DoD Persian Gulf War Veteran's Illnesses Investigation Team Testimony to the Presidential Advisory Committee, July 9,1996

Col Koenigsberg:

I am Colonel Koenigsberg, I'm the Director of the Persian Gulf Illness Investigation Team for the Department of Defense. We turned in a report to you that was written and you asked that we summarize this and that's what we intend to do. The international community, through the United Nations, has established protocol for determination of chemical weapons used. These criteria contain a detailed written record of the conditions at this site, physical evidence from this site, such as weapon fragments, soil, water, vegetation, or human/animal tissue samples. A record of the chain of custody during transportation of evidence and multiple analysis to include examination of neutral third parties. Our approach to examining the chemical agent detections reported during the war basically followed the same process. We have found no evidence that would allow us to assess the validity of any of the reported detections. That is not to say the detections are not valid. It's just simply to say that we've not been able to find corroborating evidence such as physical samples. Lt. Col. Martin will address several specific aspects that you requested.

LTC Martin:

Your Committee has asked that we provide our evaluation of reported chemical agent detections by U.S. forces using the 256 kit and our review of fox reconnaissance vehicle, chemical agent rejections during the Gulf War. The M256 kit is used primarily to identify whether chemical agent is present, after a chemical alarm is sounded or a chemical attack is suspected and to determine the type of chemical agent present. It is used after troops have already taken appropriate protection measures by going to MOPP 4. The kit is used by unit commanders to assist in determining whether and when it's safe to use chemical protective posture. Since there are a number of substances in addition to chemical agents that can cause positive responses, there is no way to determine the validity of a particular M256 kit by itself. The kit creates no permanent record and the only records available are unit log entries resulting from reports of tests performed. The evaluation of reports, of individual 256 kits detections that we have carried out thus far, there's been no physical evidence, no weapons fragments, no sample tests, et cetera, that would allow us to corroborate reported M256 kit detections. We plan to look at the totality of reported 256 kit results to see whether any patterns emerge. I will now discuss our review of FOX vehicle detections. Primary detection in the FOX vehicle is the MM1 mass spectrometer, which is unique to the fox vehicle. It is designed to detect the presence of liquid contamination on the ground. When the MM1 detects contamination, it alerts the crew, and if prompted, will provide a spectral analysis record of the contamination, if enough of the contaminate is present.

This record of tape can later be analyzed by experts to validate the detection. Because the FOX vehicle was introduced to the services just prior to the ground offensive, there were no standardized procedures in place to allow for the chain of custody and forwarding of the MM1 tapes produced by the FOX vehicle computer. Consequently, even though several witnesses have stated that tapes were generated after a detection, only a relatively few tapes were actually received for further analysis.

In 1993, at the request of the Office of the U.S. Army Chief of Staff, a panel of chemical experts were convened, including participants from the United States Army Chemical School, the Chemical and Biological Defense Command, and other U.S. Army and industry mass spectrometry experts to review the surviving FOX tapes. The tapes were incomplete and the panel was unable to perform a comprehensive evaluation. The Board's findings were published in a memo to the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staffs for Operations and Plans. To quote the memo, "Based on this evaluation, we cannot confirm any of the reported chemical warfare agent detections from the information supplied, nor can we deny with 100 percent certainty, that chemical warfare agents was detected by the MM1. We firmly believe that all the reported detections are false alarms caused by interference from air contaminants, from air contaminated by oil well fires and burning vehicles instructors."

Since 1993, since the 1993 review, no new MM1 tapes have been provided to CBDCOM for analysis. Most of the tapes originally sent lacked crucial information, such as precise location, identification of the crew and operator, vehicle, and vehicle identification number, which would assist us in matching a specific incident with a specific tape.

I would now like to report to you the results of our investigation to this point of Kamisiyah bunker demolition operations, where a bunker, bunker number 73, containing chemical munitions, was destroyed in early March of 1991. Although Kamisiyah was never designated as a chemical production or storage facility target by coalition forces, a small number of bunkers were destroyed during the air war, but not bunker 73. In early March, 1991, after the Gulf War cease fire, the 37th Engineer Battalion, as well as the company from the 307th Engineer Battalion, both supporting the 82nd Airborne Division, moved in the vicinity of Kamisiyah with a mission to destroy the bunkers and their contents prior to moving back to Saudi Arabia for redeployment. Officers of the 37th Engineer Battalion reported that there were approximately 150 troops involved in the actual demolition. During the period 03-10 March 1991, a systematic destruction of the Kamisiyah bunkers was conducted. Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) unit personnel supported the engineers during this operation. In interviews, the EOD personnel stated that they were aware that they might encounter chemical munitions in any of the demolition missions and were looking for them. The EOD personnel accompanying the engineer teams examining each bunker prior to setting the demolition charges did not identify any chemical munitions. This does not preclude the possibility that chemical munitions were present. Operational records, intelligence information, personal interviews indicate that about 3 p.m. on 4 March 1991, approximately 38 bunkers were destroyed, one of which was bunker 73, now identified as containing chemical munitions.

According to the Company Commander, the destruction of these 38 bunkers is the same explosion portrayed in the videotape recently obtained from a 37th Engineer Battalion soldier. During the short time portrayed on the videotape, the cloud appeared to be traveling in an easterly or a northeasterly direction, away from the troops observing the explosion. Personal log kept by one of the company commanders, as well as interviews with several army personnel involved in the mission, indicate that one chemical agent alarm alerted some time during this demolition process and the unit increased their MOPP level. None of the other M8 alarms in the area alerted. Subsequent 256 kit tests conducted by each of the battalion subordinate units were negative for chemical agents. The units subsequently went back to MOPP level 0.

Col Koenigsberg:

We have no evidence at this time of low level exposure to chemical agents. The next step is to evaluate whether there is some unique pattern of illness in the personnel located in the area around Kamisiyah during the time this mission was performed. An initial review of medical reports and interviews with medical officers responsible for the care of troops in this area has revealed no immediate health problems were associated with the mission. To determine if service members in proximity to the site have presented with long-term clinical findings distinct from other Gulf War veterans, a very preliminary examination of the Comprehensive Clinical Evaluation Program (CCEP) results were initiated. An initial review of the data by the CCEP staff does not show either a significantly increased rate of those seeking evaluation through the CCEP, or significant difference in the symptoms for diagnosis of these individuals when compared to the overall CCEP participants. Let me stress, these are initial preliminary results. The DoD will continue to refine troop locations and examine the clinical data in more detail. We are working with the Department of Veteran's Affairs to obtain more comprehensive and complete assessments of the clinical results in the troops who were located in the area of the ammunition storage site.

A program is also being initiated to contact all personnel in this population to determine their health status and to encourage participation in the health assessment program of either the DoD or the VA. In addition, as was mentioned yesterday, Dr. Joseph asked that $3-5 million of research money be allocated to further explore the possible effects of low level chemical agent exposure. That's our summary.