A major worry during Desert Storm was Iraq’s possible use of chemical warfare agents against US forces. US planners considered the possibility of accidentally exposing US forces to chemical warfare agents due to friendly action but expert opinion believed that such releases would not impact US forces. Intelligence sources did not identify all chemical warfare agent targets before the war. Consequently, senior leadership believed that even though bombing certain targets risked releasing chemical warfare agents, the chemical agent would be retained in any destroyed facility.[64] During Desert Storm we did not possess a sufficiently credible method to assess the impact or extent of friendly forces’ possible unintentional exposure to chemical warfare agent released by friendly air attacks. The potential proliferation of chemical weapons makes it likely US forces may face similar problems in future conflicts.

As described in our Information Paper, "The Use of Modeling and Simulation in the Planning of Attacks on Iraqi Chemical and Biological Warfare Targets," little predictive computer modeling of attacks on chemical and biological facilities existed. We believe the Department of Defense and intelligence community have made strides in their ability to model a chemical warfare agent release. However, they could improve their capability to predict or define a threat. Specifically, the ability to collect real time local weather or, if this is not possible, to capture available weather data in any form would assist in improving the accuracy of hazard area predictions.

A. Attack Planning and Assessment

The lack of adequate bomb damage assessment was a problem during Operation Desert Storm, one that continues to hamper our attempts to assess US forces’ health risks posed by the air war against Iraq’s chemical warfare agent facilities. The limited data available make some judgements speculative and require assumptions.

We suggest these measures might improve the military’s capability to reduce health risks to US forces:

B. Preserving Selected Data Supporting Combat Operations

Combat forces routinely use data in prosecuting operations that needs careful preservation and archiving for future use. To a degree, standard procedures for collecting these data already exist, but data often are lost during the press of actual operations.

C. Identifying Chemical Warfare Storage Sites

Before the war, there were preconceived ideas of how Iraq would store chemical weapons with the predominant belief being chemical and conventional weapons would be stored in concrete bunkers. As it turned out, concrete bunkers were not necessarily a reliable signature for the presence of chemical munitions. Unlike US storage practices, Iraq mingled stored chemical and conventional ammunition at Muhammadiyat. If it is not current practice, intelligence analysts need to look at a country’s entire chemical warfare agent program—development, testing, production, weaponization, and camouflage and deception practices—to ascertain potential storage locations.

D. Toxicity Data

DoD and the intelligence community do not currently have complete toxicity data (e.g., physical and chemical properties) on all combinations of chemical warfare agents. We have toxicity data for sarin and toxicity data for cyclosarin, but we do not have toxicity data for a mix of sarin and cyclosarin. The lack of toxicity data on sarin-cyclosarin mixture required us to make several assumptions about these agents’ combined toxicity in our modeling. Appropriate chemical warfare manuals and publications should include toxicity data for a sarin-cyclosarin mixture. This toxicity data would be advantageous to planners and analysts.

E. New Data Needed for Catastrophic Agent Release

We have relied on data from experiments conducted four decades ago to estimate the results of a catastrophic agent release due to fire. The data are limited, and experts have raised questions about their validity. Additional experiments should gather more data points to assist in understanding how a chemical warfare agent facility catastrophically destroyed in an air attack releases its stored chemical agent into the environment.

F. Air Strike Record-Keeping

We used air tasking orders (ATOs) which contain planned strike information, mission reports (MISREPs) which contain pilot reports for completed strikes, and bomb damage assessments (BDA) to determine the bombing dates of the Muhammadiyat chemical warfare stores. Although we had access to all the services’ bombing data, including Air Force historical records from Maxwell Air Force Base, we often found ATOs but not the corresponding MISREPs, or the opposite, a MISREP but no corresponding ATO. It is possible aircraft were diverted from Muhammadiyat to other targets or from other targets to Muhammadiyat, causing an applicable document to be missing, but we were unable to verify why appropriate documentation was missing. Aircrew debriefings appear in some places to be incomplete.

Additionally, the information found was often inaccurate. For example, some of the time lines in the MISREPs were wrong. In one instance, the time on target (i.e., time of the attack), normally expected to appear as four digits with a time zone designator (e.g., 0200Z), was listed as zero. Moreover, the MISREP results field rarely identified the specific target inside the complex and/or the resulting damage. This made it difficult to determine whether the attack hit the chemical weapon storage area at Muhammadiyat or another part of the complex.

For attacks on targets suspected of containing chemical weapons, the services must exercise substantial care in collecting and retaining information about the attack.

G. Detecting Low Concentration Levels of Chemical Warfare Agents

Existing military chemical warfare detectors normally warn of agent concentrations requiring individuals to take protective measures. When the military developed these detectors, the technology to detect extremely small concentrations of a chemical warfare agent that would not discernibly affect people did not exist. Researchers need to develop techniques and/or equipment to detect small concentrations of chemical warfare agents (i.e., down to the concentrations for occupational (acceptable limits for those working with toxic agents) or general population limits.) A device or technique meeting this objective would continuously record the presence or absence of chemical warfare agents in the atmosphere rather than act as a chemical warfare agent alarm. Reading the device’s outputs would more accurately determine exposure to small concentrations of agent.

H. Militarily Significant Dosages of Chemical Warfare Agents

Numerous technical reports published since the Gulf War indicate that the amount of chemical warfare agents required to cause militarily significant effects (lethal, incapacitating and first noticeable effects) is smaller. These agents are now considered more toxic than at the time of the Gulf War. Current military manuals (i.e., US Army Field Manual 3-9, US Navy Publication P-467, US Air Force Manual 355-7, "Potential Military Chemical/Biological Agents and Compounds,") still reflect the values in effect at the time of the Gulf War. DoD needs to establish procedures so that the latest accepted values are incorporate into appropriate manuals.

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