed or confirmed or accepted as valid based on the initial analysis. There are four categories I can come up with.
I just want to know whether you have tried to sit down and lay out a series of categories and a series of criteria that will decide how you will categorize each of these cases you are looking at. If not, I would suggest it might be wise to do that.
COL. KOENIGSBERG: I would agree, yes. DR. NISHIMI: So right now you use the
term "meet the criteria for confirmation." Right now you have no criteria for confirmation; is that correct?
COL. KOENIGSBERG: No. What we are looking for is two different detections of the same kind, a confirmation detection. Now, the problem that you run into here, and even that is--see, this is where it bogs down because we are not talking about the kind of science that you all were talking about in research. Some of the same things that will cause a false positive in the M8A1 detector will also cause a false positive on the paper, on the 256 kit. So, when you get the two of them together, then you have got to sit there and say, okay, is there any other way that you can confirm that this has happened?
If you could find that they went out, and we looked at a SCUD attack or something else, and you are saying that you think this low level came from a SCUD attack that came over, then you ought to be able to go out and look at the SCUD attack and the fact whether somebody went out, examined the SCUD, took samples of the soil around it or measured with a Fox vehicle the soil around it and found anything. If they found nothing, then what do you go back to?
You go back to like in the Al Jubayl incidence where people are saying this thing went over, a mist came down, and they felt burning on their skin. Well, neither the neurotoxic agents or the mustard will cause that kind of reaction. One of the things that will cause it is
RFNA, red fuming nitric acid. If you assume that maybe red fuming nitric acid would come down, then you have to take a look. Would that set off an M8A1 detector? Yes, it would. Would it also give you a positive 256 kit? Yes, it would. Now how do you put that into a category because now you have got two confirmative tests, but you can't find any collateral thing to confirm that maybe there was something present in the area. There could have been something present that was not a chemical and that could have given you the false positive. So doing that makes it very hard to categorize.
DR. NISHIMI: So the criteria for
confirmation is a moving target is what you are saying?
COL. KOENIGSBERG: I think each instance we have looked at has had to be looked at as an
individual incidence rather than trying to put it into some kind of a chart, like you are
asking, and saying, okay, this is definitely a confirmed and this isn't. That is what has
made it extremely difficult. At this point, what we are getting is a lot of data in, and
we are very early in getting a lot of the data. I think, once we get it, we may be able to
come up with a chart that says, "Here is how we will accept it and how we will
But, at this point, we are looking at each one to see if taking in total, in that particular instance, is there enough information to make it suspicious that, indeed, there was a chemical there, and the low level gives us a fit because, as you are saying, if you don't have the human factor in there and you take that out, it makes it extremely difficult to say that there couldn't have
been--you are asking to prove a negative, and we can't prove negatives generally.
CHAIR LASHOF: That is all we are trying to get you to--you can't prove a negative. So don't tell us that there wasn't.
COL. KOENIGSBERG: No, we have never said there isn't.
CHAIR LASHOF: Well, unfortunately, others have, and maybe you haven't--
COL. KOENIGSBERG: Yes, but we are not saying that.
CHAIR LASHOF: --and I don't want to interpret what you say. I sympathize with this as much, it was after the last hearing when the press got after me and said, well, you said that you couldn't detect low level, therefore, there was low level. No. You can't detect low level doesn't mean that there was low level. But we do have to find out what these detections mean. At that point, we hadn't discussed any detections, just that the equipment wouldn't detect low level.
COL. KOENIGSBERG: Right.
CHAIR LASHOF: So we know that some equipment couldn't detect low level, so there could be low level. But we are going beyond that now, and we are digging into those reports of alarms going off, some that seem very valid, and what it will take. What you are throwing in the hopper here is that, if you can come up with an alternative explanation that is as valid as exposure, then you are just as apt to accept that, and I am saying it is possible. Another category in this matrix would be alternative explanation feasible, cannot determine which it was.
I just think we have got to be extremely open about this and admit what we know and what we don't know and try to figure out what categories we are going to put all of these in as we listen to the different testimonies.
I have overdone my thing, but let me ask Jim Turner, who is our staff person who has worked a lot on this.
MR. TURNER: Two quick areas. The reason we are talking about Fox detections here is specific. It is because that is a very sensitive and precise detection method. Now, to have the lack of 256 kit confirmations repeatedly brought up in the context of a combat detection by a Fox unit is something of a straw man. We know, don't we, Colonel Nalls, that they did not stop Foxes, get out and run M256 kits to verify that they had agent when they detected it on the Fox; isn't that a true fact?
LT. COL. NALLS: That is correct. They were told to maintain the momentum, but I would like to just add my thoughts to something you just said. The Fox is not as sensitive as some of the other detection devices, and the expert on that is Mr. Rich Vigus up at the Army CBDCOM.
MR. TURNER: Yes, but my point is we know they didn't stop and get out and run an M256
kit, so it is misleading to say, as you point to in your testimony and quote Colonel Jones
that there was no positive M256 kit result to confirm this, when, in fact, no M256 kit
test was run at all. Do you understand the point about using a straw man like
I mean to look for a second verification, when you know they aren't even conducting the test, and to point to the lack of a positive test, as you did in your testimony, is very misleading.
LT. COL. NALLS: Well, I didn't intend to mislead. What I meant to say was, and let me readdress that, again. They were told that the tactical situation requires maintaining a momentum. That was the objective. And the way they went about that, we had a well-trained, well-equipped, two Marine Divisions on line ready to go into Kuwait and evict the Iraqis, and they pressed forward. As soon as the alarm was sounded, they went to MOPP 4, which is exactly what they were trained to do, and they didn't stop for anything. You go to MOPP 4, and you continue to fight in MOPP 4 and you press ahead. Until they got an all clear from the same Fox vehicle 300 meters down the track, it was unable to run a complete spectrum and just got a trace, so the commander allowed his upwind units to transition back to MOPP 2. They saw no acute effects. Okay, fine. It is all clear. Let's just mark that lane as contaminated and press on. It is behind them now.
MR. TURNER: Nobody questions the wisdom of that. The point was that dragging a red herring like there was no positive M256 kit test does not aid in laying out the truth about what occurred there.
Colonel Martin, I would like to ask you a couple questions, and then I will shut up. You have been working with the CIA to review events at Comisiah during early March of 1991, haven't you?
LT. COL. MARTIN: Yes.
MR. TURNER: As part of that review, you have examined the laws and other records of the 37th Engineering Battalion?
LT. COL. MARTIN: Yes.
MR. TURNER: The 37th Engineering Battalion that is an explosive ordnance demolition unit; is that correct?
LT. COL. MARTIN: It is a general
MR. TURNER: It does do explosive ordnance demolition, also?
LT. COL. MARTIN: They have EOD support when they do that mission, yes.
MR. TURNER: And, in fact, they did EOD at Comisiah. They destroyed munitions there, didn't they?
LT. COL. MARTIN: That is correct.
MR. TURNER: Now, the records of the 37th Engineering Battalion show that they destroyed
Bunker 73 at Comisiah; is that correct?
LT. COL. MARTIN: Yes, I believe that was in the U.N. report.
MR. TURNER: But we do know that that happened; is that correct?
LT. COL. MARTIN: Yes.
MR. TURNER: And you are currently investigating the possibility that the 122 millimeter rockets that were destroyed at Bunker 73 at Comisiah contained the nerve agent sarin, aren't you?
LT. COL. MARTIN: Yes, we are trying to
MR. TURNER: How many troops were in the vicinity of the Comisiah site in early March of 1991 when that bunker was destroyed?
LT. COL. MARTIN: There was a brigade of the 82nd within about five miles of the area.
MR. TURNER: So that would have been,
what, 1,500 to 2,000, somewhere in that range? LT. COL. MARTIN: 3, maybe 4,000.
MR. TURNER: 3- or 4,000.
LT. COL. MARTIN: Yes.
MR. TURNER: That is all I have. Thank you.
CHAIR LASHOF: Are there any other
LT. COL. MARTIN: I would just like to add that, as an investigator looking at this low-level exposure issue, I think it would be very helpful if we could determine the source. If we could determine, find out what the source of the agent was, we could probably make a pretty good estimate of the extent of the exposure, and that is why this problem is such an enigma.
DR. NISHIMI: But source is not your ultimate threshold.
LT. COL. MARTIN: No, but it is very helpful.
DR. NISHIMI: I just want to clarify that, on DOD's behalf, frankly, that source is not going to be your end point.
LT. COL. MARTIN: For example, if there was evidence of an attack in addition to the detections that is more information that would be helpful, if we knew the source that would provide some very valuable information, and we wouldn't have to depend on things that are recorded in operational logs, things such as that.
CHAIR LASHOF: Well, it certainly would help, obviously, if we knew the source. But the absence of a source can't be used, I don't think, to rule that out, just as if you find the bullet but never recover the gun, you don't rule out that the bullet came from a gun.
It is a difficult area, and we don't want to--how long do you think your investigation will take before you are able to look at all of the reports and come back with something that gives us some kind of further categorization?
COL. KOENIGSBERG: This is going to be a problem for us because some of the work that is being done in the declassification program, the documents that are being sent to us, it will not be completed until the end of December, which means that we won't have all of the documents to even go through and try and find evidence of these things until that time.
There is also the plan is to run a lot of this through the GIS system, the Geographic Information System, up at Aberdeen to throw this into their hopper, let them run their computer modeling on it, and see if they can show a pattern that we are missing on this. So we are waiting for them to have all of the data they need available so we can start feeding information into it. We have already started giving them material, but we won't have all of the material until the end of December.
CHAIR LASHOF: December?
COL. KOENIGSBERG: December. See, that is when the completion of the declassification project is, and when they finish putting all of their material together, which they give us in a digitized format. Now, what we are using is search engines and then go back and try and dig out things, as well as going through each of the documents ourselves, too, to look at and see if we can find something that says, ah-ha, an alarm went off at this particular point, somebody went and checked it, and then we go back and check out on that. Who went and checked it? What did they find? What we find half the time is that nobody puts in the confirmation later on or at least frequently they don't. You have to go back and you talk to people and you find out, well, yeah, we sent somebody out to do a confirmation on it. They didn't find anything, so we didn't bother to put anything in. But, yet, in the log, it shows that the initial test was done.
So each time we get one of those, we have to go back and do quite a bit of research on it. The bottom line to your answer is I can't tell you when we are going to finish. We are looking, I think, when they finish up in December, we will have another maybe three months or so of work to do beyond that to look at this stuff, put it together, and then try and come up with some kind of an assessment.
But, as we look at individual items, we are putting those out on the Gulf link. The problem is, as I said earlier, and in each of these instances, so many of them we think we are getting close to a final answer and then we find somebody else comes along and says, "Well, did you look at this?" or somebody says, "I saw this." We have to go out and investigate that before we can close the issue.
CHAIR LASHOF: How many more do you have on your hopper that you know you have to investigate at this point?
COL. KOENIGSBERG: There are about 50. There are at least 50.
CHAIR LASHOF: 50.
COL. KOENIGSBERG: Yes.
CHAIR LASHOF: When did you get started on this? Because I remember it wasn't until after this committee was formed.
COL. KOENIGSBERG: We started in June. We weren't fully staffed at any time at that point. We have only recently been getting material in the declassification effort. That is one of our major sources, but we started looking at individual incidents much earlier than that.
MR. RIOS: On the issue of source, why wouldn't collateral damage from bombing that occurred up in Iraq be a possible source?
COL. KOENIGSBERG: We haven't ruled that out, as of yet.
MR. RIOS: You were saying we would like to have some idea of source.
COL. KOENIGSBERG: Yes.
MR. RIOS: It seems to me that, logically, that would be a clear possibility.
COL. KOENIGSBERG: Yes, it is a possibility. I think the problem has been, as what was alluded to by Major Cross and Mr. Turner earlier, when they said that you had two models to present to you at the last meeting. There are different models out there, one showing that there could have been collateral damage, and there is another model out there that says there could not. I think, at this point, as Colonel Martin has alluded to, we are working with CIA and others to try and figure out if there is a way to look at modeling differently, that there is something wrong with the modeling--if there is anything different than the modeling that was done previously, if there is a better model that would show that, yes, something can occur. But you have to look at it also from a scientific standpoint.
Just the fact that bombing was done, does not mean that that is the source. Until you can show that, indeed, there is a reasonable expectation that a site that was bombed--and you will hear about from others about two of these are places where we know that we probably hit something--how that got from that location down to where there were troops or where the detections were made, and that is what is difficult. We are waiting for some of that because we can't determine that. Somebody else is going to look at the modeling and tell us can this move from this to there. Is it scientifically at all possible for that to happen?
CHAIR LASHOF: I think we really have to move on. In fact, the next testimony is still-
LT. COL. MARTIN: May I say one other
CHAIR LASHOF: Sure. Go ahead.
LT. COL. MARTIN: I would just like to clarify one of the questions that you had on the Comisiah.
CHAIR LASHOF: Correct.
LT. COL. MARTIN: I don't know if it came across that way, but we still are not sure
that those munitions in that bunker were chemical munitions.
MR. TURNER: But you are investigating the possibility that they are.
LT. COL. MARTIN: Yes, we are. Yes.
MR. TURNER: I thought I framed it that way.
CHAIR LASHOF: Fine. Thank you very much. We appreciate your testimony.
May I ask Sylvia Copeland to come forward from the NBC Division of the Central Intelligence Agency. I am sure you are dying to testify after the last group.
MS. COPELAND: Good afternoon, Dr. Lashof, and members of the committee. We are pleased to appear before you this afternoon to address concerns about possible exposure of our troops to
chemical and biological agents in the Persian Gulf. Our Director Deutch has placed a very high priority on CIA reviewing all available intelligence and thoroughly analyzing its relevance to this issue.
The CIA has made a concerted effort to
conduct a comprehensive review of intelligence
since the decision was made in March of last year. This decision was based on the rising importance of this issue, and the president's call for a thorough study. Indeed, this call was the same one that initiated the Presidential Advisory Committee. Today, we will be covering three areas in our discussion.
First, we will present a brief overview of CIA's role in determining whether there was possible chemical and biological agent exposure. In doing this, we will endeavor to clarify the contribution of intelligence to this issue, and define for you the scope of our current study.
Second, we will provide you with some of
our preliminary assessments on key areas related to our current study of possible troop exposure, including the presence, use and fallout of chemical and biological agent in the Kuwaiti theater of operations.
Finally, we will close with some of our plans for the future on this issue.
First, let me define CIA's role. The CIA has long followed Iraq's chemical and biological program as part of its mission to assess CW and BW proliferation. Before the Gulf War, we assessed that Iraq had a significant CW and BW capability, including chemically armed SCUDS and had used chemical weapons on numerous occasions against Iran and its own citizens.
After the invasion of Kuwait, we assessed that Iraq had probably forward deployed chemical weapons and would use them in a variety of circumstances. At that time, we assessed biological weapons probably filled with the agents anthrax and botulinum toxin would be used only as a last resort.
At the start of the air war and continuing to the end of Desert Storm, the DI's Office of Scientific and Weapons Research established a 24hour chemical and biological watch office. These analysts screened incoming intelligence for evidence of chemical or biological weapons use and followed every SCUD launch. Although there were many initial reports of chemical weapons use, subsequent follow-up never provided confirmation and often yielded plausible explanations unrelated to CW.
Soon after the war, we published assessments concluding that Iraq had readied its forces to use chemical weapons, decided to move them out of the theater prior to the war, and then never used them.
We are reviewing intelligence reporting and other intelligence holdings in parallel with DOD's Persian Gulf Investigative Team. Our study is a detailed investigation into intelligence information, not troop testimony, medical records or operational loss, and our conclusions are our own. The CIA's effort does not seek to duplicate that of DOD, however, CIA analysts draw upon and examine DOD information to clarify intelligence, to obtain leads, and to ensure thorough and comprehensive intelligence assessment.
CIA and the investigative team continue to coordinate our work as recommended by the Advisory Committee on its interim report. We informed the
investigative team of relevant information on potential chemical or biological exposure for follow-up. Likewise, the investigative team shares relevant results that aid our study. For example, we told the investigative team last fall that some incidents from veterans' complaints involving burning sensations correlated to known SCUD attacks could be explained as exposure to the leftover red fuming nitric acid, a component of SCUD propellant. The investigative team has subsequently been studying this area, as mentioned in past hearings.
Our study involves two areas; research and
focussed investigations. We have reviewed thousands of intelligence documents. Intelligence reports that relate to possible chemical and biological weapons use, exposure or location are scrutinized to determine their credibility and whether follow-up is warranted.
In addition, we have expanded and more fully documented our assessments of Iraqi chemical, biological, and radiological warfare capabilities at the start of desert storm. Using this research base, an investigation is then made into each of the key areas; use, exposure, and location, and specific areas are examined when possible leads are found. This is a tedious but necessary process to assure that our study is comprehensive.
Now, I will discuss some of our preliminary results. Regarding use. To date, we have no intelligence information that leads us to conclude that Iraq used chemical, biological or radiological weapons. Regarding exposure. With the exception of one soldier, Sergeant Fisher, which was discussed in Atlanta and mentioned again this morning, we have seen no evidence that would make us conclude that anyone was exposed to CW agents at levels that caused easily identified symptoms.
In the 1980s, such symptoms were seen frequently in the Iranian victims of CW use. Mustard use resulted in large blisters on the victim's skin and mass deaths were seen from Iraqi nerve agent use.
Regarding exposure due to fallout. On the basis of all available information, we conclude that coalition bombing resulted in damage to filled CW munitions at only two facilities; the Muhammadiyat storage area and the storage area at Al Muthanna chemical site.
We have found no information that Iraqi casualties occurred as a result of CW agent release due to bombing. This is probably due to the remoteness of these two facilities. The Muhammadiyat and Al Muthanna sites are both over 30 kilometers from the nearest Iraqi towns and 60 and 100 kilometers respectively to the nearest Iraqi towns in the general direction of Saudi Arabia. Both facilities were over 400 kilometers from the nearest position of coalition troops that were in Saudi Arabia, and you can see this on the map. It is also Al Muthanna, which is the closest, is 80 kilometers from Baghdad. Muhammadiyat is also known as Kuvasa [phonetic.]
In most cases, the Iraqis did not store CW or BW munitions in bunkers that they
believed we would target. The Iraqis stored many of the CW
munitions in the open to protect them from coalition detection and bombing. In addition, all known CW agent and precursor production lines were either inactive or had been dismantled by the start of the air campaign.
As we elaborated in Atlanta, we are utilizing fallout models to ascertain the exact nature of the contaminated area that could have resulted from bombing of Iraqi chemical and biological facilities. As part of this, we will continue to assess the potential down-wind hazards that could have resulted from the bombing of Muhammadiyat and the Al Muthanna storage facilities.
Regarding Czech detections. On the basis of the equipment and the detection methods used, we believe the Czechs likely detected low levels of nerve agent on 19 January 1991 and found mustard agent on 24 January. The source of both nerve agent and mustard agent remains unknown. Bunkers at An Nasiriyah Storage Depot were thought to be a potential source. However, we do not have any evidence that CW munitions were in the bunkers bombed on 17 January. In addition, modeling to date rules out the possibility that any fallout from those bunkers bombed on 17 January at An Nasiriyah could reach the test detectors.
Regarding deployment of chemical and
biological munitions. With one possible exception, we have no evidence that would make us conclude that munitions were deployed in the Kuwaiti theater of operations. The exception is a large rear ammunition storage area about 20 kilometers southeast of An Nasiriyah, Iraq, near the northern boundary of the Kuwaiti theater of operations. The Tall al Lahm Ammunition Storage Area, also called Comisiah Storage Depot by Iraq, was first inspected by the U.N. Special Commission in October 1991. They found chemical munitions, including 122 millimeter nerve agent rockets and 155 millimeter artillery rounds.
UNSCOM found the chemical munitions in at least two locations. At a pit area, UNSCOM found several hundred mostly intact 122 millimeter rockets containing nerve agent. The nerve agent was detected by sampling and with the CAMs. The second location was five kilometers from the facility, so it was outside the actual storage depot. There they found 6,000 intact 155 millimeter rounds containing mustard agent, as indicated by the CAMs. A probable third location was a single bunker, a bunker called Bunker 73 by Iraq, that contained 122 millimeter rockets.
Iraq claimed the rockets were originally filled with nerve agent. However, there is some uncertainty as to whether the rockets actually contained agents because there was no sampling or positive CAM readings. In March 1992, UNSCOM returned and destroyed about 500 nerve agent filled rockets at the site. Elements of the 37th Engineering Battalion attached to the 82nd Airborne Division, also performed demolition of munitions at this facility a year earlier.
We are working with the DOD investigative team to resolve whether sarin-filled rockets were destroyed at Bunker 73 and whether some U.S.
personnel could have been exposed to chemical agents. Details on the chemical weapons found by UNSCOM at Tall al Lahm provide the only credible information to date on the deployment of such weapons in the theater.
Regarding unusual agents. We have looked at all of the biological and chemical agents attributed to Iraq's programs and have found none designed to cause the most common long-term symptoms exhibited by ill Gulf War veterans. However, we have an incomplete understanding of some Iraqi agents. We include with our submission a table of the biological agents declared by Iraq, symptoms known to be caused by these agents and possible Iraqi intentions for use of these agents.
As you will see, all of these agents were
intended to cause rapid death or incapacitation with the possible exception of aflatoxin. The only documented effect of aflatoxin in humans is production of liver cancer months to years after it is ingested. Effects of aerosolized aflatoxin are unknown. UNSCOM has Iraqi statements and documents that indicate that aflatoxin was looked at for its long-term carcinogenic effects and that testing also showed that large concentrations of it caused death within days. We have no information that would make us conclude that Iraq used aflatoxin or that it was released in the atmosphere due to bombing.
Regarding radiological weapons. Although Iraq conducted research on radiological weapons, we assessed they never progressed into the developmental phase. Small quantities of radioactive material were released during tests in areas north of Baghdad. These tests took place two years before the Gulf War and any radioactivity from those tests would have decayed away by that time. In addition, Iraqi nuclear facilities bombed during the Gulf War produced only minimal contamination north of the Kuwaiti theater of operations with no releases detected beyond those facilities.
We plan to complete our study in the coming months and publish an open report later this year. In the interim, if we find any definitive information pointing to chemical or biological agent exposures or impacting significantly on the issue of Gulf War veterans' illnesses, we will work with the Department of Defense to announce those findings.
CHAIR LASHOF: Thank you very much. Are there questions?
MR. RIOS: Those two bombings that you referred to in your map, what were the dates of those bombings, do you know?
MS. COPELAND: No. I don't know off the top of my head the dates of those bombings. I am sure the DOD investigative team--
MR. RIOS: It might be good to know because, you know, did it occur before the January detections that we have been hearing a lot about?
MR. TURNER: The information we have is
that they occurred before those detections.
MS. COPELAND: What we plan on doing, however, is looking at all of the available information and determining exactly how much agent
we believe could have been in each one of the bunkers and what type of agent, and the weather conditions at that time, and do modeling to predict the down-wind hazard that could have resulted in the bombing of those two facilities.
DR. CAPLAN: I am curious about what you have been able to establish about the decision to deploy in the battlefield theater some of these chemical or biological agents, aside from things that might have been hid or stored or drifted down from distant bombing. Do you have any information about decisions to put, say, mines or other types of agents in the battlefield?
MS. COPELAND: We have not identified any chemical mines in the Iraqi arsenal. We haven't found anything deployed there. The only credible information that anything below the 31st parallel is Tall al Lahm.
CHAIR LASHOF: Mark?
DR. BROWN: In that first transparency that you put up, you mentioned that there are just the two sites that have been identified as having been bombed that contained filled munitions and those were the sites--I will probably pronounce it wrong--Muhammadiyat and Al Muthanna?
MS. COPELAND: Uh-huh, right.
DR. BROWN:DR. BROWN: I have two questions. Is there any significance to the part about filled munitions? Our general question is were there any other sites? Does your intelligence analysis tell
you that there were no additional sites that had either filled munitions or bulk storage or chemical agents, chemical weapon agents of any type, that were bombed?
MS. COPELAND: There were other sites that contained munitions that were not filled, and there were other sites that contained bulk agent. However, those two sites are the only sites that we have identified that had any sort of agent that was damaged. Even the bulk containers we have no information that any of them were damaged. But there were unfilled munitions, so that is why you hear filled chemical munitions.
DR. BROWN: Were there sites that had bulk agents that were bombed regardless of whether it was damaged or not?
MS. COPELAND: Al Muthanna had bulk agent containers.
DR. BROWN: They were bombed, but the analysis is that the containers weren't damaged.
MS. COPELAND: The containers weren't
DR. BROWN: Just as a follow-up question, you mentioned you are doing atmospheric modeling or something on the two sites that did contain the Muhammadiyat and Al Muthanna sites. You are doing atmospheric modeling to see how far a plume might have moved out of this particular sites, for instance?
MS. COPELAND: That is correct.
DR. BROWN: Do you have a date for when that might be completed?
MS. COPELAND: I don't.
DR. BROWN: Weeks or months?
MS. COPELAND: It takes six to seven weeks to do a model, and that depends on how easy
to get the atmospheric weather information that we need. We, also, are going to do some other facilities that were asked for in the Atlanta testimony. So it is hard to tell. We are gathering the information right now from the Atlanta. We haven't run any of those models yet
because we haven't gathered any of the information. So it is hard for me to predict
DR. BROWN: Thanks.
DR. CAPLAN: One other question. I am right in saying that the Iraqis did deploy chemical agents against the Kurds and, again, in the IranIraq war.
MS. COPELAND: Correct.
DR. CAPLAN: Do we have any knowledge about their patterns of deployment in so doing, in other words, specialized units sent out some percentage of people on the front lines armed with weapons? What is the mode of deployment from those experiences that the CIA knows about?
MS. COPELAND: We do know how they deployed them. I think what is more important for some of the discussion here is the types of markings or lack thereof that were on those munitions. To our knowledge, there were no stripes or any markings on the Iraqi chemical munitions. There were some munitions that were identified at Tall al Lahm that had "gaz" on it, which is an Arabic word for gas. It appeared to be written rather quickly and sloppily. That is the only indication of any markings on Iraqi chemical munitions.
DR. CAPLAN: How about units, trained or knowledgeable, front line, back line, brought up?
MS. COPELAND: From what we can ascertain,
the reason for those not having any markings was so that even the units wouldn't know what they were firing.
MR. TURNER: Ms. Copeland, you testified that chemical munitions were deployed in the Kuwaiti theater of operations at Tall al Lahm, specifically, the 122 millimeter sarin rockets that were found in the pit and the 6,000 155 millimeter artillery shells that contained mustard. So CIA agrees, does it not, that there were, in fact, chemical munitions in the Kuwaiti theater of operation?
MS. COPELAND: Yes, there were chemical weapons in the Kuwaiti theater of operation at that facility. It is a real ammunition depot, and there were hundreds of bunker at that facility. So it is a large rear-area depot, but it did happen to fall just beneath the 31st parallel.
MR. TURNER: The other area of your
testimony I would like to talk to you about is related to Comisiah, which is also called Tall al Lahm, so that there is no confusion.
Your testimony indicates that the 37th Engineering Battalion destroyed Bunker 73 at
Comisiah or Tall al Lahm; is that correct?
MS. COPELAND: That is the information that we have obtained from DOD. That is correct.
MR. TURNER: And that Bunker 73 at
Comisiah may have contained 122 millimeter rockets that were filled with sarin. Is that also correct?
MS. COPELAND: That is correct. They
contained 122 millimeter rockets, that we have confirmed. Whether or not they have actually contained the nerve agent sarin we have not been able to confirm.
MR. TURNER: The Iraqis have stated that they did; is that not correct?
MS. COPELAND: That is correct.
MR. TURNER: So there is a possibility, and you were here when Colonel Martin testified,
that some of the 3- or 4,000 U.S. soldiers in that vicinity may have been exposed to some
level of sarin from that demolition; is that correct?
MS. COPELAND: There is a possibility, depending upon where they were located, and what the weather conditions were, and if there was nerve agent in those rockets.
MR. TURNER: All of those questions are ones that are included in the investigations that you and the PGIT team are conducting of this; is that correct?
MS. COPELAND: That is correct. What we are doing is looking at ascertaining whether or not there were actually nerve agent and then, again, we will do our modeling, once we obtain the weather conditions during that time and give them to the DOD investigative team.
MR. TURNER: And PGIT is working on the troops that were in the area and those kinds of questions.
MS. COPELAND: That is correct. Right. That is their responsibility.
MR. TURNER: Thank you. That is all I have.
CHAIR LASHOF: Thank you very much. Just one brief question on the Czech. You have also agreed that the Czech test is valid.
MS. COPELAND: That is correct.
CHAIR LASHOF: Have you any thoughts or is there any way CIA will investigate where that gas might have come from, since one of the key issues is, well, if it is there, where did it come from?
MS. COPELAND: Unfortunately, we haven't
been able to ascertain the exact source that enabled those detectors to go off. So we don't know where it came from either.
CHAIR LASHOF: Do you know whether the Czechs have tried to identify and whether they have come up with any theories about it or not?
MS. COPELAND: I don't know.
CHAIR LASHOF: Have we asked them?
MS. COPELAND: I am not sure.
CHAIR LASHOF: It might be a good idea. Are there any other questions?
CHAIR LASHOF: If not, thank you very much. We appreciate your testimony. I think the
committee and probably the audience have noticed that we have gone through our break
period, and we are only 45 minutes beyond the break period, and we have one more panel to
hear from. My suggestion is we sort of stand up for five minutes and stretch a little and
go right on. If people have to take other breaks, take it at your discretion.
[Break taken from 3:53 p.m. to 4 p.m.] CHAIR LASHOF: Our last panel for the day.
Thank you for your patience. Mr. Mark Gebicke and
Mr. Michael Moodie, and you are joined with?
MR. GEBICKE: Mr. Bill Cawood, also with the General Accounting Office.
CHAIR LASHOF: Very good. I think we are ready to go ahead. You are going to talk to us on the effectiveness of our defense measures.
MR. GEBICKE: Yes, I am, Madam Chairwoman, and we appreciate the opportunity to be here this afternoon with you and the committee.
We issued a report about 30 days ago entitled, "Chemical and Biological Defense. Emphasis Remains Insufficient to Resolve Continuing Problems." And in that report we examined the capability of early deploying Army and Marine Corps ground forces to fight and survive in a biologically and chemically contaminated battlefield. One of the reasons that we took on this effort was because of the general lack of preparedness when our troops arrived in the Persian Gulf during Desert Shield.
As you probably are aware, many of our troops arrived without the needed protection
equipment. They were not adequately trained when they first arrived. We did not have plans
to vaccinate personnel. Medical units lacked equipment. They also lacked the training, and
our forces worked very hard over the six months they had during Desert Shield to better
prepare themselves for the offensive, which began.
What we wanted to do, and the reason for our study, was to find out how much improvement has been made since the Persian Gulf conflict. OSD recently came out with a report, actually, just in April, and the report was entitled, "Proliferation, Threat, and Response." And it warns of a new threat, and it warns of a threat of chemical and biological agents being used by an increasing number of potential enemies to the United States. The bottom line of that report is that, unlike the Cold War era, our potential enemies, according to the OSD, would be apt to use these chemical and biological agents against us, and these rogue nations can see the application of these agents as an opportunity to gain power or stature as well as confidence.
Now, where are our troops right now as far as fighting in this type of a contaminated
environment? They certainly have improved since the Persian Gulf, but the emphasis remains
insufficient to resolve many of the problems that existed during the Persian Gulf. Early
deploying units faced many of the same problems that we had when we first deployed to the
Persian Gulf. They lacked defensive equipment. They are inadequately trained. Medical
units have shortfalls in equipment and training, and there is insufficient vaccine stocks,
and DOD does not have an implementation plan for the immunization policy, which was passed
several years ago.
Now why is this? Well, very simply stated, what we found is that there is an inconsistent and a generally lower priority assigned to this particular area, particularly by the joint chiefs and the CINCs. The reason is that it is not that this area is considered a low threat or a low priority. It is indeed considered a high
priority. But the DOD tells us that they have so many high priorities on their plate, this is not one of the high priorities that they can get to.
Now, what I would like to do is I would
like to go through each of the four areas that I mentioned earlier and briefly explain to you how we come to those conclusions and, first, I would like to talk about the insufficient chemical and biological defense equipment. After the Gulf War, the Army issued regulations which indicated how much individual protection equipment each unit was required to have. We went to five active Divisions in the Army and reserve Division and the five active Divisions in the Army are those Divisions that comprise the quick response teams. So they are the first to go, so it is very important that they be ready.
The first slide that Bill is going to put up shows the critical shortage of personal equipment and gear. If you take a look at the left column, it indicates the things that you were talking about earlier this afternoon; the suits, the gloves, the overshoes, the helmets, hoods, filters. The numbers indicate by Divisions A through E how short each of those Divisions were of equipment when we made our field visits within the last eight months. Clearly, for suits, you can see Divisions A, B, and E were short at least 50 percent on suits on hand, and you can go on down the line, but I think you see the situation that we found when we arrived.
The interesting thing to keep in mind about this chart is that this is not a huge money problem. All of these shortages could be solved with $15 million. Now to you and I $15 million is a lot of money, but to the DOD $15 million is not a lot of money to fill these shortages. Now why hasn't the equipment been purchased? Well, what we find is, typically, this equipment is purchased through the Operations and Maintenance Account, and the Operations and Maintenance Account is an account where the commander has a lot of
flexibility as to how that money is actually spent. So it can be budgeted to buy this equipment, but if he or she feels that there are stronger needs at the time, the money can be diverted, and, indeed, that is what we found. It was being diverted to base operations activities, operations other than war that are not funded in advance in the DOD budget, and also to quality of life considerations, those things that make the soldiers, sailors, and airmen feel better today.
Now, there has been some progress, and I want to talk now to unit equipment, and we had
a lengthy discussion earlier this afternoon about the capabilities of the Fox vehicle. I
am going to point to the Fox vehicle as probably one of the successes. The Fox vehicle was
first deployed in the Persian Gulf. We currently have in excess of 100 of those in
inventory. We are due to receive about another 100 of those. We have another vehicle--and
Fox is just for chemical, as you heard--we have another vehicle called the biological
integrated detection system, which is for the detection of biological agents. The first
unit was delivered in January of this year. We are
expecting to have 38 of those units delivered by September of this year, and I am not really sure exactly how many are going to be acquired on the it is called BIDS for short.
There have been some areas where there have been some difficulties. I want to mention those briefly. There is something called an Advanced Chemical Agent Detector Alarm. You were talking earlier about the M8A1. This is a replacement for that unit, and this has been in development and in research since 1978.
We, also, don't have a less corrosive way to decontaminate very sensitive interior areas, such as the interior of a tank, a Bradley fighting vehicle, an aircraft, housing units, if they need to be decontaminated, and we don't have a way to decontaminate large areas, such as airfields or ports. So these are some areas where we haven't made quite as much progress.
Now, there have been some efforts to improve the coordination of chemical and
biological doctrine, and requirements, and research and development. A couple committees
have been established, actually, called the Joint Service Integration Group and the Joint
Service Material Group. Basically, these two groups are established the first to determine
what doctrine, tasks, and procedures should be used, and the second, the material group,
to try to figure out what best equipment can then be procured through research and
development to take care of the way that you are going to go about protecting yourself in
this type of an environment.
But what we found, also, is it is going to be at least 1998 before acquisitions would begin to appear in the budget coming out of the work that these two groups are conducting.
Let's turn to the training and the adequacy of the training of the Army and the Marine forces. This continues to be a problem. DOD studies since 1986, and we really focused on studies since 1991 because that was since the Persian Gulf, continue to point out that the forces are not adequately trained, and we find this to be still true today. The next slide shows you for the Army the 5th and the 2nd Army different types of tasks on the left margin. You can see right here actually putting on the protective mask, and we heard Gunnery Sergeant Grass talk about putting on a protective mask.
Well, there are certain procedures that you follow when you put a mask on. You just don't put it on. You have got to make sure it is airtight. You want to try to communicate through the mask. They are even asked to attempt to drink fluids. You want to have a tight seal, and all of those things are timed. They have to do that within a certain period of time because, like he said earlier, if they hear those words, "gas, gas, gas," you don't want to mess around. You want to get that thing on.
Decontamination is another item that everybody should be trained, a very basic task,
and what they are looking for there is how well they can decontaminate themselves, get rid
of that equipment or that clothing they have on that is
contaminated, get into uncontaminated clothing or to help others decontaminate themselves.
And then there is preparing for a chemical attack and responding, preparing, setting out your detectors around the perimeter, making sure that your communications are established, making sure that you have places where you are going to decontaminate the troops if the chemical or biological agents come, and then, finally, responding, you know, how well do you react when you have been hit with a chemical or biological agent.
The percentages there indicate the
percentages of units which were inadequately trained in 1994 and 1995 in donning protective masks. Active units 39 percent, two out of every five units were not adequately trained to put on their masks, probably the simplest procedure out there. The 5th Army, 50 percent, and I won't go through the whole chart with you, but, obviously, you are asking yourself why is this? Well, one reason is that these skills are very, very difficult to teach and to train. They take time. They are very cumbersome pieces of equipment to wear. They are very hot, difficult to communicate, nobody likes to do it, and the skills are also very perishable because you have a lot of turnover in the units, and so you can get your whole unit up and trained and be very diligent about it as a commander, but three or four months from now you might have had a 10 percent or 15 percent turnover and, unless you continue with the training, you are not trained the way you were before those new people came to your unit.
The next slide that I want to show you shows the amount of training that takes place in joint exercises, which are operated by the various commands. On the left, you will see the Central Command, the European Command, the Pacific Command, and the USA Command. If you look at this column right here, in 1995, CENTCOM had 88 joint training exercises, meaning where at least two services were involved, and of those 88, two of them involved exercises where chemical or biological tasks were required.
EUCOM 57 held seven contained tasks. One caveat I would, also, mention because we were very conservative in compiling this chart, there actually are 23 specific tasks that units are trained to. If they train to one of those 23, we gave them credit in the exercises including chemical and biological tasks. None of those exercises that included chemical and biological tasks included all 23 tasks. Most of them included fewer than half, to give you an idea.
I would like to talk now a little bit about Army medical units and the equipment and
training issues with regard to these units.
The next slide will show you two types of items that are pretty typical for medical units to have in their possession. Patient treatment kits and patient decontamination kits. Now these kits contain things like drugs, chemicals for decontamination, suction apparatuses, airways, gloves, scissors, aprons, all of those types of things that you would want if you had to first
decontaminate patients and then possibly treat those same patients.
Again, the numbers indicate the shortages by percentage in the units that we went to,
and that is on the far right column would be the percent short. The requirements. Division
A was required to have 45 patient treatment kits. They were missing 17. They were short
38. So you can very quickly see, by just looking at the right-hand column, that we are
short medical equipment in our early deploying units. These are the units that go first.
Now about training? For physicians, there are at least three courses. One is a basic medical course, and that is required. Basically, everybody is required to take that. There are two other classes, and one is called the Officer Advanced Course and the other Casualty Management Course, which are not required, but certainly get into advanced concepts and advanced information about dealing with patients or managing patients in a contaminated environment. This bar graph would indicate for you by Division, again, the percentage of physicians who have attended the Officer Advanced Course, and that is the light blue, and the Casualty Management Course, the dark blue. So you can see, even in Divisions B and C, fewer than 50 percent of the physicians had attended either one of those two courses.
Now, interestingly enough, what we found, of these four Divisions, and you probably could read this in the chart, B and C Divisions emphasize training by their physicians much more than Divisions A and D. It shows up in the statistics. So that goes back to our theme. It was a matter of emphasis where we went.
The Army right now doesn't monitor which physicians do attend and which ones do not
attend these classes, and that is one of the recommendations that we make in the report.
We believe that they should do that.
We, also, found that there was little training provided on casualty decontamination. Indeed, we found there was some confusion in the field as to who should provide the casualty decontamination. Our understanding is, for the most part, where decontamination can be done by the tactical unit, that is where it should be done.
My final area I would like to talk about
briefly is vaccine stocks and immunization plans. Now, as you probably know through earlier testimony, at the beginning of the Gulf War, DOD had not established adequate policies and procedures for vaccines; that is, which ones, who was going to receive the vaccines, and when would they receive the vaccines. This caused various delays and, also, various vaccines were not given to our troops until about four weeks before the ground offensive began. Now, depending upon the agent and depending upon the vaccine that is used, it sometimes takes--it does take longer than four weeks for some of those vaccines to become fully effective. In the case of anthrax, we understand it can take up to a year for the full effect.
Sufficient protection wasn't provided
because of that and most of the vaccines you need
at least six to twelve weeks is what we found and, obviously, they only had four. Now,
DOD has given additional attention to this area over the last four or five years. In
November of 1993, as I mentioned earlier, they have established policies,
responsibilities, and procedures for stockpiling vaccines and determining which personnel
should be immunized and when.
But there is something I want to make sure I emphasize here. DOD does not yet, today, have an implementation plan for this policy. So the implementation plan would tell individuals specifically who would be vaccinated, when they would be vaccinated, and with what, and that plan is not yet in existence, and from where we sit, in the conversations we have had with DOD, they are quite a long way from having a full implementation plan that is going to be enacted.
There is an issue, too, of vaccines that have been approved by the FDA, and three of the vaccines have been approved by the FDA. The remainder of the vaccines are investigational new drugs, and I know you are probably aware of the situation we have with that because I read your interim report, and the situation there is that informed consent, except in times of war deployment, and then with the proper procedures and the proper approvals, that can be waived, as it was earlier.
We made ten very specific recommendations to the DOD, and I am only going to mention one of them to you. We concluded and recommended that the only way these problems are going to be resolved is if DOD gives more emphasis to this area.
Now, we did not say DOD should give more emphasis to this area. We felt that is a decision that the DOD needs to make, and they are in the best position to make that, given all of the other things that they need to worry about.
But we were convinced that these problems are not going to be corrected unless the emphasis is increased rather significantly. We made a whole host of very specific recommendations that we think will improve their ability to defend themselves in this environment, regardless of the emphasis that they decide to give it. These are things they can do right now. We don't have to wait to decide whether or not they want to emphasize this area more, and I would close by saying that the DOD agreed with our findings in our report. As you probably are aware, every agency has an opportunity to comment on our draft reports before we issue them in final, and they concurred with all but one recommendation in the report, and it was not one of the more significant recommendations we made.
Thank you, Madam Chairwoman. We would be
glad to respond to any of your questions later. CHAIR LASHOF: Thank you very much. Why
don't we move ahead and hear from Michael Moodie, and then we will come back.
MR. MOODIE: Thank you, Madam Chair. I appreciate the opportunity to make a presentation before the committee. I do so neither as a scientist nor as a doctor nor as a soldier. I offer my observations as someone whose professional career has focused on international security issues
with special attention most recently to arms control and nonproliferation related to chemical and biological weapons.
I hope I can provide some useful insights into the broader context within which the work of this committee is embedded.
I have been asked to address the lessons that the United States should learn regarding chemical and biological weapons from the Gulf War experience and the March 1995 terrorist attack in Tokyo.
My basic message is twofold. First, potential use of chemical or biological weapons, either by states or nonstate actors is a real and growing threat. A concern about that threat must extend beyond the relatively small community currently working on the issue to include the senior policymakers, whose interests in this issue has tended to be episodic at best.
Second, to combat the threat effectively, no single policy instrument, including effective defenses, will suffice. The challenge is to give ourselves as many policy tools as possible, ensure that each individual tool operates as effectively as possible, and perhaps most importantly, make all of those tools at our disposal work together strategically toward the same objectives.
If we are to respond effectively to the challenges of chemical and biological weapons,
we must first change the way we think about the proliferation problem. Most importantly,
and I have may be accused of being parochial in this, we must overcome our nuclear
fixation. Although the implications of the spread of nuclear weapons are enormous, nuclear
proliferation issues have so dominated the agenda that other aspects of the problem have
received far less attention than they deserved. Yet, those other aspects are potentially
as consequential and perhaps more imminent than the use of nuclear weapons.
Chemical and biological weapons issues, in my view, fall into this category. To appreciate the nuclear issues private place within the general community, one need only look at the giving patterns of those foundations still interested in international security issues to realize that the nonproliferation money available is overwhelmingly directed toward work on nuclear questions.
Policymakers demonstrate a similar
perspective or perhaps tunnel vision. My government experience suggests that the time senior policymakers spend on nuclear proliferation issues far outweigh that which they devote to chemical and biological ones.
We also do ourselves a disservice in lumping these issues together as weapons of mass destruction. Nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons pose unique challenges. Discussing them all as weapons of mass destruction suggests that a policy approach that works in managing one aspect of the problem will work for others, not necessarily.
Changing our mindset also requires paying more attention to motivations and the
decisionmaking processes of proliferators both at the state and substate level. Iraq,
North Korea, and other
states of proliferation concern have pursued different weapons of mass destruction programs simultaneously. So, in fact, did the Aum Shinrikyo in Japan. Why? Are there new motives that push these actors to exploit new means of violence? Their programs certainly do not reflect simple choices. Although it is admittedly difficult to secure information regarding decision making in many countries or to determine the reasons why a dictatorial ruler of a nation or a cult chooses to do what he does, greater effort must be directed toward more systematic examination of motives and decision-making processes.
Let me illustrate by looking at the substate level. A major question raised by the Tokyo attack is why terrorist groups have not used such weapons before. Chemical weapons technology is more than 80 years old. Modern biological weapons were first developed 60 years ago. The science involved in developing these capabilities is not beyond the grasp of many people with reasonable scientific backgrounds. What is the reason for the relative self-restraint the terrorist groups have demonstrated in the past?
The fact that Aum Shinrikyo was the first
substate actor to use chemical weapons provides, perhaps, a clue to the answer. The Aum
is not a group like those that emerged in the late 1960s and 1970s, such as the IRA, the
Basque separatists or militant Palestinians. These groups resorted to terror to achieve
specific political objectives. An important part of their approach was to claim
responsibility for particular incidents, sending a message that similar incidents would
occur in the future if the desired action were not taken by the target government.
Their weapons of choice were those favored by terrorists throughout history; the gun and the bomb. The Aum's actions in Japan had none of these features. In not claiming responsibility for the subway tragedy, the attack was not tied to any desired government response or concrete objective. The attack appeared more as an act of random violence than a political undertaking, more intended to be indiscriminate and injure as many people as possible. But the Aum Shinrikyo is a new kind of terrorist group, I would suggest, a hybrid of bizarre religious cult and criminal organization willing to use violence, including weapons of mass destruction, just to harm society.
The appearance of groups such as these are a new challenge to our intelligence officials and our law enforcement officials, a phenomenon with which they do not necessarily have much experience. This may be one reason that the Aum, with tens of thousands of members spread across several countries as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in assets, did not receive much attention before the Tokyo attack.
A critical first step, therefore, is to learn better what are the characteristics of these new groups, whether millenarian, driven by ethnic hatred or religious extremism, and how such groups think, their values, and the factors involved in the decisions they make.
While changing the mindset is a first step
in an environment of limited budgets, when priorities have to be set and trade-offs made, we must also develop an integrated strategic approach that focuses all available policy tools on the objectives of deterring CBW proliferation and, should deterrence fail, defending effectively against them.
Such a strategy must be sensitive to the balance between instruments and the fact that they can sometimes work at cross purposes. In addition, each of the elements that should be incorporated into an integrated strategy needs to be strengthened, adapted, or refurbished. Let me highlight a few of the key issues of interest to the committee.
In my oral remarks, I focus only on a couple of those instruments; intelligence and defense programs that might be of special interest here, but it is important not to forget that other policy tools are mentioned in the written statement I submitted. Export controls, arms controls and military options must also be integrated into a multifaceted nonproliferation strategy.
First, with respect to intelligence. Intelligence support for chemical and biological nonproliferation is both vital and difficult. The challenge is significant, especially in the realm of biological weapons. BW facilities have no distinctive signatures that facilitate the use of national technical means for identification. Many of the activities involved in an illegal offensive BW program are exactly the same as those that might be involved in defensive work.
The first task, therefore, must be to improve the ability to identify the extent and
nature of the proliferation program. In this regard, the failure to understand the full
dimension of Iraq's chemical and biological programs has been the source of some concern.
The biggest intelligence coups with
respect both to Iraq and to Russia's illicit BW programs, for example, have not been the result of national intelligence efforts, but the product of defectors.
Intelligence in support of military operations is also crucial. In some cases during Desert Storm, Iraqi WMD facilities were not destroyed during the air war because the coalition was not aware of their existence. One new issue in this regard that has recently surfaced is whether national intelligence requirements will be subordinated to military operational and tactical intelligence needs. The concern among some intelligence professionals is that, as intelligence budgets continue to be cut and limited human and technical assets are assigned more tasks, the military will lay claim to intelligence assets for their specific purposes that will not then be available for addressing broader national needs, such as known proliferation.
Given the difficulties of nonproliferation intelligence, as many sources as possible
must be brought to bear on the problem. This imperative militates for greater
international cooperation in the intelligence arena. But concerns exist about the extent
to which the United States can and
should share its intelligence with other states or international organizations concerned with preventing chemical and biological proliferation.
The United States, however, has developed
some acceptable methods of intelligence sharing with the United Nations Special
Commission on Iraq, which may serve as useful precedence.
Effective defenses are critical components in an integrated strategic response to the threat of chemical and biological weapons for at least two reasons.
First, defenses can work with other policy tools to promote deterrence. To the extent that effective defenses can help convince potential proliferators that their use of chemical and biological weapons will not achieve their desired goals, then the proliferator will be less inclined to go down the path in the first place.
Second, should deterrence fail, defenses are essential to protect the lives of soldiers on the battlefield and innocent people in the event of terrorism. Chemical and biological defense programs, of course, have several dimensions, some of which, as we have already heard, are not uncontroversial.
Medical and scientific research is one area in which ongoing work could pay good dividends. A recent workshop sponsored by the institute with which I am affiliated on BW issues in Budapest identified work in genetic engineering, protein engineering, cellular membrane, and biophysics and fermentation cell culture issues as particularly important.
A medical priority that several analysts and policy officials believe is crucial in the years ahead is strengthening epidemiological surveillance capabilities.
One question that researchers must address is the balance they will strike between investigation of traditional threats and exploration of novel challenges. In the chemical arena, this question is highlighted by allegations of Russian development of a new chemical agent called Novachov [phonetic]. In the biological arena, most biological defense research is conducted on those agents sometimes called "the dirty dozen" that have been traditionally identified as potentially effective for use in weapons.
What UNSCOM uncovered about Baghdad's anthrax and botulin um toxin efforts was not surprising. People were surprised, however, by Iraq's work on some agents that either were never considered for their potential as biological weapons or were not considered particularly promising. A case in point is camel pox, which has not been considered especially threatening to humans. Did the Iraqis know something we did not? Were they pursuing a wildly inappropriate option? Or was it merely the case that, as one UNSCOM inspector described it, the Iraqis investigated camel pox only because one of the people who was brought into their program happened to be an expert on camel pox?
Whether camel pox will make a good biological weapons agent is not really the question
here. The issue is the recognition that there are thousands of agents that might be investigated for their potential use as biological weapons. What is the balance that we should draw between our continuing efforts to understand and combat traditional biological weapons agents and our need to hedge against surprise?
Another dilemma in shaping a medical scientific research program is the balance of investment that must be drawn in focusing on effective defenses for troops in the field in pursuing efforts to defend civilian populations. Even in military situations, civilians working in areas of significance--ports, logistic centers and airfields, for example--could be attractive targets for chemical and biological attack. Their situation underlines the fact that these weapons do not need to produce massive casualties to be strategic in impact. If chemical or biological attacks against civilians at Saudi ports had shut down those facilities, it would have been much more difficult to assemble and support the large number of forces that made Desert Storm possible.
Protection of civilians is also the
essence of responding to terrorist attacks. It has been argued in the wake of the Tokyo subway incident that civil defense for these situations has not received the level of support it deserves. It has only been since the Tokyo attack that U.S. domestic authorities at the federal, state, and local levels have begun to work together to determine their needs in the event of a chemical or biological weapons attack.
A major conference on chemical and biological terrorism sponsored by my institute just two days ago reinforced the view that much more can and should be done particularly to ensure that first responders are properly prepared, equipped and trained.
An issue that straddles research and operations relates to medical defenses or medical preparedness of military forces. A central question in this area is the future of work on and production of vaccines for use with troops in combat environments. I will not repeat the comments of the earlier speaker.
CHAIR LASHOF: It would help for you to try to wrap up now.
MR. MOODIE: Yes. Thank you, Chair. In terms of adequate military
preparedness, the perception that the ability to operate in a biologically or chemically contaminated environment was inadequate was fostered, again, by the results of Global '95, a major war game played in the summer of 1995 at the Naval War College in Newport. The good news was that awareness of the problem had grown to the extent that, for the first time, chemical and biological dimensions were incorporated into the game scenario. The bad news is that doctrine and operational planning for such contingencies were found lacking.
By way of conclusion, Madam Chair, no one policy tool or policy approach, including defenses, will provide the total answer. They must all be made to work together and must be kept in good
repair maximizing its strength and minimizing its weakness. To me, that is the fundamental lesson of the Gulf War and the Tokyo subway attack.
The United States has many of the appropriate tools for combating the challenge or is attempting to develop them. The Gulf War and the Tokyo attack have helped to put the issue of chemical and biological weapons on the screen of U.S policymakers. The challenge will be to keep it there as more immediate problems demand time, attention, and money, as a sense of urgency fades, as other priorities compete intensely for increasingly constrained resources, and as the fascination with things nuclear persists.
Whether we have the will to sustain the fight against chemical and biological weapons as a high enough priority and to commit the necessary resources over time, remains to be seen.
CHAIR LASHOF: Thank you very much. Open for questions.
Let me ask you, first, Mr. Gebicke, obviously, you found us rather deficient in our defense and made a series of recommendations. As you said, it is a question of priorities and where DOD puts them. Combining that with what Mr. Michael Moodie just said, if the budget at DOD is geared around nuclear, biological, and chemical all in one pot, have you looked at all, and when you looked at what they did about biological and chemical, is it fair to say that the emphasis on nuclear has kept them from moving ahead? Would GAO get into this issue of priority if you have to choose among various ones or not?
MR. GEBICKE: We did not look at the nuclear aspect of it, but we did make a recommendation. One of our recommendations was right now nuclear, biological, and chemical are all in one office, one assistant secretary in DOD. And we suggested that if DOD really wants to provide more emphasis on chemical and biological defensive warfare, it ought to create probably a separate assistant secretary just for those two--for biological and chemical.
My comments and our position are eerily similar to Mr. Moodie's, and we have never met
before, but, yes.
CHAIR LASHOF: Clearly, your position, Mr. Moodie, is that the emphasis on nuclear has overwhelmed their interest in the other.
MR. MOODIE: That is my position, and I want to emphasize that it is across the board. It is not just the military services. It is the policy community, both governmental and nongovernmental. Perhaps it is a legacy of the Cold War and the whole strategic culture that emerged in the wake of World War II that was associated with nuclear weapons and thinking through all of the tough issues in that area. But that culture has dominated the field for decades. It is time to move on to the new and real challenges.
CHAIR LASHOF: It is then your position that nuclear is less of a threat and biological
and chemical is more of a threat.
MR. MOODIE: My position would be that the
marginal return on a dollar invested in working nuclear nonproliferation issues is much less than the dollar that could be invested and what we would get for that dollar invested in chemical and biological. Nuclear issues have, in some ways, been worked to death. Chemical and biological remains an untapped area in that sense, in my view.
MR. GEBICKE: Could I add one comment,
CHAIR LASHOF: Sure.
MR. GEBICKE: If you really think about it, in the nuclear arena, one of the reasons that nuclear weapons have not been used, I believe, is because the United States has had a countercapability, and a lot of people thought that maybe we would use it, but we had it.
In the era of chemical and biological right now, we are not well prepared. Now, we are not going to use offensive weapons, but we are not prepared defensively. So we don't have a strong deterrence against those weapons. And I think what we would suggest is that, if we can have a strong deterrence against the offensive use of chemical and biological weapons, we, therefore, would be in a better position to ensure that possibly those weapons wouldn't be used because our potential enemy would recognize that we can counter those. We can defend against those.
CHAIR LASHOF: I don't think it is our role to get into a discourse on policy and why the weapons are or aren't used. I sort of think that the biological and chemical aren't used because they backfire, and it is very hard to contain them on one side. You can argue the other.
I guess the bigger question is which of these three possibilities do you have a chance of having any defense against. I haven't figured out what the defense is on nuclear, but that, also, I guess, is not for our committee.
Let me throw it open for members of the committee. Joan, do you have a question you wanted to ask?
DR. PORTER: Yes. I do have a question for Mr. Gebicke. Your testimony today really emphasized that, even though DOD has had plans and policies in place since 1993 or before, biological agent vaccine stocks and immunization plans remain inadequate. Would you be a little bit more specific about what your investigation revealed about what the Department of Defense is doing to remedy this.
MR. GEBICKE: Sure. They did pass a policy in November of 1993. The policy indicates
that early deploying units and those individuals assigned to those units in a Crisis
Response Group, as well as within 30 days, should be vaccinated. The policy goes on to lay
out some other people that should be vaccinated if it looks like they will be deployed to
those areas as well, and by those areas I mean, basically, the two major regional
contingency areas. So it would be Southwest Asia and Korea.
What that policy doesn't do is explain the how. Specifically, who will receive the vaccines, when they will receive the vaccines, and how they will be administered. It is that implementation
plan that is lacking today, and I mentioned in my opening remarks that we are not very close to having approved within DOD. We understand this is a very debated and contentious issue within the DOD, and I wouldn't begin to speculate as to when we might see a full plan that addresses all of those areas.
But, for instance, if something were to happen today in Korea, we have 37,000 men and women in Korea that are very close to the DMZ. Those people have not been vaccinated. So, if the North Koreans were to use chemical or biological agents-so we don't have an implementation plan. If we had an implementation plan, and if that implementation plan said vaccinate those people that are there, vaccinate these units, and vaccinate them with these vaccines at this point in time.
DR. PORTER: So it would be fair to say then that you don't, in your opinion, think the DOD is doing enough to remedy these problems?
MR. GEBICKE: This is a difficult issue. They have been debating it for this is into the third year on the implementation plan, and sooner or later they need to come to grips with it because we have a policy. But, by itself, the policy does not get the job done.
DR. CAPLAN: Just following up on this. One of the things that I think we have looked at is this problem in implementation of having good baselines to detect side effects and problems if you implement the policy of vaccination and so forth, and oftentimes now we are trying to reconstruct from scanty evidence what might have interacted, what might have happened in this particular area.
I did read your report, but I don't remember you recommending anything about, if you will, epidemiological follow-up. Would you care to comment on that as part of the implementation policy for vaccines?
MR. GEBICKE: I am probably out of my league right there. So I probably wouldn't comment. But for the anthrax vaccine, it seems to me we could have an implementation plan for anthrax, for cholera, for small pox.
DR. CAPLAN: Let me rephrase it and say would you agree that it would be important, as part of the implementation, not just to make sure the people are vaccinated, but that we know, when, where, how they are deployed, and then follow them?
MR. GEBICKE: Absolutely. Yes.
DR. CAPLAN: I had one other question for Mr. Moodie. You got my interest. My ears perked up when you talked about moving forward some of the new molecular engineering, genetic engineering advances in terms of what it might mean to biological warfare in the future, and this takes us into an area that we have done some review of. We tried an experiment testing our new defensive agents, trying to test our new offensive agents, and I am just curious, I didn't read the proceedings of your conference about what might be in store in the realm of genetics, but would you just say a word about that because the reason I ask is not that I want to indulge in the future of the next generation of molecular weapons and biological
warfare, but just for an understanding of what human experimentation might be necessary
to protect against them.
MR. MOODIE: We have tried, as part of our institute's examination of issues related to the biological side, to continue and have an ongoing discussion about the impact of biotechnology in this area because it is advancing so rapidly, and the strides they are making seem to be so great that, in part, what we are trying to do is explore with a greater degree of moderation, not succumb to the hype that because of genetic engineering and some other things right around the corner are new super bugs that are going to--maybe that is a legitimate question or the questions that we sometimes have to field from screenwriters who are working on the latest Hollywood bombshell, and so we have tried to take a more measured.
I think the plurality of the community with whom we interact do suggest that the advances in biotechnology have to be taken into account as we move forward on this issue in two ways; one, that it can complicate the problem, not so much by creating these new things that are going to be horrible and so on, but because those advances will reduce the barriers that have existed to doing BW programs in the past, whether it is the difficulty of working with the agent, the robustness or fragility of the agent, its susceptibility to atmospheric conditions, and all of those kinds of things. It is the ability to weaponize it and so on that that is where the contribution of biotechnology, in fact, may be the most significant on the offensive side.
So you do have to be sensitive to that. There have been barriers to doing BW, and maybe those advances will bring those barriers down. But we have also highlighted the fact that, in addition to the offensive side, we have to look to what those advances might do to help us on the defensive side as well. It may open up new alternatives. I don't know what the scientific probability of a more generalized vaccine is. I know that is a question that people are trying to look at, not just for the BW problem, but for the general support of improving the quantitative quality of our medical care more generally or dealing with infectious diseases, to which this problem is closely related.
So there are relationships there to which we have to pay attention. They are not necessarily what the thriller writers would like them to be, but they deserve an ongoing attention.
CHAIR LASHOF: Joan, do you have another question?
DR. PORTER: Yes. I have another question for Mr. Gebicke. You reported that DOD has not effectively pursued obtaining FDA licensure of investigational vaccines, and I would like to know what, in your opinion, should be done that is not being done.
MR. GEBICKE: One of the things that is scheduled to happen later this month is that DOD is going to put out on the streets a Request For Proposal for a prime contractor who, if this award is made, and it would be made probably by the end
of the calendar year, it would then become the responsibility of the prime contractor to work with the FDA, to the extent they can, and move those I&D drugs to approved status and to worry about the stockpiling of vaccines and the appropriate amount.
We were talking this morning, before we came over, one of the difficulties in even knowing what that prime contractor can do is that we don't have an implementation plan. So, until you have an implementation plan and you know what vaccines, how many people you are going to give it to, and when you are going to give it to them, how do you know what vaccines to acquire and to store? And there needs to be a constant stream then of vaccines, if you have a vaccination program, going to those people who are then moving to those two high-threat areas that are laid out in the policy.
MR. MOODIE: If I could comment on this. I think there is a real question that has to be answered here, and I know it is of concern to some of the people in the community, not the least of which the vaccine producers, related to this question of is it appropriate policy to allow the Department of Defense, going into a combat situation, to have a waiver or find an exemption to going beyond and using either drugs or procedures that are not licensed by the FDA for general use. On the one hand, you want to provide your troops in the field with the best possible defenses, including medical defenses. On the other hand, I think some of the practices that were used in Desert Storm suggests there are limits or questions related to that policy, and I think one of the questions is whether or not, in fact, future vaccination policies for troops entering a combat theater are going to be limited only to those things that have received FDA licenses for more general approval.
I don't know the answer to that, but I think it is a question on the table that people are trying to answer. Maybe that is one of the questions in the implementation policy that still remains to be addressed.
CHAIR LASHOF: Elaine, did you have a question?
DR. LARSON: I do have a question. We received--this is a question about the GAO report-a March 1996 response of the DOD, and there was only one recommendation of the ten that you mentioned that they did not concur with, and that was the one, as you well know, requesting or suggesting the modification of the status of resources and training system to require Divisions to submit summaries of their chemical and biological reporting categories, et cetera.
Did you feel that the DOD response was adequate to explain why they did not concur and what the alternative was?
MR. GEBICKE: We think so. We have done a lot of other work on that particular system.
That is a system for reporting the readiness of a unit, and the position that we took was
that a unit could be very poorly trained and poorly equipped from a readiness perspective
for chemical biological defensive maneuvers, but could still be rated very
high by the unit commander in terms of being C-1 or ready to perform.
Our position was that, if a unit was C-1, but yet couldn't perform the basic procedures for chemical and biological, it didn't quite seem right to us, and that is why we made the recommendation that we did. But chemical biological is just one aspect of that overall rating.
DR. LARSON: My question is so you think that their response--
MR. GEBICKE: Oh, we made the recommendation. We would have liked them to have changed the system, but--
DR. LARSON: Okay.
MAJ. CROSS: I sense that DOD rejected that because they may have felt that that report is already done in a current report, and I know which report you are talking about. The problem then is it gets buried in among other issues that the military finds more important.
MR. CAWOOD: Yes. I think a point of clarification is there is a block, which
specifically addresses chem/bio issues only. The question we are talking about here is to
what extent that block affects the overall rating. There are also a number of procedural
problems that we disagreed with on how you would report things in that block. For example,
which pieces of equipment they were required to report is sometimes left up to a
commander's discretion, and there are a number of other technical matters about what is
counted and what isn't that is based on whether it is actually owned by the unit or not
owned by the unit that we disagreed with.
MAJ. CROSS: Let me follow up with another question. Based on some of the slides you were showing there, it appears that a lot of the stuff that you looked at was equipment on hand, whether or not they had specific items of equipment, and then, also, training, how they trained in using that equipment. But I am sitting here, and I am also saying there is another aspect that you may not have looked at, and that is train personnel to train the people who need the training. Did you look at that aspect and is the military deficient in training personnel in CBW?
MR. CAWOOD: We did look at some of those issues. One, for example, that was picked up in our evaluation of operational readiness evaluations was whether or not a chemical and biological officer or NCO had been assigned to each unit. I don't recall the exact percentages involved. There were some units who did not have those officers assigned. It was worse in the Guard and Reserve, of course, than it was in the active units. But I believe the percentages, as far as the active units, were well over 50 percent and probably around the 80 percent or higher mark.
CHAIR LASHOF: Marguerite?
CAPT. KNOX: Mr. Gebicke, did you get any idea how many physicians in the total Divisions that you looked at you talked about their training, but do you know what the numbers of those physicians were?
MR. GEBICKE: In terms of how many physicians were assigned? Yes, I think that was on
there, if Bill can bring it back up.
This is one that we purposely didn't use because you are going to have a hard time reading it, but we have that information. Here is Division A, for instance. I will read that for you. They had 28 assigned, 37 additional physicians that would fall in with that Division. In other words, they have other peacetime responsibilities, but when that Division deploys, those 37 would go, also. So there is a total there of 65 in that Division, 72 in B, 41 and 55, to give you an idea.
CAPT. KNOX: It is not very many, is it? MR. GEBICKE: One of the reasons, by the
way, that physicians didn't routinely attend the other two available courses was because--frequently cited--was because of their peacetime responsibilities. They are just so caught up in providing care in hospitals to active enlisted men and women and dependents, and whatever, it is hard to get away for this class.
CAPT. KNOX: What is worrisome about that is, during a time of war, if we have to have more physicians come, if the ones that you have are not trained in chemical and biological warfare, then how do they pass that information on to the ones that are being drafted.
MR. GEBICKE: Absolutely. And the second course we had cited there, I was reading the
brochure about that, and that provides a lot of hands-on laboratory field-type experience,
which would really be pertinent if you actually had to deploy and use those skills in the
MR. MOODIE: The issue is also complicated by the fact that if you agree with the general theme that the United States is likely in the future primarily to be involved in coalition kinds of operations, the differences between the training between the U.S. and other forces and their medical communities even complicates that issue further.
DR. TAYLOR: Just one question of
clarification regarding, again, training, particularly the donning of protective masks and decontamination. Are the units not trained prior to, say, going overseas or prior to active duty? Are they not trained on how to use protective gear?
MR. GEBICKE: They are trained, and the
information that we have provided was based on the Army's own evaluations of the adequacy of the people to perform those functions at the time that they were tested.
DR. TAYLOR: Oh, so they were tested and then found that they weren't--
MR. GEBICKE: Yes. Exactly.
DR. TAYLOR: But they have had some form of training.
MR. GEBICKE: Oh, there is training. Yes, there is training. It is not that they were never trained.
DR. TAYLOR: But it is just inadequate training.
MR. GEBICKE: It is just that they could not perform at that point in time when they were "tested."
CHAIR LASHOF: How close was that when they were tested was, what, after deploy, before
MR. GEBICKE: Well, what we are talking about here is tests that were conducted in 1994 and 1995. Of those people in those crisis units, those units that would go first, to determine how capable they were of performing those tasks, and those tests were given by the Army, and those were the results that we provided you.
CHAIR LASHOF: In the Gulf War itself, when people were called up, were they given the additional training just as they left, so that-
MR. GEBICKE: Sure. And that is one of
the things that--
CHAIR LASHOF: --if they weren't prepared, but once they were on they were on the ship, they got it--
MR. GEBICKE: Absolutely. And that is one of the advantages we had in the Persian Gulf that we had six months to prepare before the offensive began. Had we not had six months, then, of course, we would have been less prepared and had less equipment than we did after six months.
DR. TAYLOR: I guess the other question is, even after training, how much of it is retained.
MR. GEBICKE: The issue becomes how often you train in the unit and the emphasis that
the commander gives to it. Like I said earlier, nobody likes to train in this stuff. It is
not real comfortable, but in those--and Bill ran across a few units where the commander
really emphasized it, and they were, what, Bill, 12 hours a month or so, roughly? This one
commander had them in this gear 12 hours out of a month, and not only in the gear, but had
them performing their tasks. Now, we are just talking about putting the gear on. Now, once
you get the gear on, you are supposed to perform a task. You don't just put it on. You
have got to put it on. You have got to fight. You have got to drive. You have got to run.
You have got to communicate, and that doesn't test that.
So that even complicates things. I mean putting the gear on is one thing, but being able to function in the gear, and there have been a whole slew of tests which have demonstrated how difficult it is to operate in that gear, and you are going to expect a degradation. But if you haven't performed in that gear before, the degradation is going to be incredible.
CHAIR LASHOF: Jim, do you have a
MR. TURNER: I couldn't have the General Accounting Office here without asking something
like an accounting question.
MR. TURNER: I think you guys identified as one of the problems that, in addition to the
unit commander's personal emphasis, there is also some budgetary freedom that he has for
equipment and training funds. What do you recommend about how to resolve that and improve
it so that the proper emphasis is given?
MR. GEBICKE: There are a couple of things that could be done. It could be a line item in the O&M budget, so it couldn't be--
MR. TURNER: So that would no longer be discretionary. It would be required to be
MR. GEBICKE: It could be. It could come out of the procurement account, where the funds can't be moved. Those are two things that could be done.
Jim, if I could say one other thing that I should have covered in my opening remarks, and Mr. Moodie reflected on it just a little bit, but I would like to give you the numbers, since we are an accounting organization.
The amount of money spent for chemical and biological defensive warfare has declined since 1992. In real dollars, the decline has been about 33 percent. They were spending in 1992 about $700 million, roughly, and in 1995 the expenditure was around $500 million. If you convert all of those numbers to real dollars, it represents about a 33 percent decline and, as you will see in my prepared statement, there is also additional threats to the funding that is currently provided to the DOD for use in this area, and these are internal threats; in other words, the DOD is talking about cutting the budget.
CHAIR LASHOF: Any other questions?
MAJ. CROSS: May I also point out that in the equipment readiness area, if you notice the Reserve and National Guard units were in far worse shape than the active duty units. Obviously, in this day of troop drawbacks, yevery service is going to rely on a Reservist, the National Guard people to augment them in the future more and more, and it points out some serious problems in the Reserve structure.
MR. GEBICKE: Yes, it does.
DR. CAPLAN: I can't resist commenting that GAO did miss one way to merge the discretionary issue with the training issue. If you give the commander some discretion to hold a beer party or some recreational activity, but require them to wear their chemical and biological warfare suits, you will probably bring the two together.
CHAIR LASHOF: With that note, I guess we will adjourn until tomorrow morning. Thank you all very much.
[Whereupon, at 5:11 p.m., the proceedings were adjourned to reconvene the following day.]
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C E R T I F I C A T E
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