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IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release No: 082-96
February 14, 1996

DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE RESPONDS TO THE PRESIDENTIAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON GULF WAR VETERANS' ILLNESSES -- INTERIM REPORT

In response to the public release of the Interim Report by the Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veteran's Illnesses, Deputy Secretary of Defense John White said, "The Department appreciates the effort, thought and constructive input provided by the Presidential Advisory Committee.

"Like the Presidential Advisory Committee," White said, "the Department of Defense recognizes that the issues surrounding Gulf War illnesses are very complex. Since the end of the Gulf War, concerns have been raised as to whether or not there is a relationship between illnesses being experienced by some Gulf War veterans and exposures to various hazards during Gulf War service. This concern is of particular importance to our Gulf War veterans and their families. Because the Clinton Administration shares these concerns, the Department is taking unprecedented steps to help resolve the Gulf War illnesses issue and provide effective medical care for those who are ill."

The Committee's Interim Report provides a number of important findings and constructive recommendations. Most of its recommendations for the Department are either already implemented or will be implemented shortly. Consistent with the Committee's suggestions, the Department is taking the following steps:

· In 1996, DoD will conduct a survey to determine how well its outreach programs have worked in reaching active duty troops or retirees who served in the Gulf War.

· The Comprehensive Clinical Evaluation Program Patient Satisfaction Form will ask about referral satisfaction with the Persian Gulf Medical Registry Hotline.

· A users' guide will soon released to help the public understand the thousands of declassified documents becoming available on GULFLINK, the Department's Internet resource. The user's guide will be available on GULFLINK. · Prior to any deployment, DoD will conduct a health assessment of deploying troops. A new expanded medical surveillance program (including quality control) and post-deployment follow-up is already operational for Joint Endeavor in Bosnia. This program will identify populations at risk, recognize and assess hazardous exposures, determine protective measures and monitor health outcomes.

· DoD will ensure all FDA requirements are met when an FDA investigational drug is used. When DoD uses such a drug, informed consent is required unless waived by FDA. (A clear description and documentation of the health risks and benefits will be made to Service members, and an entry they got the drug will be made in their personal health record.)

· Should controversial and unexplained health concerns occur in the future, DoD has already pre-positioned hotlines and clinical programs to respond rapidly.

· DoD is upgrading its medical records system resulting in better records and a centralized data base that can be linked with other databases, including location of units and exposures.

· All DoD funded internal and external research related to Gulf War illnesses, including epidemiologic studies aimed at Gulf War veterans' health issues, now incorporate external scientific review and ongoing interaction with appropriate outside experts. In order to expedite some early DoD internal research, external scientific review was not always utilized.

· DoD will continue to encourage its research Principal Investigators to establish both scientific and public advisory committees for epidemiologic studies.

· Over the past year, DoD, DVA, and HHS have taken steps to strengthen the Persian Gulf Veterans Coordinating Board and have it play a stronger role in coordinating research, determining priorities for funding, and ensuring the quality of the research.

· DoD is collecting more and better troop exposure data as shown by its current efforts in Joint Endeavor and will have data available to health researchers.

· DoD's new unit locator and geographic information systems are operational and preparations are underway to make them available to qualified government and private researchers in 1996.

· DoD is working on better methods for detecting and identifying chemical and biological warfare agents rapidly and accurately enough to enable troops to take protective measures before being exposed.

· With the assistance of outside experts, DoD will continue to look at the effects of and monitoring of low-level (subacute) exposures to chemical warfare agents.

Under the direction of Secretary William Perry and Deputy Secretary John White, an unprecedented effort on Gulf War veterans' illnesses has been successfully launched. The investigation and declassification initiatives are well underway. More and more research is being funded and completed. Much medical evaluation and care has already been provided to our Gulf War veterans. The Department of Defense, in support of President Clinton's commitment to our Persian Gulf War troops and veterans, is leaving no stone unturned in the search for answers and we are leaving no soldier, sailor, marine or airman without the necessary care.