Chemical and Biological Defense:

Observations on DOD's Plans To Protect U.S. Forces

T-NSIAD-98-83: Published: Mar 17, 1998. Publicly Released: Mar 17, 1998.

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Mark E. Gebicke
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the Department of Defense's (DOD) continuing efforts to protect U.S. military forces against chemical and biological weapons, including its plan to inoculate all U.S. military forces against anthrax.

GAO noted that: (1) in examining DOD's experience in preparing its forces to defend against potential chemical and biological agent attacks during the Gulf War, GAO identified numerous problems; (2) specifically, GAO found: (a) shortages in individual protective equipment; (b) inadequate chemical and biological agent detection devices; (c) inadequate command emphasis on chemical and biological capabilities; and (d) deficiencies in medical personnel training, and supplies; (3) while many deficiencies noted during the Gulf War remain unaddressed today, DOD has increasingly acknowledged and accepted the urgency of developing a capability to deal with the chemical and biological threat to its forces; (4) both Congress and DOD have acted to provide greater protection for U.S. forces; (5) their actions have resulted in increased funding, and the fielding of more and better chemical and biological defense equipment; (6) DOD must address remaining critical deficiencies if U.S. forces are to be provided with the resources necessary to better protect themselves; (7) DOD is now embarking on a major effort to protect U.S. forces from the threat of the deadly biological agent anthrax; (8) its program to immunize millions of active and reserve forces against anthrax, ensuring that each receives the prescribed vaccinations in the proper time sequence, will be a challenge; and (9) however, if DOD considers lessons learned from previous, smaller-sized immunization programs and from the medical record-keeping errors in the Gulf War and Bosnia in formulating detailed implementation plans, it can reduce the risks and improve the prospects for successfully managing the program.

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