Chapter 1


Mission and Charter

President William J. Clinton established the Special Oversight Board by Executive Order 13075 of February 19, 1998, in direct response to a recommendation contained in the Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC) on Gulf War Veterans� Illnesses Special Report. The PAC recommended that the Department of Defense (DoD) receive an independent evaluation of its policies and practices and that "to ensure full public accountability and reinforce the commitment to an independent review, an entity other than DoD should perform any oversight." The President appointed the Board of seven members under the chairmanship of former United States Senator Warren B. Rudman. The Board�s charter was filed in May of 1998.

The Board conducted its activities in accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), as amended (Public Law 92-463, 5 U.S.C., App.); Executive Order 12024, December 1, 1977; and Public Law 94-409, commonly referred to as the "Government in the Sunshine Act." All Board meetings must be announced in the Federal Register whenever a quorum of members is expected, and they are always open to the public except during the discussion or review of classified material.

Executive Order 13075 (Appendix B) specifies the Board�s mission, and it states, in part:

Sec.2(c). The Special Oversight Board shall provide advice and recommendations based on its review of Department of Defense investigations into possible detections of, and exposures to, chemical or biological weapons agents and environmental and other factors that may have contributed to Gulf War illnesses.

Sec.2(d). It shall not be a function of the Board to conduct scientific research.

The Board�s charter (Appendix C) outlined more specifically how the Board intended to conduct its mission:

The Special Oversight Board shall provide to the President, through the Secretary of Defense, advice and recommendations based on its performance of two principal roles.

1. OVERSIGHT: Independent oversight of the remaining investigations being conducted by the Department of Defense (DoD) with the assistance, as appropriate, of other executive departments and agencies into possible detections of, and exposures to, chemical or biological warfare agents and environmental and other factors that may have contributed to Gulf War Illnesses.

2. EVALUATION: Overall evaluation of the DoD�s plan for and progress toward the implementation of the Presidential Advisory Committee's recommendations contained in its Special Report submitted to the President on October 31, 1997.

To comply with the executive order and the charter, the Board focus has been on the DoD investigations into Gulf War illnesses and implementation of the PAC recommendations. The bulk of our efforts have concentrated on the work of the Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses (OSAGWI), the organization charged by the Deputy Secretary of Defense to lead and provide overall coordination for the Department�s effort on this issue. The Board has actively solicited the views and opinions of veterans groups, individual veterans, physician health care providers, and basic and applied scientists and researchers on the issue of Gulf War illnesses.

Board Public Meetings

The Board members met for the first time in July 1998 and received a detailed briefing from the DoD on the history and background of the Gulf War illnesses issue. No deliberations were conducted at this session. The Board has held eight public meetings throughout the United States in order to reach as many as possible of the veterans who have an interest in our oversight efforts. The Board held four public sessions prior to the release of the August 1999 Interim Report, and there have been four additional public meetings since the Interim Report:

Washington, DC

November 1998

San Antonio, Texas

April 1999

Arlington, Virginia

June 1999

Washington, DC

July 1999

Arlington, Virginia

September 1999

Fort Lewis, Washington

October 1999

Washington, DC

April 2000

Arlington, Virginia

October 2000

Complete transcripts from these hearings can be found at the Board�s World Wide Web home page at: The Board established this web site to ensure compliance with the spirit and letter of the FACA and the complete openness and public nature of its efforts.

At the initial November 1998 hearing, the Chairman outlined in detail how the Board would conduct oversight. The Board heard testimony from senior DoD officials, OSAGWI, the Joint Staff, and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs (ASD-HA). The Board, equally eager to receive testimony from the veterans community, invited major veteran service organizations (VSO) and individual veterans to testify. The Board also solicited input from and listened to testimony from interested non-veteran citizens. A major theme emerged during the two-day hearing: veterans want medical care, medical treatment, and award of benefits for service-connected disabilities.

The Board met in San Antonio, Texas, in April 1999 to ensure that it was available to receive input from those individuals unable to address the Board in Washington, DC. Two major VSOs, several individual veterans, and a committed Gulf War illness investigator testified before the Board. The featured presentation by Dr. Robert Haley, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Division of Epidemiology and Scientific Graphics Laboratory, delineated the technical aspects of his neurological research and his perceived clinical implications for affected patients. The Board also provided the public a general overview of its activities since the November 1998 public meeting.

As a follow-up to the San Antonio meeting, the Board invited Dr. Haley to provide additional testimony in Arlington, Virginia, in June 1999. The Board meeting was open to the public, and subject matter expert scientists were invited from the Johns Hopkins University and Boston University Medical Schools and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts. These scientists were asked to assess Dr. Haley�s presentation and advise the Board on the validity of the data and it�s clinical importance. The Board believes that Dr. Haley�s findings are of interest and require independent replication.

At the July 1999 public hearing in Washington, DC, the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses outlined to the Board a conceptual model for OSAGWI over a five-year period ending in Fiscal Year 2004. Two scientific researchers and an OSAGWI staff representative presented additional testimony about depleted uranium (DU). The Chairman noted that there continues to be controversy on DU, despite testimony and scientific opinion that low-level or short-term exposure(s) to this element offers relatively little risk to humans.

In addition, Admiral Zumwalt, citing previous experience with the U.S. Government concerning "Agent Orange," indicated that he did not think that there was, nor had there been, a "government cover-up" to suppress available information concerning the facts surrounding the Gulf War or chemical or biological exposures of U.S. or coalition troops.

A Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) representative testified that the agency planned to release three additional studies on the issue of potential chemical, biological, and radiological exposures to Gulf War veterans by the end of 1999.1 The CIA tentatively concluded that U.S. troop exposures to chemical, biological, and radiological agents were limited to the potential low-level exposure from the Khamisiyah demolitions. The CIA will continue to seek and evaluate new information as it becomes available.

The Board met again in September 1999 in Arlington to review with OSAGWI the strategic direction of that organization as well as the status of remaining OSAGWI case narratives, information papers, and environmental exposure reports. The Board recommended that OSAGWI consider transitioning from an organization that conducts retrospective investigations to a more prospective agency that would ensure that the military services successfully apply the force health protection lessons learned in the Gulf and elsewhere. The new agency would also retain responsibility for interfacing with the public on Gulf War health issues. In response to a Board request, OSAGWI reviewed each of its remaining publications and recommended that several be terminated based on the lack of substantiating documentation or any meaningful contribution to our understanding of Gulf War illnesses. The Board concurred with all but two terminations, advising OSAGWI to complete its SCUD information paper and the case narrative on alleged chemical casualties in the 2nd Marine Reconnaissance Battalion.

The Board met in October 1999 at Madigan Army Medical Center, Fort Lewis, Washington, to reconfirm its commitment to receive input from individuals unable to address the Board in Washington, DC. Three major VSOs and several veterans testified. Two medical researchers presented the results of their investigations into Gulf War illnesses, and a representative from the United States Transuranium and Uranium Registries discussed the medical effects of depleted uranium. The Board also provided a general overview of its activities to date.

The April 2000 public meeting was held in Washington, DC, and focused on an OSAGWI follow-on organization. Dr. Bernard Rostker, the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses, presented a detailed proposal to the Board, and representatives from the Joint Staff, other DoD agencies, and the VA commented positively on expected synergies with the proposed organization. Seven VSOs presented their views, and five VSOs concurred with the design of the proposed follow-on organization. Two VSOs requested that the National Institutes of Health lead Gulf War illnesses medical research efforts. Featured presentations included the results of the Canadian Board of Inquiry of illnesses of Canadian troops in Croatia, Department of Defense status reports on its new low-level chemical warfare agent defense efforts, and the interagency Research Working Group review of the continuing research on pyridostigmine bromide (PB) and low-level chemical warfare agent exposures. The General Accounting Office (GAO) declined an opportunity to discuss its report Gulf War Illnesses: Management Actions Needed to Answer Basic Research Questions (GAO/NSIAD-00-32) and offered only to answer specific questions rather than present at a subsequent monthly meeting.

The Board conducted its final public meeting in Arlington in October 2000. The hearing focused on the transition of the newly formed Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses, Medical Readiness, and Military Deployments (OSAGWIMRMD). Dr. Rostker detailed efforts to complete the remaining investigations of alleged chemical and biological incidents, several of which will be finished in 2001. He remarked on efforts to refocus certain elements of the staff toward medical readiness and military deployment issues while continuing to provide effective interface with the public on Gulf War illnesses. The Board also received briefings on the Millennium Cohort Study and a Gulf War research initiative.

Monthly Meetings

At the first public meeting in November 1998 the Chairman proposed that the Board hold monthly informational meetings on a wide range of topics. These meetings provide a forum for invited subject matter experts, knowledgeable organizations, and interested individuals to meet with Board members to explore issues of concern. Invited participants have included government officials, researchers, and veterans� representatives. The Board extended an open invitation to VSOs to attend these sessions. Topics covered have included depleted uranium, PAC recommendations, the DoD Force Health Protection program, and Personal Information Carrier (PIC)/Global Positioning System integration. The Board offered repeatedly, without success, to meet with Dr. Pamela Asa and Dr. Robert Garry to discuss their work on squalene.

These meetings focused on specific areas of interest to the Board, Board staff, and the "Gulf War illness" community. They promoted a free exchange of ideas and discussion on controversial topics and encouraged both debate and in-depth understanding of technically complex and detailed issues. A detailed description of these sessions is contained in
Appendix H.

Other Noteworthy Board Activity

Board members have made field visits to the United Kingdom and French Ministries of Defence, the French Chemical School, the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine (CHPPM), and nine OSAGWI "town hall" meetings held at various military installations in the United States and overseas. The Board also participated in several National Security Council interagency working group meetings where the agenda was focused exclusively on matters pertaining to the subject of Gulf War illnesses and the application of the Gulf War experiences and lessons learned to ongoing U.S. military force health and protection issues.

Board Review of OSAGWI Publications

A primary focus of the Board has been review of OSAGWI case narratives and environmental exposure reports. OSAGWI�s reports are written to provide veterans with answers regarding what is now known about specific events and exposures that took place during the Gulf War. As of November 30, 2000, the Board had reviewed 14 case narratives, 3 environmental exposure reports, and 11 revised narratives/reports. Detailed reports of the Board�s findings and recommendations concerning OSAGWI�s case narratives and environmental exposure reports are contained in Chapters 3 and 4, respectively, of this report.



1 The CIA�s Persian Gulf War Illness Task Force released two reports detailing possible sources of radioactive contamination and biological agents during the Gulf War in July and August 2000, respectively. The Task Force stated that no Gulf War releases of Iraqi-produced radioactive material would have reached coalition troops. This is not surprising, based on the status of Iraq's nuclear program, the location of Iraqi nuclear facilities far from coalition ground forces, and the localization of any contamination. The Task Force also concluded that no biological warfare agent was released as a result of Iraqi use, coalition bombing, or Iraqi unilateral postwar destruction.