DoD Paper Confirms Simulations, Modeling Unavailable to Air Campaign Planners for Chemical/Biological Weapons Site Assessments

WASHINGTON, February 24, 2000 (GulfLINK) - The Department of Defense released today the latest in a series of information papers, Planning the Gulf War Air Campaign - The Role of Modeling and Simulation in the Planning of Attacks on Iraq's Chemical and Biological Warfare Targets. In this paper, investigators from the Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses researched the military's use of modeling and simulation tools when planning the Gulf War Air Campaign.

Investigators found that planners used computer modeling to study aircraft survivability and the potential risk to civilians near non-chemical and non-biological targets in Baghdad. Planners used computer simulations to show the risks and potential effects of Iraqi chemical attacks against friendly forces, the report said. During the air campaign, Coalition aircraft flew 990 sorties against 23 suspected Iraqi chemical and biological weapons research, production and storage facilities.

Investigators also found, however, that air campaign planners did not have the benefit of modeling or simulation studies to assess the potential dispersion of chemical or biological agent resulting from air attacks.

For example, in preparation for the air campaign, U.S. Army engineers at the Waterways Experiment Station in Vicksburg, Miss., had constructed a one third-scale model of an Iraqi munitions storage bunker and used it to evaluate the effects of attacks with precision-guided, high-explosive weapons. At the same time, a scientist at the Wright Laboratory on Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., conducted experiments to measure the extent that contaminants from the exploded Waterways model would be dispersed in the atmosphere. The results from these experiments were not completed before the Gulf War air campaign ended and consequently, were unavailable to planners.

In August 1997, USA Today carried news stories and editorials reporting that DoD modeling and simulations studies conducted prior to the war indicated that Coalition casualties could result from air attacks on Iraq's chemical and biological weapons manufacturing, storage and deployment sites. The press reports specifically cited an effort conducted by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Investigators found that the Livermore Laboratory effort represented a demonstration of general modeling capability rather than an attempt to simulate actual or planned air campaign missions. In fact, the simplistic demonstration did not use any actual target data, such as target location, types of chemical or biological agents, or weather.

According to Livermore Laboratory scientists, the demonstration resulted from only a few days' work and demonstrated how their computer program - designed to model nuclear fall-out patterns - could be adapted to possibly predict the resulting effects of air attacks on chemical and biological weapons sites if given specific data. The generic exposure demonstration did not represent any actual situation.

Additionally, investigators discovered that instead of the generic model from the Livermore chemical modeling demonstration, potential nuclear fall-out hazard area graphs developed for the Department of Energy were mistakenly provided in response to information requests. Both were the products of Livermore efforts and the wrong information was initially matched with the requests. The nuclear fall-out graphs predicted a far larger hazard area than the generic chemical model.

Although no computer modeling or simulations to predict the hazards of bombing Iraq's chemical facilities were conducted, investigators found DoD planners did study the possibility of chemical or biological agent release resulting from Coalition air attacks by consulting chemical and biological weapons experts. These chemical and biological experts agreed that chemical contaminants would likely be constrained to the immediate target area and would mostly be incinerated in the fires from high explosive weapons used to destroy the sites.

The reports stated further that exposures to the atmosphere, including heat and light, would trigger the natural decay of any escaping biological contaminants and minimize the risk to Coalition forces. These experts also informed decision-makers of their conclusion that the distances from most of the target sites to Coalition positions were large enough to prevent any potential release of chemical or biological agents from reaching friendly forces.

"The bottom line was the protection of human health and the environment," said Special Assistant Bernard Rostker. "Post-war inspections have turned up no evidence of biological agent contamination and only very limited evidence that chemical agents were possibly released from four of 23 sites targeted."

As with other reports released by his office, Rostker encouraged veterans who have questions or comments to call the direct hotline at (800) 497-6261 or write him via the Internet at