DoD demolition tests aimed at reducing Khamisiyah exposure uncertainties


The Department of Defense (DoD) is currently working with the CIA to reduce some of the uncertainties associated with the demolition of the Khamisiyah storage facility in southeastern Iraq after the war. By conducting a series of small scale demolition tests, DoD hopes to extract data to create a model of information covering the personnel who may have been exposed to the Khamisiyah explosions.

These tests , to be conducted at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah during May. will involve the demolition of a munitions sample similar to those found at Khamisiyah. The actual test will use inert chemicals that have physical properties similar to chemical warfare agents. Data derived from the test will then be put into computer models to better predict the downwind dispersion of chemical agent released from the pit area into the atmosphere.

When DoD became aware that the demolition of the ammunition storage facility created the potential for chemical exposure of U.S. troops, it expanded its investigation. The goal was to search out all possible operational, intelligence and medical sources which might shed light on the causes of illness suffered by many veterans. The investigation focused on two questions: first, what was the potential for exposure to chemical agents at Khamisiyah, and second, who might have been exposed.

Efforts to obtain answers to both questions have continued. The CIA made initial attempts to develop prediction models of the potential chemical fallout. A report was published on August 2, 1996 outlining modeling results of the potential hazard caused by destruction of Bunker 73.

Because of the difficulties inherent in modeling the Khamisiyah "pit" area demolition, Deputy Secretary of Defense John White has also requested that the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) convene a panel of experts in meteorology, physics, chemistry, and related disciplines to review all of the modeling efforts. IDA agreed with CIA findings that significant uncertainties remained in attempting to estimate key variables. The as the number of rockets present for destruction and the number of rockets actually destroyed, total quantity of agent released, mechanism of release, and purity of agent were all uncertainties needing further study. Both the CIA and IDA presented testimony on this issue before the March 18, 1997 panel meeting of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans.

With advice from a national panel of technical experts, DoD and CIA will collaboratively develop the best available model to determine what happened at Khamisiyah and who might have been exposed to chemical agent. The Department expects these test results to be completed by the end of July 1997.


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