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Highlights

The Department of Defense (DOD) believes that it is increasingly likely that an adversary will use nuclear, biological, or chemical (NBC) weapons against U.S. forces. Consequently, DOD doctrine calls for U.S. forces to be sufficiently trained to continue their missions in an NBC-contaminated environment. Given longstanding concerns about the preparedness of DOD's servicemembers in this critical area, GAO has undertaken a body of work covering NBC protective equipment and training. For this review, GAO was asked to determine the following: (1) To what extent do Army and Marine Corps units and personnel attending combat training centers participate in NBC training, and to what extent do these units and personnel perform NBC tasks at the centers to service standards? (2) Do the Army and the Marine Corps report NBC training at the centers in a standardized format that allows the services to identify lessons learned and to do cross-unit and cross-center comparisons?

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense To ensure that the NBC training opportunities offered to Army and Marine Corps units from training at their combat training centers are maximized and that NBC lessons learned at these centers are uniformly recorded and archived, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to establish the minimum NBC tasks for units attending training exercises at combat training centers (CTC).
Closed - Not Implemented
The Army stated that all current CTC rotations are Mission Rehearsal Exercises for units deploying in support of current operations, which involve scenarios, tasks, and conditions that are designed to replicate those anticipated in the theater of operation. Ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan dominate the current Army force rotations and are characterized by a low NBC threat. The Army further stated that it expects this to be the case for the foreseeable future but that it will implement the recommendations as soon as the current operational environment allows. The Army is transitioning to a force generation model(ARFORGEN) that will determine the Mission Essential Task to be trained before deploying, based on assigned mission or planned contingency. The Army is planning to implement the recommendations as soon as the current operational environment permits and units are conducting full spectrum CTC rotations or the assigned mission requires training on NBC tasks. The new force generation model will allow the Army to incorporate specific NBC tasks for units designated and conducting training for those missions at combat training centers.
Department of Defense To ensure that the NBC training opportunities offered to Army and Marine Corps units from training at their combat training centers are maximized and that NBC lessons learned at these centers are uniformly recorded and archived, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to standardize reporting formats to capture NBC training that occurs at the CTCs.
Closed - Not Implemented
The Army stated that it will standardize the training unit after action report formats for CTC rotations in the next published revisions to specifically include NBC training. It linked the timing of this action with its previous response that the scope and focus of current CTC rotations is on ongoing operations and not NBC-specific missions. Further, it stated that it will implement the recommendation as soon as the current operational environment allows.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Navy to direct the Commandant of the Marine Corps to establish the minimum NBC tasks for units attending the combined arms exercise at Twentynine Palms.
Closed - Not Implemented
In response to the report recommendation, as of 8/01/2006, the Marine Corps confirmed that a Marine officer with an NBC occupational specialty/background and training had been assigned to Twenty-nine Palms to help design, execute, and critique NBC training conducted there. Although the Marine Corps has chosen not to establish a pre-set list of NBC training activities to be conducted by all visiting units, the assigned chemical officer has developed the equivalent of a master list of potential NBC training events and assists unit commanders in designing the NBC training needed for particular operations or meeting commanders' operational training needs. The Marine Corps has therefore set in place a system designed to standardize the manner in which minimum NBC tasks are incorporated in combined arms exercises at Twenty-nine Palms, although full implementation is on hold until current missions, threats, and operating conditions allow.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Navy to direct the Commandant of the Marine Corps to standardize reporting formats to capture NBC training that occurs during a combined arms exercise at Twentynine Palms.
Closed - Not Implemented
The Marine Corps reported that while it is prepared to integrate NBC training in their Combined Arms Exercises on short notice, full implementation has been delayed due to focus of training on preparing units for current operations and threats. The NBC training will be fully implemented when missions, threats, and operating conditions allow. However, in response to the recommendation, on August 1, 2006, the Marine Corps confirmed that a Marine Officer with an NBC occupational specialty background had been assigned to Twenty-nine Palms and tasked with operating a standardized system for ensuring that combined arms exercise after action reports and records contain NBC training information, just like it does for all other training conducted during a combined arms exercise. This will permit the Marine Corps to capture NBC training during combined arms exercises when its operational demands allow.

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