American Forces Press Service

DoD Works to Counter Chemical-Biological Threats


  By Linda D. Kozaryn
 American Forces Press Service

 WASHINGTON -- When silent, invisible toxins fill the air, 
 service members will need to know, and they must be 
 protected, defense officials recently told Congress.
 "You have to know that you're under attack and you have to 
 know what you have to do to respond to that," Hans Mark, 
 director of Defense Research and Engineering, told House 
 representatives in late October. Mark and several other 
 civilian officials and military leaders appeared before a 
 joint meeting of the House subcommittees on military 
 procurement and military research and development.
 (Also, see a related story on the testimony of Dr. Ken 
 Alibek, former deputy director of the civilian arm of 
 the Soviets' biological weapons program.)
 Mark appeared with Army Maj. Gen. John Doesburg, commander, 
 U.S. Army Biological and Chemical Defense Command; Rear 
 Adm. James D. McArthur Jr., deputy director for Joint Staff 
 strategy and policy (J-5); and Rear Adm. Richard A. Mayo, 
 deputy director for Joint Staff medical readiness (J-4).
 Effective defense against chemical and biological attack 
 will take more than individual protective suits and masks, 
 the DoD officials said. They pointed to improved detection 
 equipment being developed to protect fielded forces as well 
 as ships and ports, aircraft and air fields.
 The three flag officers submitted written testimony stating 
 that the fiscal 1998 budget plus-up of nearly a billion 
 dollars accelerated the procurement and fielding of 
 critical protective equipment. They said developing and 
 fielding biological detection and identification 
 capabilities is one of the most important requirements of 
 the unified commands.
 In mid-October, they noted, the Army activated a second 
 biological detection unit, thereby doubling the Army's 
 capability from a few years ago. "These two biological 
 detection companies, coupled with the continued fielding of 
 the Portal Shield fixed-site biological detection systems 
 and the Navy's Interim Biological Agent Detector Systems, 
 greatly enhance our ability to defend our forces from a 
 biological attack," they stated.
 The U.S. Army Chemical School, supported by the Joint 
 Staff, is developing revised joint doctrine for operations 
 in nuclear, biological and chemical environments, the three 
 said. The doctrine will cover fundamentals of nuclear, 
 biological and chemical defense, force protection measures, 
 rear area decontamination, logistical and medical support 
 and other areas. They said they expect the revised doctrine 
 to be published early next year.
 Earlier this year, the Joint Staff initiated a health 
 surveillance and readiness policy to monitor and track 
 potential health issues in areas where U.S. troops deploy. 
 The policy links individual health records with 
 environmental and occupational health assessments to 
 identify hazards at the earliest possibly moment.
 The military's mandatory anthrax vaccination program, along 
 with protective suits and masks, collective protection 
 systems and decontaminants will help ensure U.S. forces can 
 survive and continue to operate should an adversary use 
 these weapons, the chiefs stated.
 Mark then testified on DoD's research efforts, noting that 
 detection is the first priority of DoD's Chemical 
 Biological Defense program, followed by protection and 
 Today's detection, Mark stated in written testimony, is 
 limited to point detection for fielded forces, key air 
 fields, sea ports, logistics staging areas and standoff 
 detection of aerosols. The program is focused on fielding 
 improved early warning and point detection with better 
 sensitivity and improved agent identification.
 The chemical detection program is focused on fielding 
 improved point and stand-off detection systems to provide 
 full coverage for service members, ships and aircraft, he 
 said. Defense officials aim to provide more reliable, 
 sensitive, equipment with more agent detection capability. 
 Future improvements will include detection of low-levels of 
 chemical agents, detection of a larger number of chemicals, 
 and reduced size and weight to allow for a greater variety 
 of applications. 
 The military's current reporting and warning system is 
 limited to manual systems with no integration into existing 
 command, control and communication systems, Mark stated. 
 There is limited battlefield awareness software for timely, 
 accurate incident display. DoD has launched an innovative 
 program to provided digitized and automated warning and 
 reporting capabilities, he stated.
 Mark noted that one of the military's most significant 
 improvements since Operation Desert Storm in 1991 was the 
 fielding of improved individual protective clothing that 
 reduces heat and mobility burdens on the warfighter. 
 "Future protective clothing ensembles will provide lighter 
 weight and more durable and launderable clothing that 
 ultimately can be integrated into the standard duty uniform 
 to provide continuous protection," he stated.
 On immunization, Mark told committee members, anthrax is 
 the most likely weapon to be used and the vaccine works.  
 "We have been immunizing people for 150 years," he said. 
 "We know that it works. There are side effects. They can be 
 dealt with."