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News Release


Release No: 721-00
December 05, 2000


The Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses released today a revision to its Gulf War case narrative, "U.S. Demolition Operations at Khamisiyah." The revised narrative presents the story of Khamisiyah and the possible low-level exposure of more than 100,000 U.S. servicemembers to chemical warfare agents. The report has much greater detail than the 1997 original and includes the first look at the new potential exposure hazard area that resulted when U.S. forces destroyed a cache of 122mm rockets containing the nerve agents sarin and cyclosarin.

"Khamisiyah is the benchmark incident for all our investigations," said Bernard Rostker, the special assistant for Gulf War illnesses. "Today, after three more years of investigation and more precise computer simulations, we can present a better picture of the events than was possible before. To date, the demolition at Khamisiyah is the only Gulf War event we believe may have exposed servicemembers to chemical warfare agents."

In 1996, then-Deputy Secretary of Defense John P. White and then-CIA Director John W. Deutch decided an independent peer review of the CIA computer modeling of Khamisiyah was needed to ensure the best process. DoD requested the Institute for Defense Analyses select an expert panel on meteorology, physics, chemistry and related disciplines for modeling review. This expert panel reviewed the modeling methodology and made recommendations for improvement. The panel's recommendations were implemented in 1997 and used in the 2000 modeling efforts. In late summer this year, a technical peer-review panel evaluated and endorsed the 2000 methodology.

"The improved modeling methodology yields superior results and produced changes to our original findings with regard to the potential hazard area location," said Rostker. "That's why we considered it essential to publish our update now."

The number of servicemembers possibly exposed to low levels of nerve agent by the Khamisiyah demolitions has changed only slightly: 101,000 vs. 99,000. The new potential hazard area is slightly smaller than the one predicted in the 1997 report. This, combined with the improved unit location database developed over the life of the investigation, plus improved weather modeling, accounts for the difference in the numbers, said Rostker. More than 66,000 soldiers who were shown to be in the potential hazard area in 1997 remain in the revised 2000 area.

"We are notifying all affected servicemembers," said Rostker, "including approximately 35,000 people who were not previously believed to be in the potential exposure area. They will be notified for the first time that if they were with their unit at the time, they may have been exposed to extremely low levels of chemical nerve agent."

Rostker reminds veterans that this remains an interim, not a final report. The report can be reissued and the assessments revised, if new evidence warrants. "I hope veterans will read this report. If there is an error or information we missed, we encourage veterans with additional information to call us toll free at (800) 497-6261," he said.

Case narratives examine Gulf War incidents that might have involved chemical warfare agents. They are part of DoD's efforts to inform the public about its investigations into the nature and possible causes for the illnesses experienced by some Gulf War veterans.

This narrative, and all other publications of the Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses, is posted on the GulfLINK website at http://www.gulflink.osd.mil/khamisiyah_ii

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