Chemical and Biological Defense:

DOD Should Clarify Expectations for Medical Readiness

GAO-02-219T: Published: Nov 7, 2001. Publicly Released: Nov 7, 2001.

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A 1995 Presidential Decision Directive gave the highest priority to developing the capabilities to detect, prevent, defeat, and manage the consequences of a nuclear, biological, or chemical attack. In addition, the former Secretary of Defense emphasized at his 1997 confirmation hearing the threat that U.S. forces abroad face from chemical and biological weapons. The Office of the Secretary of Defense, the joint staff, and the armed services play distinct but interrelated roles in ensuring medical readiness. Defense planning is led by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, which sets policy and develops defense planning guidance. On the basis of this guidance, the Joint Chiefs issue a biannual Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan for the nation's unified combat commands. These commands are responsible for fighting and winning wars within a particular area, usually defined by geographical boundaries. The commanders-in-chief develop war plans and requirements that specify the combat troops and support that will be needed to meet the threat and mission assigned by the Capabilities Plan. The services, in turn, train and equip the forces, including medical personnel, to meet the needs of the commanders-in-chief. So far, neither DOD nor the services have systematically examined the current distribution of medical personnel across specialties for adequacy in chemical and biological defense. This testimony summarizes an October report (GAO-02-38).

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