TAB K - US Department of Defense Lessons Learned

The following is a compilation of some key lessons learned by US investigators reviewing incidents at the Kuwaiti Girls’ School. These lessons learned are solely US Department of Defense in scope and are not intended to reflect the opinions or positions of other Departments or Governments.

1. Communication

Many individuals and organizations had contact with the tank; however, they did not always communicate with one another, nor did they always know of the others’ contact. This was primarily attributable to the various jurisdictions of each organization and the principle of need-to-know. A prime example is the US Army Corps of Engineers which initially investigated the tank. Although the Corps had pertinent information that may have brought this issue to closure early on, it was left out of subsequent discussions.

Another lesson learned in the area of communication is that reporting solely to command elements rather than specific individuals involved does not always provide the closure desired. Institutional memory is held by individuals not organizations, which often have significant staff turnover. This was the case when the results of the British analysis of the samples on resin were relayed to Task Force Victory. The principals involved from Task Force Victory, including Lieutenant Colonel Killgore, then-Captain Johnson and the rest of the 54th Chemical Troop, had already left the theater of operations and were never notified of the results. Interviews with these individuals continually yielded the same outcome: that, to their knowledge, the tank contained chemical warfare agent. Conflicting reporting between those involved and the DoD/MoD, coupled with the fact that a final report was never generated, warranted an investigation into the matter. Notifying those individuals involved could have brought the matter to conclusion rapidly while providing immediate closure to many of the questions and concerns of those involved.

Finally, the need to disseminate necessary intelligence to units entering theater, not just those already in theater, should be addressed. Information regarding the CAM registering eight bars on mustard in the presence of IRFNA in Scud missile wreckage occurred in February of 1991. None of the US forces interviewed could confirm receiving this report on the CAM. All of the US forces involved at the Kuwaiti Girls’ School entered theater after this message had been relayed. Had they been briefed about this upon entering theater, they may have questioned the results at the time of the testing.

2. Document All Reports Relating to a Potential Chemical Warfare/Biological Warfare Incident

A key lesson learned from this investigation is that all reporting relating to a potential chemical warfare/biological warfare incident should be documented. Regardless of whether or not it substantiates the allegation, all evidence should be recorded in written form with the ultimate goal of a formal report on the incident to be disseminated to those involved and other appropriate parties. This is particularly essential when there are many jurisdictions involved. Furthermore, this documentation needs to be recorded at the time of the incident with all initial and subsequent documentation passed up through the chain-of-command.

3. Doctrine, Tactics, Techniques, Procedures, Training and Requirements

The possibility that nitric acid, red fuming nitric acid, and inhibited red fuming nitric acid might cause on chemical weapons detectors such as the CAM to register a false positive should be determined as close as possible under battlefield conditions. This knowledge may precipitate a change in doctrine, training or equipment to account for these false positives and methods to reconfirm.

IRFNA is not the only substance with a possible effect on chemical warfare agent detectors. Thus, as many battlefield contaminants as possible should be tested. Operators need to be made aware of possible contaminants and overall sensitivity of the various types of detectors. Identifying the contaminants will enable potential alterations to be made in the scope of doctrine, tactics, techniques, procedures, training and requirements.

4. Coordination of Information Among Participants

When reviewing a possible chemical warfare/biological incident in which multiple sovereign parties are involved, investigators from all participant countries need to understand the operating procedures and policy guidelines for each country. The concerns expressed by members of the Senate committee and the Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Illnesses regarding the lack of contemporary information, combined with misunderstanding the United Kingdom’s code on release of information, may have been alleviated.


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