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News Release


Release No: 553-96
September 25, 1996


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 exposure. 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.

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