Chemical and Biological Defense:

Emphasis Remains Insufficient to Resolve Continuing Problems

NSIAD-96-103: Published: Mar 29, 1996. Publicly Released: Mar 29, 1996.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed U.S. chemical and biological warfare defense capabilities, focusing on: (1) the chemical and biological warfare defense problems identified during the Gulf War; and (2) the preparedness of early-deploying ground forces to survive and fight in a chemically or biologically contaminated environment.

GAO found that: (1) the Department of Defense (DOD) has taken steps to improve the readiness of U.S. forces to operate in chemically or biologically contaminated environments, but equipment, training, and medical shortcomings persist and could cause needless casualties and a degradation of U.S. combat capability; (2) during the Gulf War, many early-deploying units did not have all of the chemical and biological detection, decontamination, and protective equipment they needed; (3) the services continue to place lower emphasis on chemical and biological defense activities than on other high-priority activities; (4) research and development efforts to improve the detection and decontamination of biological and chemical agents have progressed slower than planned because of other priorities and personnel shortages; (5) the Army and Marine Corps have acted to improve their biological and chemical training, but many problems encountered during the Gulf War persist; (6) there was little biological or chemical defense training included in joint training exercises because regional commanders in chief (CINC) believe that this training is the responsibility of the individual services and have assigned other types of training a higher priority; (7) medical units often lack adequate biological agent vaccine stocks and immunization plans, appropriate defense equipment, and sufficient instruction on how equipment is to be used; and (8) the lower emphasis the services give to chemical and biological defense activities is reflected in the funding, staffing, monitoring, and mission priority levels dedicated to these activities.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The issue of increasing the emphasis within DOD on chemical and biological defense is being reviewed in the overall context of DOD's counterproliferation issue area. A study was made examining this overall area. DOD has responded that it is increasing its funding for POM 98-03 for Joint Bio Detectors, Joint Bio Remote Early Warning System, and Joint NBC Warning and Reporting System, etc. The overall effect of this is unknown. While funding is increased and current work has shown that more emphasis is under way in the CB area, this will be a continuous process over the next several years. Increased funding requirements and more emphasis recommendation should, however, be considered complete at this point recognizing that more and continuing attention will be required.

    Recommendation: In view of the increasing chemical and biological warfare threat and the continuing weaknesses in U.S. chemical and biological defense capabilities noted in this report, the Secretary of Defense should reevaluate the priority and emphasis given to this area throughout DOD.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Actions taken on the previous recommendation addresses this issue, and no further action is planned by DOD.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense, in his next annual report to Congress on Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Warfare Defense, should address: (1) proposed solutions to the deficiencies identified in this report; and (2) the impact that shifting additional resources to this area might have on other military priorities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The next annual report is in process and is not due out until March 1998. DOD's March 1997 Annual Report to Congress noted that DOD had not responded to GAO's recommendations. However, it addressed GAO's findings only in a general sense, and did not address whether resources might be shifted from other areas or the impact this might have.

    Recommendation: If the Secretary of Defense's reevaluation of the priority and emphasis given chemical and biological defense determines that more emphasis is needed, and if efforts by the Joint Service Materiel and Joint Service Integration Groups prove less effective than desired, the Secretary should consider elevating the single office for program oversight to the assistant secretary level in DOD rather than leaving it in its present position as part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Atomic Energy.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD has not initiated action on this recommendation. This is a very broad and far reaching recommendation that involves service component cooperation and endorsement. Action to comply with this recommendation will be a long time coming.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should consider adopting an increased single-manager concept for the execution of the chemical and biological program. This would provide a single manager with more authority, responsibility, and accountability for directing program management and acquisition for all the services.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD standardized requirements for this equipment through revisions to FORSCOM Reg. 700-2, published in July 1996. New Army-wide policy on stockage of CB defense equipment was approved by the Army Chief of Staff in December 1997 that addressed stockage requirements and mandated the usage of OMA funding to this end. A followup GAO review (code 702038) conducted in 2000 determined that problems with on-hand stocks of this equipment in early deploying Army units have been corrected.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) to reevaluate current chemical defense equipment stock requirements for early-deploying active and reserve units to determine the minimal amounts required to be on hand to meet deployment requirements and to determine any additional storage facility requirements. If chemical defense equipment stock requirements are maintained, FORSCOM should take the actions necessary to see that early-deploying units can and do maintain these stocks.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Questions regarding the funding of Army unit on-hand chemical and biological defense equipment stocks through OMA funding were largely resolved by Army Chief of Staff directive of December 1997 regarding the use of these funds. A GAO review (code 702038) determined that such problems have been resolved in early deploying Army units. Some question remains regarding whether funding for this equipment should be removed from OMA accounts DOD-wide. This is currently under consideration by the DOD acquisition official. However, the aforementioned directive, in coordination with increased reliance on the acquisition and storage of this equipment in DOD depots rather than Army units has largely resolved this problem in the Army.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should review some services' practice of funding the purchase of this equipment through operation and maintenance (O&M), rather than procurement, funds. This review is necessary because O&M funds intended for chemical and biological defense equipment and training are too easily and frequently diverted to other purposes, and the uses of these funds are not well recorded. A consistent DOD system for funding these activities and recording the amount of funds spent on chemical and biological defense would greatly improve oversight of the resources and emphasis directed to this area.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: This recommendation is no longer appropriate since the actions described in the two preceding recommendations have corrected shortages of this equipment in Army units.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should consider at least temporarily earmarking O&M funds to relieve existing shortages of this equipment if current funding practices for funding this equipment are retained.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In commenting on this report, DOD stated that the Joint Chiefs of Staff did not concur with this recommendation and did not intend to implement it. However, continued problems in this area in addition to increased emphasis on chemical and biological defense has caused the Joint Staff to reconsider. Changes to the Status of Resources and Training System (SORTS) report of the type GAO originally recommended were subsequently directed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in April 2000.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should consider modifying the Status of Resources and Training System (SORTS) to require active Army divisions to complete and submit SORTS division summaries for chemical and biological reporting categories, and implementing changes that would require overall unit readiness assessments to be more directly affected by their chemical and biological readiness status. More emphasis should be placed on accurately inventorying and reporting unit stocks of critical chemical and biological defense equipment through SORTS and other monitoring and reporting systems. SORTS reporting requirements should also be modified to more accurately reflect shortcomings in units' ability to meet existing chemical and biological training standards.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD has decided on the immunization policy for one biological threat. An immunization policy for other threats has not been addressed. It will be many years before this recommendation can be fully completed. For the purposes of this report, the anthrax vaccination program is the only reasonable outcome and this has taken place.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should determine and direct the implementation of an effective and appropriate immunization program for biological warfare defense that is consistent with existing DOD immunization policy.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  10. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army's Chemical School has taken the lead on this issue and the remaining training- and exercise-related recommendations. A plan has been developed that includes a work plan with milestones and specific outcomes and expectations. This new program is reputed to deal with all training- and exercise-related issues. DOD advised in mid-1999 that the number of CB related courses has increased from 8 in 1992 to 19 in 1996. It also stated that the USARMRI keeps track of medical personnel and the CB courses taken. These actions have resulted in the receipt of this training by vast majority of military medical personnel needing it. However, DOD still does not keep permanent records of which personnel have attended this course.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct that DOD medical courses of instruction regarding chemical and biological warfare treatment techniques, such as the Management of Chemical and Biological Casualties Course, be directed toward those personnel occupying positions in medical units most likely to have need of this training and that medical units assigned such personnel keep adequate records to determine whether the appropriate number and types of their personnel have attended such courses.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  11. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army's Chemical School has taken the lead on this issue and the remaining training- and exercise-related recommendations. A plan has been developed that includes a work plan with milestones and specific outcomes and expectations. This new program is reputed to deal with all training- and exercise-related issues. While Army doctrine does identify who has responsibility for performing casualty decontamination, GAO's recent work in this area has determined that implementation of this doctrine remains inconsistent and dependent on compliance and emphasis by individual unit commanders.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to ensure that tactical unit training addresses casualty decontamination and that the current confusion regarding responsibility for performing casualty decontamination is corrected.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  12. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army's Chemical School has taken the lead on this issue and the remaining training- and exercise-related recommendations. A plan has been developed that includes a work plan with milestones and specific outcomes and expectations. This new program is reputed to deal with all training- and exercise-related issues. As of mid-1999, things have happened but the program is not yet fully working and will not be so until beyond the year 2000. Ongoing work indicates that more CB play is going into this area, but whether this training is emphasized and actually implemented at combat training centers remains largely influenced by the individual commanders of the units being trained.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army and the Commandant of the Marine Corps to ensure that all combat training centers routinely emphasize and include chemical and biological training, and that this training is conducted in a realistic manner.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  13. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army's Chemical School has taken the lead on this issue and the remaining training- and exercise-related recommendations. A plan has been developed that includes a work plan with milestones and specific outcomes and expectations. This new program is reputed to deal with all training- and exercise-related issues. The Secretary of Defense has taken a number of initiatives designed to increase realistic chemical/biological defense training, such as directing the CINCs to routinely train and assess chemical and biological defense capabilities. Although this will indirectly affect national training centers, they have so far not received direct instructions regarding greater incorporation of this type of training, and it is unclear whether such specific instructions will be given.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army and the Commandant of the Marine Corps should direct units attending these centers to be more effectively evaluated on their ability to meet existing chemical and biological training standards.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: United States Marine Corps

  14. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army's Chemical School has taken the lead on this issue and the remaining training- and exercise-related recommendations. A plan has been developed that includes a work plan with milestones and specific outcomes and expectations. This new program is reputed to deal with all training- and exercise-related issues. The Secretary of Defense has also undertaken a number of initiatives to improve training and exercises. CINCs have been instructed to routinely conduct chemical/biological defense training for sustained operations in contaminated environments. All these indirectly affect training at national training centers, but none have done so directly so far and it is unclear whether they ever will in a direct fashion.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army and the Commandant of the Marine Corps should direct units attending these centers to be more effectively evaluated on their ability to meet existing chemical and biological training standards.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  15. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army's Chemical School has taken the lead on this issue and the remaining training- and exercise-related recommendations. A plan has been developed that includes a work plan with milestones and specific outcomes and expectations. This new program is reputed to deal with all training- and exercise-related issues. CINCs have increased the tempo and meaningfulness of chemical and biological training exercises and tasks in both high threat theaters and the results are being evaluated at CINC level and above.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct CINC to routinely include joint chemical and biological training tasks in exercises conducted under the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff's exercise program and evaluate the ability of joint forces to perform chemical and biological tasks.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  16. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army's Chemical School has taken the lead on this issue and the remaining training- and exercise-related recommendations. A plan has been developed that includes a work plan with milestones and specific outcomes and expectations. This new program is reputed to deal with all training- and exercise-related issues.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct CINC to report annually on the results of the joint chemical and biological training.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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