Chemical and Biological Defense:

Observations on DOD's Risk Assessment of Defense Capabilities

GAO-03-137T: Published: Oct 1, 2002. Publicly Released: Oct 1, 2002.

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Raymond J. Decker
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The Department of Defense (DOD) believes it is increasingly likely that an adversary of the United States will use chemical or biological weapons against U.S. forces to degrade superior U.S. conventional warfare capabilities, placing service members' lives and effective military operations at risk. During the past 6 years, GAO has identified many problems with DOD's capabilities to defend against chemical and biological weapons and sustain operations in the midst of their use. Although GAO has found that DOD has made some improvements--in equipment, training, and reporting, and in the coordination of research and development activities--it has continuing concerns in each of these areas. One particular issue is the supply of chemical protective clothing and the way associated risk is assessed. Due to the upcoming expiration of existing protective suits, the slower rate at which new suits are entering the inventory, and DOD's method of assessing risk for individual items rather than complete protective ensembles, GAO believes that the risk for protective clothing shortages may increase dramatically from now through 2007. GAO is also concerned that certain management weaknesses, such as program organizational complexity and prolonged vacancies in key leadership positions, may have sent a message throughout the department about the relative priority and importance of the Chemical and Biological Defense Program.

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