Operation Desert Storm:

DOD Met Need for Chemical Suits and Masks, but Longer Term Actions Needed

NSIAD-92-116: Published: Apr 7, 1992. Publicly Released: May 7, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed Department of Defense (DOD) supply of chemical equipment, focusing on whether: (1) adequate supplies of chemical protective suits, masks, and mask filters were available for Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield; and (2) DOD is effectively managing chemical equipment acquisition and distribution.

GAO found that: (1) although U.S. armed forces participating in Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield did not experience shortages of chemical protective suits, masks, or mask filters, DOD was not adequately prepared for chemical warfare; (2) reserve stockpiles of chemical protective suits may have been significantly depleted if the war had lasted longer or chemical weapons had been used; (3) many troops were issued older suits and masks that provided adequate protection but lacked benefits found in newer suits; (4) to prevent the shortage of critical items during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield, DOD established a new organization to identify worldwide stockpiles of chemical equipment and transferred the supplies to the Persian Gulf, purchased additional suits, stepped up efforts to rebuild older masks, and awarded contracts for mask filters; (5) DOD has long-standing problems finding enough manufacturers capable of and willing to produce suits at a price it is willing to pay and ensuring that manufacturers meet scheduled delivery dates; and (6) DOD has partially addressed its suit and mask problems, but a more comprehensive approach is needed.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Although DOD agreed with the recommendation, it claimed the Army had already prepared a revised nuclear, biological, and chemical modernization plan which incorporates all of the issues covered by GAO's recommendation. GAO plans to examine the adequacy of this plan during future reviews.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army, in cooperation with the Director of the Defense Logistics Agency, to develop and implement a long-range action plan with target dates to ensure that required chemical defense equipment is available for all military personnel when needed. At a minimum, the plan should reassess the quantities, characteristics, and capabilities for all chemical protective suits, masks, and other chemical defense equipment, as appropriate to meet both peacetime and wartime needs, taking into account the changing threat and shrinking force size. The plan should reassess the industrial base needed to meet those requirements and the steps to develop this industrial base, and procurement methods or procedures to ensure the selection of quality producers.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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