Chemical Warfare:

Soldiers Inadequately Equipped and Trained to Conduct Chemical Operations

NSIAD-91-197: Published: May 29, 1991. Publicly Released: May 29, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Army's Chemical Defense Program, focusing on whether the Army adequately trained and equipped its forces to survive and sustain operations in a chemical environment.

GAO found that: (1) many soldiers in 36 active and 4 reserve Army units believed that their training did not meet the minimum time standards and that the Army did not implement training under realistic conditions or integrate mission training exercises; (2) Army evaluations of exercises at its two main combat training centers indicated that the units did not stress chemical training, did not perform well, and sustained heavy simulated casualties; (3) although the Army updated and attempted to refine its chemical warfare doctrine, branch schools did not integrate the updated doctrine; (4) three reserve units lacked adequate equipment to survive and sustain operations in a chemical warfare environment; (5) in Europe, stock levels in theatre reserves and prepositioned equipment storage sites sustained major shortages of collective protection shelters, decontamination apparatus, chemical alarms, and individual protection gear; and (6) although the Army developed and produced new chemical defense equipment, shortages of certain items continued to hinder its ability to effectively carry out sustained operations during a chemical attack.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Equipment is being fielded to meet the Army's requirements in consonance with the changing force structure.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should ascertain whether authorized chemical equipment levels should be modified and equipment availability increased.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: No new action is proposed, only a continuation of the normal budget preparation cycle review.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should ascertain whether the funding level and priorities for developing, producing, and delivering chemical protective equipment should be changed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Given the reduced threat in Europe, the Army staff will ask U.S. Army, Europe, to review the requirement for fixed site chemical decontamination plans.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should direct the Commander, 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.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Commanders are already required to judge the ability of their subordinates to perform mission essential tasks. Establishing a new special rating category for chemical defense would not be advisable as it would not apply equally to all unit commanders.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should require commanding officers' rating officials to consider the officers' reports on chemical training in evaluating their performance.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A management information system, including a training status reporting system, is being developed.

    Recommendation: 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.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The response acknowledged that some proponents had not integrated the latest defense doctrines completely into their doctrines and training publications, but stated that routine renewal of new publications ensures that NBC chemical aspects are addressed adequately. GAO found that these reviews were not adequate. The Training and Doctrine Command has taken action to ensure the process is working.

    Recommendation: 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.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army re-emphasized the need for advanced and integrated NBC training. The Department of Defense will continue to require unit commanders to conduct NBC training to sustain proficiency levels. Existing review and inspection procedures will be used to verify compliance.

    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.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Production problems with new equipment are resolved when identified normally during first article testing. Also, procedures exist to correct shortcomings identified by unit commanders based on their mission analysis.

    Recommendation: 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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