Chemical Warfare:

Soldiers Not Adequately Equipped or Trained to Conduct Chemical Operations

C-NSIAD-91-17: Published: Jan 15, 1990. Publicly Released: Jan 15, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed whether: (1) U.S. soldiers are routinely trained and equipped to survive and sustain operations in a chemical environment; and (2) Army units are adequately equipped to carry out chemical training and wartime missions.

GAO noted that: (1) many of the soldiers in 36 Army active and 4 reserve units GAO visited in the United States said they had not met the minimum time standards for training, and unit training was not carried out under realistic conditions or integrated into mission training exercises as required; (2) Army evaluations of exercises carried out at its two main combat training centers in the United States also showed that units that do not stress chemical training throughout the year do not perform well and sustain heavy simulated casualties during the chemical scenarios of the exercises at the centers; (3) although the Chemical School has updated the Army chemical warfare doctrine and performed studies to refine it, the other branch schools had not integrated the updated doctrine or the results of the studies into their doctrinal and training publications as required; (4) three reserve units visited in the United States were not adequately equipped to survive and sustain operations in a chemical warfare environment; (5) similarly in Europe, the levels of stocks in theater reserves and the prepositioned equipment storage sites visited had major shortages of collective protection shelters, decontamination apparatuses, chemical alarms, and certain individual protection gear; (6) over the past few years, the Army has developed and produced new chemical defense equipment; (7) however, shortages and limitations in certain equipment items continue to hamper the Army's ability to effectively carry out sustained operations during a chemical attack; and (8) further, some new equipment, although developed, has not been produced and delivered to the units.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should ensure that commanding officers responsible for conducting training fully comply with the minimum training standards set forth in Army regulations. The Secretary of the Army should ensure that the commanding officers of the Training and Doctrine Command and the Chemical School jointly evaluate the integration of chemical doctrine into the training guidance at the other branch schools and take the necessary corrective actions. The evaluation, as a minimum, should: (1) emphasize the need to conduct routine training in full protective gear until all personnel are capable of recognizing and adequately responding to the performance degradation that occurs after extended periods in the gear; and (2) require that all combat and support personnel undergo the required chemical training under realistic conditions and demonstrate the ability to perform assigned tasks at a minimally acceptable level while in full protective gear. The Secretary of the Army should require that commanding officers annually report to their rating officials the extent to which all combat and support personnel have undergone the required chemical training and demonstrated the ability to perform assigned tasks at a minimally acceptable performance level while in full protective gear. The Secretary of the Army should require commanding officers' rating officials to consider the officers' reports on chemical training in evaluating their performance. The Secretary of the Army should direct the Commander of the U.S. Army, Europe, to comply with the existing requirements that fixed sites have approved chemical decontamination plans and that the plans be practiced at least annually. The Secretary of the Army should ascertain whether the funding level and priorities for developing, producing, and delivering chemical protective equipment should be changed. The Secretary of the Army should ascertain whether authorized chemical equipment levels should be modified and equipment availability increased. The Secretary of the Army should ascertain whether production problems being encountered with new chemical protective equipment are being resolved.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

 

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