America's Struggle with Chemical-Biological Warfare

By Albert J. Mauroni | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 18
Restructuring the DoD CB
Defense Program

Several material areas sorely required attention during the Gulf War. The most clearly evident requirement was the need for improved airlift and sealift capabilities. While C-17 cargo planes, heavy trucks, and merchant marine ships will never be as sexy or alluring as F-22 fighter aircraft, Abrams tanks, and Seawolf submarines, there certainly was a strong case made when the military had to rely on commercial aircraft and ships older than the generals and admirals in order to get to the theater of operations. Of course, CB defense equipment was another area of concern. Despite the Gulf War (or because of the lack of CB warfare during this conflict), CB defense equipment continues to struggle on as a relatively insignificant portion of the Pentagon's R&D funds (less than one-fifth of 1 percent).

CB defense equipment has always been criticized by both the military troops that use the equipment and the chemical specialists that train with it. Protective suits are too hot; protective masks are too restrictive; collective protection shelters are not adequate; decontamination apparatuses use too much water; CB agent detectors false-alarm too often; and medical antidotes cannot be trusted. All these complaints came too late for the troops in Operation Desert Storm. These concerns were primarily a result of the combat arms sitting by the sidelines, allowing the Chemical Corps to determine what the combat troops were going to use. The Chemical Corps did deliver detectors that detected chemical agents and protective ensembles that would have saved lives, and decontaminants did work very well.

The BUT part is that the combat arms units did not understand that getting CB defense equipment that works is only half the equation; there remain such matters as false alarms due to overly sensitive detectors, hot burdensome suits, and corrosive decontaminants that degrade combat effectiveness. If the combat arms incorporated CB warfare considerations into their wargaming, they might see the benefits and challenges of CB defense equipment, and they might get more involved. This active involvement will become more and more important as the

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