Chemical and Biological Defense:

Units Better Equipped, but Training and Readiness Reporting Problems Remain

GAO-01-27: Published: Nov 14, 2000. Publicly Released: Nov 14, 2000.

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The Pentagon believes that chemical and biological weapons are likely to be used early in a conflict to disrupt U.S. operations and logistics and to potentially offset the overwhelming conventional warfare capabilities of U.S. forces; however, studies have confirmed that U.S. forces are not fully prepared to defend against chemical or biological weapons and could suffer significant casualties if they are used. A study of Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps divisions showed that recent changes to the system are a step in the right direction to improving chemical and biological defense readiness reporting, but the changes do not require units to report on the condition of their chemical and biological defense equipment; thus, these reports could provide incomplete or misleading information on the status of equipment, a key element in assessing overall unit readiness.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred and stated that it has taken actions and has ongoing actions to improve CB defense training. For example, DOD stated that the April 2000 Defense Planning Guidance directs the services and Commander in Chiefs to ensure that routine individual, unit, joint and combined training and exercises incorporate realistic CB warfare threats. Also, DOD conducted a study on CB defense standards and readiness reporting that led to a Secretary of Defense memorandum on August 11, 2000, directing actions to improve CB preparedness. Also, as a result of further studies, the Joint Staff has developed a plan to promote the embedding of CB related tasks to the Commanders in Chiefs mission related tasks.

    Recommendation: To further improve the readiness of U.S. forces and the effectiveness of the readiness reporting system, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretaries of the Army and Air Force and the Commandant of the Marine Corps to require that its units include realistic chemical and biological defense training in exercises.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred and stated that it has taken actions and has ongoing actions to improve CB defense training. For example, DOD stated that the April 2000 Defense Planning Guidance directs the services and Commander in Chiefs to ensure that routine individual, unit, and combined training and exercises incorporate realistic CB warfare threats.

    Recommendation: To further improve the readiness of U.S. forces and the effectiveness of the readiness reporting system, these exercises should adhere to realistic wartime scenarios.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD disagrees with the recommendation and plans no further action to implement it.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to enhance the Status of Resources and Training System by including the condition of chemical and biological equipment in its chemical and biological readiness ratings.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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