November 5, 2007: This website is an archive of the former website,, which was created 10 years ago by Charles Jenks. It became one of the most populace sites in the US, and an important resource on the antiwar movement, student activism, 'depleted' uranium and other topics. Jenks authored virtually all of its web pages and multimedia content (photographs, audio, video, and pdf files. As the author and registered owner of that site, his purpose here is to preserve an important slice of the history of the grassroots peace movement in the US over the past decade. He is maintaining this historical archive as a service to the greater peace movement, and to the many friends of Traprock Peace Center. Blogs have been consolidated and the calendar has been archived for security reasons; all other links remain the same, and virtually all blog content remains intact.

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Army's chemical defenses not battle-ready, Army audit says
Up to 62% of gas masks and 90% of monitors defective
Lee Davidson - Deseret News Washington   Deseret News

October 13, 2002
WASHINGTON - Up to 62 percent of the U.S. Army's gas masks and up to 90 percent of the machines it uses to detect invisible chemical arms attacks may be defective.

Worse, the Army isn't really sure about the condition of most equipment it would need to defend against chemical and biological attacks just as America prepares for possible war with Iraq over that country's development of such weapons.

That is the conclusion of an Army Audit Agency study obtained by the Deseret News through the Freedom of Information Act. The report said the military has ordered several steps be taken to help solve the problems pointed out in the audit.

Of Utah note, many of the military's gas masks, chemical agent detectors and other protective and decontamination equipment were developed or tested at Utah's Dugway Proving Ground, sometimes with controversial open-air tests where dangerous agents floated off base.

The audit agency, in a report dated last Nov. 9, wrote that its review of procedures to ensure that chemical and biological defense equipment is in good repair showed that they "were fragmented and generally ineffective."

It added, "As a result, Army leaders didn't know the true abilities of units to survive and win in chemically or biologically contaminated environments."

The agency said the trouble comes because only three of the 69 different types of Army chemical-biological defense equipment now used in the field have been deemed "mission essential." So unit commanders are required to file reports only on the condition of those few items and to keep maintenance logs on them.

The agency said the condition of the other 66 types of items often was not checked, nor was preventive maintenance kept current. When problems were found, they often were not formally reported to high command so no checks for similar problems elsewhere were conducted.

The report said that even though the 66 items may not have been officially deemed mission critical, the agency said it figures they obviously are "crucial to survival in contaminated environments."

For example, it said, "Without fully operational chemical agent monitors, deployed units in a chemically contaminated environment can't be certain of when the threat from contamination has diminished. Yet this item wasn't deemed mission-essential."

Other items not officially considered mission critical included a variety of protective masks, chemical agent alarms, decontamination apparatuses and protective shelters.

Because the condition of such items was not routinely checked, some widespread problems were found only by accident.
For example, when the Army obtained new chemical agent monitors for high-priority units, they ordered their older monitors to be sent to other units. But, "Army logistics personnel discovered that about 90 percent of the existing chemical agent monitors . . weren't fully operational because of bad drift tubes."

The cost of repair was estimated at $7.8 million, but auditors said problems could have been avoided if proper annual maintenance had occurred on the machines.

Making the problem worse, investigators wrote, was that even though the Army Materiel Command "knew that as many as 90 percent of units' chemical agent monitors were less than fully operational, they didn't formally report the problems to senior Army leadership.

"Accordingly, the related effect on readiness wasn't fully assessed and corrective actions weren't fully implemented," the report said.

Auditors said that in hindsight, high demand for replacement drift tubes earlier should have indicated a widespread problem, but the extent was not found until older monitors were ordered turned in on a large scale and tested. It noted that other types of monitors use similar tubes and might also have problems.

Routine maintenance could have also prevented defects in gas masks, the report said. A limited spot check a few years ago found that about 62 percent of Army gas masks "had critical defects that could have resulted in mask leakage."

The report also noted that results of that check "weren't fully distributed throughout the Army, (so) commanders generally didn't increase the level of emphasis on mask maintenance and the status of the majority of the Army's fielded masks remains unknown."

In short, the study said, "Up to 90 percent of the monitors and 62 percent of the masks were either completely broken or less than fully operational."

It added, "The actual status, requirements, surpluses or shortfalls, and true costs of Army efforts to defend against aggression through chemical and biological weapons weren't known."

The audit agency recommended several changes. Written responses by the Army and included with the study show that most corrective measures have been approved by higher command.

Those steps include:

* Creating a program executive officer to oversee "from cradle to grave" the condition and care of biological-chemical defense items. That officer would establish an Armywide program for maintenance and reporting and track results of readiness assessments.
* Taking another look at which of the equipment is "critical to survivability in a chemically or biologically contaminated environment" so a higher level of care would be given for truly essential items.
* Having higher command review what level of funding is truly needed to maintain and support the equipment.
* Evaluating and issuing a report on the condition of the equipment, especially monitors and protective equipment where problems had surfaced.

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