Chemical Warfare:

Many Unanswered Questions

IPE-83-6: Published: Apr 29, 1983. Publicly Released: Apr 29, 1983.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO assessed and synthesized existing information describing deterrents to the use of chemical weapons, Soviet and U.S. chemical warfare capabilities, binary chemical weapons, and the implications of binary weapons production for disarmament negotiations.

GAO found that most arguments concerning chemical warfare are not based upon empirical evidence, which has caused deficiencies in U.S. chemical warfare defensive and retaliatory readiness. GAO identified a number of inadequately answered questions about the effects of chemical weapons and believes that the U.S. chemical weapons system is not very reliable because little is known about its functioning or usefulness. Although many questions have not been answered, the Department of Defense has requested a large amount of money to modernize its system. GAO concluded that more credible information is needed in the areas of Soviet offensive capability, chemical and nonchemical munitions, and delivery systems. In addition, more empirical data are required for the United States to effectively achieve its military objectives, protect civilians, plan for battlefield strategies, and produce binary weapons.

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