Deputy Secretary of Defense John White today informed
Congressional leaders that the Department of Defense will
redouble its efforts to investigate matters relevant to the
illnesses of Persian Gulf War veterans. White's actions reflect
President Clinton's direction to leave no stone unturned in the
effort to determine the causes of the illness being experienced
by veterans of the Gulf War.
In a letter to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman
Senator Strom Thurmond (with copies to Senator Nunn and
Congressmen Spence and Dellums), White ordered the establishment
of a DoD Action Team that will completely reassess all aspects of
DoD's program. Reporting directly to White, the team will draw on
additional outside analytical and management resources to help
determine any necessary organizational, resource or personnel
initiatives required. New information recently gathered from a
variety of sources, including veterans who served in the Gulf,
demands new and different expertise, White said.
White's actions are designed to insure that DoD activities
are well-coordinated and that a single focal point within the DoD
exists for monitoring all actions related to Persian Gulf
veterans illnesses. New actions include:
A $5 million research effort into the possible effects of
low-level chemical exposure and direction to the assistant
secretary of Defense for Health Affairs to identify other
research projects where additional resources could be useful.
Broadening clinical investigation efforts to include
personnel in the area of potential exposure around the Khamisiyah
ammunition storage facility in Iraq where U.S. troops destroyed
chemical munitions on two separate occasions in March 1991.
Requesting the Institute of Medicine to re-validate DoD clinical
protocols and practices in light of possible low-level
Directing the Army to conduct an Inspector General inquiry
into events surrounding the destruction of munitions at
Khamisiyah and to supplement the efforts of the DoD Persian Gulf
Investigation Team where possible.
Directing the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for
Intelligence Oversight to investigate intelligence information
received by the U.S. government about activities that occurred at
Khamisiyah in 1991 including how the information was handled.
The ATSD for Intelligence Oversight will report directly to White
on this matter.
Requesting the Interagency Security Classification Appeals
Panel to review procedures and guidelines for declassifying
documents placed on the GulfLINK and provide recommendations
regarding the process.
In a related event today, Dr. Stephen Joseph, assistant
secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, testified before a joint
hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the
Committee on Veterans Affairs about the possible exposure of U.S.
troops to chemical weapons during and after the Persian Gulf War.
In a prepared statement, Joseph addressed the impact of the
Khamisiyah issue. Khamisiyah has changed the paradigm of our
approach to Persian Gulf Illnesses, said Joseph. Previously,
we had a number of Gulf War veterans who were ill and we sought
explanations for those illnesses. Now, we have evidence of
possible chemical warfare agent exposures. It is imperative that
we now attempt to find clinical evidence that might be linked to
those exposures of our troops who were in the exposure zone.