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Chemical and Biological Defense: Emphasis Remains Insufficient to Resolve Continuing Problems

(Testimony, 03/12/96, GAO/T-NSIAD-96-123).

U.S. troops remain highly vulnerable to attack from biological and
chemical agents because the Defense Department has yet to address many
shortcomings identified during the Persian Gulf War, including
inadequate training, a lack of decontamination kits and other equipment,
and a shortage of vaccine stocks. Problems in chemical and biological
defense are likely to continue unless the Pentagon designates this area
a higher priority. The Defense Department has spent less than one
percent of its budget on chemical and biological warfare defense, and
from 1992 to 1995, funding in real terms fell by 30 percent.

--------------------------- Indexing Terms -----------------------------

 REPORTNUM:  T-NSIAD-96-123
     TITLE:  Chemical and Biological Defense: Emphasis Remains 
             Insufficient to Resolve Continuing Problems
      DATE:  03/12/96
   SUBJECT:  Chemical warfare
             Biological warfare
             Military training
             Combat readiness
             Medical equipment
             Defense capabilities
             Immunization services
             Military research
             Military operations
             Military materiel
IDENTIFIER:  Persian Gulf War
             JCS Status of Resources and Training System
             DOD Biological Integrated Detection System
             DOD Automatic Chemical Agent Alarm
             
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Cover
================================================================ COVER


Before the Committee on National Security, Subcommittee on Military
Research and Development, House of Representatives

For Release on Delivery
Expected at
3:00 p.m., EDT
Tuesday,
March 12, 1996

CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL DEFENSE -
EMPHASIS REMAINS INSUFFICIENT TO
RESOLVE CONTINUING PROBLEMS

Statement of Mark E.  Gebicke, Director, Military Operations and
Capabilities Issues, National Security and International Affairs
Division

GAO/T-NSIAD-96-123

GAO/NSIAD-96-123T


(703142)


Abbreviations
=============================================================== ABBREV

  JCS - x
  CINC - x
  DOD - x
  FDA - x
  IND - x
  OSD - x
  SORTS - x

============================================================ Chapter 0

Mr.  Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee: 

We appreciate the opportunity to provide our assessment of the
capability of U.S.  forces to fight and survive while under attack by
chemical and biological agents.  Our work was requested by the
Subcommittee on Readiness, House Committee on National Security, and
addresses early-deploying U.S.  Army and Marine Corps ground forces. 
Information was obtained from a wide range of officials to include
those in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of
Staff (JCS), the war-fighting commanders in chief (CINC), Department
of the Army, Headquarters U.S.  Marine Corps, U.S.  Army Forces
Command, U.S.  Army Reserve Command, and at corps, division, and
individual unit levels.  We plan to issue a report on our work in
April 1996. 

As GAO and the Department of Defense (DOD) have reported on numerous
occasions, during the Persian Gulf Conflict (1) many units arrived in
the Persian Gulf without needed protective equipment and adequate
training, (2) plans to vaccinate personnel to protect them from the
effects of biological agents were inadequate, and (3) medical units
lacked the ability to treat casualties in a chemically or
biologically contaminated environment.  U.S.  forces would have been
highly vulnerable to chemical or biological attack had they not had 6
months after arrival in the Gulf to deal with these shortcomings
before offensive operations began. 

Today U.S.  forces face a continually increasing threat of chemical
and biological warfare.  A steadily increasing number of potential
enemies now possess the technologies and capabilities to produce and
deliver a wide range of chemical and biological agents.  Although DOD
has somewhat improved its forces' defensive capability, units
designated for early deployment today face many of the same problems
that were experienced during the Persian Gulf Conflict in 1990 and
1991.  U.S.  forces still lack the ability to adequately defend
against chemical and/or biological agents and a degraded war-fighting
capability could still result from persistent equipment, training,
and medical shortcomings. 

This situation is a result of the inconsistent but generally lower
priority DOD--especially the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and the
war-fighting Commanders-in-Chief (CINC)--assigns chemical and
biological defense as evidenced by the limited funding, staffing, and
mission priority chemical and biological defense activities receive. 
Shortcomings in chemical and biological defense are likely to
continue unless the Secretary of Defense and the JCS Chairman
specifically assign a higher priority to this area.  DOD has spent
less than 1 percent of its budget on chemical and biological warfare
defense, and over the period 1992-1995, funding in real terms
decreased by 30 percent.  Our work gives us no reason to expect DOD
to place greater emphasis on this area in the future.  The salient
details on past and present problems in the U.S.  defense against
chemical and biological warfare are discussed below. 


   EARLY-DEPLOYING UNITS LACK
   REQUIRED EQUIPMENT
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:1

Shortages of chemical and biological defense equipment are a
long-standing problem.  After the Persian Gulf Conflict, the Army
changed its regulations in an attempt to ensure that early-deploying
units would have sufficient equipment on hand upon deployment.  This
direction, contained in U.S.  Forces Command Regulation 700-2, has
not been universally implemented.  Presently, neither the Army's more
than five active divisions composing the crisis response force nor
the early-deploying Army reserve units we visited had complied with
the new stocking level requirements.  All had shortages of critical
equipment; three of the more than five active divisions had 50
percent or greater shortages of protective suits, and shortages of
other critical items were as high as 84 percent, depending on the
unit and the item.  This equipment is normally procured with
operation and maintenance funds. 

These shortages occurred primarily because unit commanders
consistently diverted operation and maintenance funds to meet what
they considered higher priority requirements, such as base operating
costs, quality-of-life considerations, and costs associated with
other-than-war deployments such as those to Haiti and Somalia. 
Relative to the DOD budget, the cost of purchasing this protective
equipment is low.  Early-deploying active divisions in the
continental United States could meet current stocking requirements
for an additional cost of about $15 million.  However, unless funds
are specifically designated for chemical and biological defense
equipment, we do not believe unit commanders will spend operation and
maintenance funds for this purpose.  The shortages of on-hand stock
are exacerbated by inadequate installation warehouse space for
equipment storage, poor inventorying and reordering techniques,
shelf-life limitations, and difficulty in maintaining appropriate
protective clothing sizes. 

The Army is presently considering decreasing units' stocking
requirements to the levels needed to support only each
early-deploying division's ready brigade and relying on depots to
provide the additional equipment needed on a "just-in-time" basis
before deployment.  Other approaches under consideration by the Army
include funding these equipment purchases through procurement
accounts, and transferring responsibility for purchasing and storing
this material on Army installations to the Defense Logistics Agency. 


   PROGRESS IN RESEARCH AND
   DEVELOPMENT IS SLOWER THAN
   PLANNED
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:2

New and improved equipment is needed to overcome some DOD defensive
shortfalls, and DOD is having difficulty meeting all of its planned
chemical and biological defense research goals.  Efforts to improve
the management of the materiel development and acquisition process
have so far had limited results and will not attain their full effect
until at least fiscal year 1998. 

In response to lessons learned in the Gulf War, Congress directed DOD
to improve the coordination of chemical and biological doctrine,
requirements, research, development, and acquisition among DOD and
the military services.\1 DOD has acted.  During 1994 and 1995, it
established the Joint Service Integration Group to prioritize
chemical and biological defense research efforts and develop a
modernization plan and the Joint Service Materiel Group to develop
research, development, acquisition, and logistics support plans.  The
activities of these two groups are overseen by a single DOD office
--the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Atomic Energy)(Chemical and
Biological Matters).  While these groups have begun to implement the
congressional requirements of P.L.  103-160, progress has been slower
than expected.  At the time of our review, the Joint Service
Integration Group expected to produce during 1996 its proposed (1)
list of chemical and biological defense research priorities and (2)
joint service modernization plan and operational strategy.  The Joint
Service Materiel Group expects to deliver its proposed plan to guide
chemical and biological defense research, development, and
acquisition in October 1996.  Consolidated research and modernization
plans are important for avoiding duplication among the services and
otherwise achieving the most effective use of limited resources.  It
is unclear whether or when DOD will approve these plans.  However,
DOD officials acknowledged that it will be fiscal year 1998 at the
earliest, about 5 years after the law was passed, before DOD can
begin formal budgetary implementation of these plans.  DOD officials
told us progress by these groups has been adversely affected by
personnel shortages and collateral duties assigned to the staff. 

DOD efforts to field specific equipment and conduct research to
address chemical and biological defense deficiencies have produced
mixed results.  On the positive side, DOD began to field the
Biological Integrated Detection System in January 1996 and expects to
complete the initial purchase of 38 systems by September 1996. 
However, DOD has not succeeded in fielding other needed equipment and
systems designed to address critical battlefield deficiencies
identified during the Persian Gulf Conflict and earlier.  For
example, work initiated in 1978 to develop an Automatic Chemical
Agent Alarm to provide visual, audio, and command-communicated
warnings of chemical agents remains incomplete.  Because of service
decisions to fund other priorities, DOD has approved and acquired
only 103 of the more than 200 FOX mobile reconnaissance systems
originally planned.  Of the 11 chemical and biological defense
research goals listed in DOD's 1995 Annual Report to the Congress,
DOD met 5 by their expected completion date of January 1996.  Some
were not met.  For example, a DOD attempt to develop a less corrosive
and labor-intensive decontaminate solution is now not expected to be
completed until 2002. 


--------------------
\1 The National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 1994,
Public Law 103-160, November 30, 1993. 


   ARMY AND MARINE FORCES ARE
   INADEQUATELY
   TRAINED FOR CHEMICAL/BIOLOGICAL
   DEFENSE
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:3

Chemical and biological defense training at all levels has been a
constant problem for many years.  For example, in 1986, DOD studies
found that its forces were inadequately trained to conduct critical
tasks.  It took 6 months during the Persian Gulf Conflict to prepare
forces in theater to defend against chemical and biological agents. 
However, these skills declined again after this conflict.  A 1993
Army Chemical School study found that a combined arms force of
infantry, artillery, and support units would have extreme difficulty
performing its mission and suffer needless casualties if forced to
operate in a chemical or biological environment because the force was
only marginally trained. 

Army studies conducted from 1991 to 1995 showed serious weaknesses at
all levels in chemical and biological defense skills.  Our analysis
of Army readiness evaluations, trend data, and lessons learned
reports from this period also showed individuals, units, and
commanders alike had problems performing basic tasks critical to
surviving and operating in a chemical or biological environment. 
Despite DOD efforts-- such as doctrinal changes and command
directives--designed to improve training in defense against chemical
and biological warfare since the Gulf War, U.S.  forces continue to
experience serious weaknesses in (1) donning protective masks, (2)
deploying detection equipment, (3) providing medical care, (4)
planning for the evacuation of casualties, and (5) including chemical
and biological issues in operational plans.  The Marine Corps also
continues to experience similar problems. 

In addition to individual service training problems, the ability of
joint forces to operate in a contaminated environment is
questionable.  In 1995, only 10 percent of the joint exercises
conducted by four major CINCs included training to defend against
chemical and biological agents.  None of this training included all
23 required chemical/biological training tasks, and the majority
included less than half of these tasks.  Furthermore, these CINCs
plan to include chemical/biological training in only 15 percent of
the joint exercises for 1996.  This clearly demonstrates the lack of
chemical and biological warfare training at the joint service level. 
There are two fundamental reasons for this.  First, CINCs generally
consider chemical and biological training and preparedness to be the
responsibility of the individual services.  Second, CINCs believe
that chemical and biological defense training is a low priority
relative to their other needs. 


   MEDICAL UNITS LACK EQUIPMENT
   AND TRAINING
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:4

We examined the ability of U.S.  Army medical units that support
early-deploying Army divisions to provide treatment to casualties in
a chemically and biologically contaminated environment.  We found
that these units often lacked needed equipment and training. 


      LACK OF EQUIPMENT
-------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:4.1

Medical units supporting early-deploying Army divisions we visited
often lacked critical equipment needed to treat casualties in a
chemically or biologically contaminated environment.  For example,
these units had only about 50 to 60 percent of their authorized
patient treatment and decontamination kits.  Some of the patient
treatment kits on hand were missing critical items such as drugs used
to treat casualties.  Also, none of the units had any type of
collective shelter to treat casualties in a contaminated environment. 
Army officials acknowledged that the inability to provide treatment
in the forward area of battle would result in greater rates of injury
and death.  Old versions of collective shelters are unsuitable,
unserviceable, and no longer in use; new shelters are not expected to
be available until fiscal year 1997 at the earliest. 


      LACK OF TRAINING
-------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:4.2

Few Army physicians in the units we visited had received formal
training on chemical and biological patient treatment beyond that
provided by the Basic Medical Officer course.  Further instruction on
chemical and biological patient treatment is provided by the medical
advanced course and the chemical and biological casualty management
course.  The latter course provides 6-1/2 days of classroom and field
instruction needed to save lives, minimize injury, and conserve
fighting strength in a chemical or biological warfare environment. 
During the Persian Gulf Conflict, this course was provided on an
emergency basis to medical units already deployed to the Gulf.  In
1995, 47 to 81 percent of Army physicians assigned to early-deploying
units had not attended the medical advanced course, and 70 to 97
percent had not attended the casualty management course. 

Both the advanced and casualty management courses are optional, and
according to Army medical officials, peacetime demands to provide
care to service members and their dependents often prevented
attendance.  Also, the Army does not monitor those who attend the
casualty management course, nor does it target this course toward
those who need it most, such as those assigned to early-deploying
units. 


      VACCINE STOCKS AND
      IMMUNIZATION PLANS
-------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:4.3

DOD has inadequate stocks of vaccines for known threat agents, and an
immunization policy established in 1993 that DOD so far has chosen
not to implement.  DOD's program to vaccinate the force to protect
them against biological agents will not be fully effective until
these problems are resolved. 

Though DOD has identified which biological agents are critical
threats and determined the amount of vaccines that should be stocked,
we found that the amount of vaccines stocked remains insufficient to
protect U.S.  forces, as it was during the Persian Gulf Conflict. 
Problems also exist with regard to the vaccines available to DOD. 
Only a few biological agent vaccines have been approved by the Food
and Drug Administration (FDA).  Many remain in Investigational New
Drug (IND) status.  Although IND vaccines have long been safely
administered to personnel working in DOD vaccine research and
development programs, the FDA usually requires large-scale field
trials in humans to demonstrate new drug safety and effectiveness
before approval.  DOD has not performed such field trials due to
ethical and legal considerations.  DOD officials said that they hoped
to acquire a prime contractor during 1996 to subcontract vaccine
production and do what is needed to obtain FDA approval of vaccines
currently under investigation. 

Since the Persian Gulf Conflict, DOD has consolidated the funding and
management of several biological warfare defense activities,
including vaccines, under the new Joint Program Office for Biological
Defense.  In November 1993, DOD established a policy to stockpile
sufficient biological agent vaccines and to inoculate service members
assigned to high-threat areas or to early-deploying units before
deployment.  The JCS and other high-ranking DOD officials have not
yet approved implementation of the immunization policy.  The draft
policy implementation plan is completed and is currently under review
within DOD.  However, this issue is highly controversial within DOD,
and whether the implementation plan will be approved and carried out
is unclear.  Until that happens, service members in high-threat areas
or designated for early deployment in a crisis will not be protected
by approved vaccines against biological agents. 


   PROBLEMS STEM FROM LACK OF
   EMPHASIS ON PREPARATION FOR
   CHEMICAL/BIOLOGICAL WARFARE
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:5

The primary cause for the deficiencies in chemical and biological
defense preparedness is a lack of emphasis up and down the line of
command in DOD.  In the final analysis, it is a matter of commanders'
military judgment to decide the relative significance of risks and to
apply resources to counter those risks that the commander finds most
compelling.  DOD has decided to concentrate on other priorities and
consequently to accept a greater risk regarding preparedness for
operations on a contaminated battlefield. 


      FUNDING
-------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:5.1

Chemical and biological defense funding allocations are being
targeted by the Joint Staff and DOD for reduction in their attempts
to fund other, higher priority programs.  DOD allocates less than 1
percent of its total budget to chemical and biological defense. 
Annual funding for this area has decreased by over 30 percent in
constant dollars since fiscal year 1992, from approximately $750
million in that fiscal year to $504 million in 1995.  This reduction
has occurred in spite of the current U.S.  intelligence assessment
that the chemical and biological warfare threat to U.S.  forces is
increasing and the importance of defending against the use of such
agents in the changing worldwide military environment. 

Funding could decrease even further.  On October 26, 1995, the Joint
Requirements Oversight Council and the JCS Chairman proposed to the
Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) a cut of $200 million for
the next 5 years ($1 billion total) to the counterproliferation
budget.  The counterproliferation program element in the DOD budget
includes funding for the joint nuclear, chemical, and biological
defense program as well as vaccine procurement and other related
counterproliferation support activities.  If implemented, this cut
would severely impair planned chemical and biological defense
research and development efforts and reverse the progress that has
been made in several areas, according to DOD sources.  OSD supported
only an $800 million cut over 5 years and sent the recommendation to
the Secretary of Defense.  On March 7, 1996, we were told that DOD
was now considering a proposed funding reduction of $33 million. 


      STAFFING AND MONITORING
-------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:5.2

The battle staff chemical officer/chemical noncommissioned officers
are a commander's principal trainers and advisers on chemical and
biological defense operations and equipment operations and
maintenance.  We found that chemical and biological officer staff
positions are being eliminated and that when filled, staff officers
occupying the position are frequently assigned collateral tasks that
reduces the time available to manage chemical and biological defense
activities.  At U.S.  Army Forces Command and U.S.  Army III Corps
headquarters, for example, chemical staff positions are being
reduced.  Also, DOD officials told us that the Joint Service
Integration and Joint Service Materiel Groups have made limited
progress largely because not enough personnel are assigned to them
and collateral duties are assigned to the staff.  We also found that
chemical officers assigned to a CINC's staff were frequently tasked
with duties not related to chemical and biological defense. 

The lower emphasis given to chemical and biological matters is also
demonstrated by weaknesses in the methods used to monitor their
status.  DOD's current system for reporting readiness to the Joint
Staff is the Status of Resources and Training System (SORTS).  We
found that the effectiveness of SORTS for evaluating unit chemical
and biological defense readiness is limited largely because (1) it
allows commanders to be subjective in their evaluations, (2) it
allows commanders to determine for themselves which equipment is
critical, and (3) reporting remains optional at the division level. 
We also found that after-action and lessons-learned reports and
operational readiness evaluations of chemical and biological training
are flawed.  At the U.S.  Army Reserve Command there is no chemical
or biological defense position.  Consequently, the U.S.  Army Reserve
Command does not effectively monitor the chemical and biological
defense status of reserve forces. 


      MISSION PRIORITY
-------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:5.3

The priority given to chemical and biological defense varied widely. 
Most CINCs assign chemical and biological defense a lower priority
than other threats.  Even though the Joint Staff has tasked CINCs to
ensure that their forces are trained in certain joint chemical and
biological defense tasks, the CINCs we visited considered such
training a service responsibility.  Several DOD officials said that
U.S.  forces still face a generally limited, although increasing,
threat of chemical and biological warfare. 

At Army corps, division, and unit levels, the priority given to this
area depended on the commander's opinion of its relative importance. 
At one early-deploying division we visited, the commander had an
aggressive system for chemical and biological training, monitoring,
and reporting.  At another, the commander had made a conscious
decision to emphasize other areas, such as other-than-war deployments
and quality-of-life considerations.  As this unit was increasingly
being asked to conduct operations other than war, the commander's
emphasis on the chemical and biological warfare threat declined. 

Officials at all levels said training in chemical and biological
preparedness was not emphasized because of higher priority taskings,
low levels of interest by higher headquarters, difficulty working in
cumbersome and uncomfortable protective clothing and masks, the
time-consuming nature of the training, and a heavy reliance on
post-mobilization training and preparation. 


-------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:5.4

We have no means to determine whether increased emphasis on chemical
and biological warfare defense is warranted at the expense of other
priorities.  This is a matter of military judgment by DOD and of
funding priorities by DOD and the Congress.  We anticipate that in
our report due in April 1996, we will recommend that the Secretary of
Defense reevaluate the low priority given to chemical and biological
defense and consider adopting a single manager concept for the
execution of the chemical and biological program given the increasing
chemical and biological warfare threat and the continuing weakness in
the military's defense capability.  Further, we anticipate
recommending that the Secretary consider elevating the office for
current oversight to its own Assistant Secretary of Defense level,
rather than leaving it in its present position as part of the Office
of the Assistant Secretary for Atomic Energy.  We may make other
recommendations concerning opportunities to improve the effectiveness
of existing DOD chemical and biological activities. 

We would be pleased to respond to any questions you may have. 


*** End of document. ***