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IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release No: 634-96
November 13, 1996

GULF WAR ILLNESSES TEAM EXPANDS -- NEW SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO DEPUTY SECRETARY WHITE NAMED

Deputy Secretary of Defense John P. White today announced that he is increasing the size of the Persian Gulf Illnesses Investigative Team from 12 to 110 people. This expanded organization is designed to add significant additional resources into learning the causes of Gulf War illnesses. He has named Bernard Rostker as the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses to direct these enhanced efforts. Rostker takes on this additional assignment while serving as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Manpower and Reserve Affairs).

It has become apparent that there is still much that is unknown about how Gulf War service may have affected the health of those who served, said White. New information recently gathered from a variety of sources, including individuals who served, demands new and different expertise. For this reason it is important to ensure this new organization has the proper priority and sufficient resources to ensure we are taking the best possible care of those who served. This new office will coordinate all Department of Defense activities relating to our inquiries into the nature and causes of Gulf War illnesses.

I look forward to working closely with Gulf War veterans, both those on active duty and those no longer serving, said Rostker. This team's mission is to aggressively increase our outreach to those who served in the Gulf War and to ensure they are aware of and receive appropriate medical care. I will leave no stone unturned in looking for the causes of these illnesses and will ensure that the Department applies the lessons learned to future deployments.

Dr. White directed the new team to spare no effort in investigating all incidents potentially related to illnesses being experienced by those who served in the Gulf War. He further directed that the team make certain that those individuals who served in the Gulf War are aware of and receiving necessary medical care for any problems that they may have as a result of their service.

The new group will be made up of representative elements of critical DoD components to ensure that our research efforts, analytical efforts, and outreach programs are effective, coordinated, meaningful and build on the very valuable work accomplished by the many organizations throughout DoD that have been working so hard on this vexing problem, said Rostker.

Dr. Steven Joseph, the Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs will continue to be responsible for all clinical programs.

To facilitate these efforts Dr. White also directed the following actions: Reconstitution of the Senior Level Oversight Panel, which Dr. White will personally chair.

The Panel membership will consist of the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretaries of the Military Departments, the Under Secretaries of Defense and the Assistant Secretaries of Defense for Public Affairs and Health Affairs.

Establishment of an office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses under Dr. Rostker's direction. The transfer of the existing Persian Gulf Investigation Team to the office of the Special Assistant. Termination of the staff office of the Senior Level Oversight Panel as a separate organization with its personnel and functions transferred to the Office of the Special Assistant.

Transfer of the existing GULFLINK sponsorship to the Special Assistant.

The Department is committed to taking care of those who served in the Gulf War, said Rostker. We owe it to our service members both past and present to give these issues our highest priority.