Table of Contents


1. This report follows and expands on the work done by the Downing task force and the Record team. In addition to reviewing all of the information gathered in connection with those efforts, we have collected additional facts, interviewed additional witnesses and re-interviewed others. Our focus has been to address eight particular areas identified for further analysis or explanation, and to consider more specifically the issue of the propriety of administrative action for those charged with the responsibility of force protection. We have identified and described in some detail applicable standards of performance and analyzed the facts as applied to those standards.

2. In addressing these issues, we have considered: chain of command responsibilities; guidance and standards; host nation considerations; the availability of intelligence information; management of resources--money, manpower, equipment and time; and risk management. We have also recognized the impact of the "fog of war"—the term Clausewitz used to describe the uncertainty imposed on a situation by the constantly changing environment of combat—as it related to commanders having to deal with situations "as they are" in working toward a desired outcome.

3. In evaluating the deployment and location of our military forces, we recognized the risk as well as benefit for each location when we assess it as an operating site and potential enemy target. Until the tragic bombing on 25 June 1996, the risk associated with the mission as executed from Dhahran, including the urban location of Khobar Towers, was acceptable. The analysis of all these factors, integrated with existing standards, was used to assess the performance of the senior commanders in the 4404th Wing (P).

4. In addressing the adequacy of force protection measures, it is important to understand that terrorists will use any one of a number of options. In recognition of these risks, the commander took full account of the threat and the opportunities the urban setting offered to terrorists. He responded to the information he received using the resources available. His careful, extensive facility and procedural changes were notable and forced the terrorists outside the compound. The wing’s actions to protect and provide overwatch for the perimeter and the single practical access route to the airfield forced the terrorists to attack from a distance. The wing pursued several issues with local authorities in an attempt to better secure the perimeter. In addition to US security policemen to provide overwatch, increased local national coverage for ground level exterior security was in place. These actions effectively expanded the resources available to protect Khobar Towers and forced the would-be terrorists to put host nation civilians at risk. Detachment, squadron and group commanders and the wing commander were assured on numerous occasions by the host nation that the necessary terrorism counterforce was in place. The wing commander believed that he had deterred the terrorists from attacking his wing.

5. The wing commander clearly understood the value of intelligence. While the classic wing intelligence function focused primarily on the flying mission in support of the UN sanctions, it was sensitive to unit security needs and responded appropriately when terrorist issues arose. The interface between the unit intelligence function and OSI while not formal was effective. The regular, routine and unconstrained access of OSI agents to the wing commander as well as selected group and squadron commanders demonstrated the wing commander’s appreciation of and firm support for responding to all levels of intelligence. This was further demonstrated by his willingness to act in improving compound security when others did not see the need.

6. Security police manpower in the 4404th Wing (P) was adequate to meet the standards required for THREATCON BRAVO on 25 June 1996. The requirements for THREATCON CHARLIE were being met after the bombing at the time of the Downing Assessment. In accordance with established guidance, a unit is not expected to sustain operations at THREATCON CHARLIE without augmentation. The security police commander was aware of this and had made arrangements for such a request, if necessary.

7. The training, equipping and manning of the security force received careful examination. The unit was not in compliance with the full range of formal training required for permanent squadrons. The security police squadron was not assigned the manpower to manage a formal unit training program. Air Force personnel are required to be fully qualified for the full period (90 days) of their assigned duties prior to their deployment. Therefore, the only significant training needed was specific to the duty location. Testimony shows this training was done, although the absence of a dedicated training staff resulted in little formal documentation.

8. The condition of weapons was called into question by the Downing Assessment. The investigative team made a detailed review of available records and gathered further testimony. The weapons maintenance technician was responsible for assuring the quality of all weapons according to established standards. During the semi-annual inspections, weapons were checked for proper functioning. The weapons were also mechanically sighted. The weapons maintenance technician was aware of and reduced the spread of surface rust. After the Downing team questioned the condition of some weapons, he immediately inspected and checked the weapons. All weapons were functional.

9. The Downing Assessment noted different transportation security practices for several locations in the theater. During this investigation, it was noted that required THREATCON measures were uniform throughout the wing at its various sites; however some commanders had implemented additional transportation security measures based on local threat conditions. There are no established DoD or Air Force standards concerning the use of armed escorts. Although transportation security measures at diverse sites in the wing varied, they were effective for each location.

10. Evacuation planning and warning are inter-linked. The OSI detachment commander recognized a need for improved evacuation planning when reviewing the status of building 131 in April 96. The result was direction for all units to review and update evacuation plans. The task was assigned to each squadron, and the plans were reviewed and deconflicted by the civil engineer squadron readiness flight. This was done for buildings 131, 133 and others. These evacuation plans had not been formally practiced. This did not comply with standards. The absence of a fire alarm in the buildings also made them non-compliant with Air Force standards. Also, there are specific prohibitions on use of a fire alarm for any purpose other than fire warning. The fire hazard, however, was deemed insignificant given the lack of combustibles in the buildings. Therefore, the only notification options available for a bomb threat were the use of Giant Voice or the universal standby--knocking on doors. Saudi concerns regarding the use of the Giant Voice siren stemming from Desert Storm foreclosed any Giant Voice practices in the siren mode, removing consideration for its employment outside a threat of an attack. Ultimately the sentry observing the truck initiated evacuation with door-to-door notification. The 3-4 minute interval from decision to act to explosion enabled most of the occupants of three floors to escape to the stairwell. Given the options available, this system worked quickly. Although the evacuation was proceeding effectively, the bomb exploded in an unprecedented short period, before complete evacuation, resulting in the tragic loss of life and injury.

11. Mylar window treatment was considered by the wing commander. He relied on his staff for inputs concerning its use and installation. The information that he received led him to conclude that the threat was not high enough to warrant its immediate installation. Specific information concerning Mylar that he had available was that its utility was uncertain, installation required special skills and estimates were approximately $50 a square meter. Further, the standoff distances for the postulated threat achieved by the fence-barrier combination plus the additional distance provided by added Saudi security at the northern perimeter were thought to be adequate to prevent a major problem. Though he deferred immediate installation, the wing commander included Mylar in his long range plan to ensure his successors would not lose sight of a potential option for risk reduction should it be necessary.

12. The wise commander takes advantage of every opportunity to improve his operational capability. This act of terrorism has prompted a number of important changes at each level in the Air Force. Starting from combatant command levels, the coordination of Humint resources in support of theater operations has been refined. Further unit level access to significant intelligence information has been improved through expanded communications. The Air Force has already activated the 820th Security Forces Group comprised of security police, OSI, intelligence and explosive ordnance disposal personnel. This organization will institutionalize improved force protection for the Air Force.

13. It is clear that on 25 June 1996, the men and women of the force deployed at Khobar Towers were not fully protected. Tragic deaths and injuries were suffered on that day as a result of a wanton act of terrorism. The issue is not whether, with the benefit of hindsight, responsible officials could have succeeded in preventing or further defending against this terrorist attack. Rather, it is whether those individuals whose duties encompassed force protection met the standards of performance expected of them and acted reasonably and prudently under the circumstances as they existed.

14. After a thorough review and in consideration of all the facts and circumstances, it is the conclusion of this investigation that the commanders of the 4404th Wing (P) and all those in the force protection chain of command, executed their responsibilities in a reasonable and prudent manner. They were vigorous and diligent and fully engaged in providing the full range of security for the Khobar Towers compound. No administrative sanctions are warranted.


Major General, USAF
The Judge Advocate General


Lieutenant General, USAF
The Inspector General