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FHP&R Home

Declassified Documents

Introduction to Declassification of 1990-1991 Persian Gulf Records

In March 1995, the Deputy Secretary of Defense ordered expansion of DoD declassification efforts to identify all DoD records in the operational, medical, and intelligence communities that could relate to the possible causes of health problems being experienced by 1990-1991 Persian Gulf veterans. The Secretary of the Army was designated Executive Agent for declassifying operational records, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs (ASD/HA) for medical records, and the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) for intelligence records. Declassified records were to be released via GulfLINK.

The same order established a "Fast Team," later referred to as the Persian Gulf Investigative Team (PGIT), to investigate 1990-1991 Gulf War Illnesses and expedite the release of information to the public. The PGIT had significant input in development of a list of 270 health related key words against which the declassifiers were to screen their operational records. After several discussions with Army declassification authorities about expanding the list of key words in early 1997, a new list of key words was provided to them by the [former] Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses (OSAGWI) [now Force Health Protection & Readiness Policy & Programs]. This office encouraged the Army to structure its data bases to better relate operational events to medical issues. In February 1998, OSAGWI forwarded the Army Gulf War Declassification Project (GWDP) a new list of key words to be used in conjunction with the existing key words list. The additional key words were designed to assist the analysis effort by providing the analysts the maximum opportunity to retrieve information relevant to their investigations.

The GWDP was delegated DoD Executive Agent duties for Gulf War operational records. The final GWDP report indicated as of September 30, 1997, a total of 6.4 million operation records had been collected and screened by the DoD, with 1.1 million determined to be possibly health related, and 43,000 declassified and placed on GulfLINK. Additional releases since have brought the number of DoD records on GulfLink to over 46,000.

  • The GWDP developed a strategy to focus on the estimated 2.5 million records of the four major operational commands which deployed to the Gulf (XVIII Airborne Corps, VII Corps, U.S. Army Central Command, and 22d Support Command). The Army developed an automated screening capability, but a significant portion of their records were hand-written and could not be searched by automated tools. Every hand written document was visually searched and annotated with the appropriate key words for future searches. The Army collected 2.3 million records, determined 819,000 were health related, and declassified 23,000. The GWDP closed in February 1999.

  • Medical Documents identified by ASD/Health Affairs from the Office of the Army Surgeon General were processed by GWDP and are included in the Army totals.

  • The Air Force Declassification Office, at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, visually screened 2.5 million Air Force records, determined 24,000 were possibly health related, and declassified over 13,000. The Air Force continues to digitize 1990-1991 Gulf War records.

  • The Navy co-located with the Army GWDP and utilized their automated processing capabilities in addition to visual screening of records. The Navy screened over 663,000 records, determined 154,000 were possibly health related, and declassified 3,400. The Navy closed its 1990-1991 Gulf War declassification effort in June 1997.

  • The Marines also co-located with the Army GWDP. They screened 414,000 records, determined over 150,000 were possibly health related, and declassified 5,900. The Marines closed their 1990-1991 Gulf War effort in June 1997.

  • USCENTCOM utilized the Army GWDP for processing its records. It screened 500,000 records, determined 1,300 were possibly health related, and declassified 700. USCENTCOM closed their1990-1991 Gulf War effort in September 1996.

  • The JCS visually screened 30,000 records, determined 500 were possibly health related, and declassified 200. JCS reported its 1990-1991 Gulf War declassification effort complete in March 1996.

The Intelligence Community reported it has reviewed 2 million records and DIA and CIA have declassified and placed 2,300 health related records on GulfLINK.

Although the 1990-1991 Gulf War-focused declassification agencies, with the exception of the Air Force, have ceased operations, DoD elements and the Intelligence Community continue declassification efforts mandated under Executive Order 12958. As OSAGWI [FHP&R] analysts identify declassification requirements in support of 1990-1991 Gulf War investigation reports, OSAGWI [FHP&R] forwards requests for declassification and public release of such records to the appropriate service, joint activity, intelligence or other government agencies. When released, these additional records are posted on GulfLINK.

Declassified records on GulfLINK are documents created or received by U.S. military units and the Intelligence Community in the course of their planning and conduct of Desert Shield/Desert Storm which could shed light on 1990-1991 Gulf War veterans’ illnesses. These health-related documents are from JCS, USCENTCOM, the four military services, and the Intelligence Community. The records include briefings, planning documents, message traffic, logs, operations/ situation/status reports, operations orders, FRAG orders, battle damage assessment reports, medical documentation, after action reports, and histories. Access to these declassified records facilitates independent research by all interested to know what happened on the battlefield during the 1990-1991 Gulf War.


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