America's Struggle with Chemical-Biological Warfare

America's Struggle with Chemical-Biological Warfare

America's Struggle with Chemical-Biological Warfare

America's Struggle with Chemical-Biological Warfare

Synopsis

Fear and ignorance have colored the perception of chemical and biological (CB) warfare both in the public and military spheres. Media coverage following the alleged gassing of sheep at Dugway Proving Ground in 1968 has led most people to believe that CB warfare is an unstoppable doomsday weapon of mass destruction. Yet, in 1972, General Creighton Abrams, the Army Chief of Staff, attempted to disestablish the Chemical Corps because he saw no need for it. Had that decision not been reversed in 1976, there would not have been any chemical defense specialists or equipment available for Operation Desert Storm in 1990.

Excerpt

This book was originally intended to become the first part of my book, Chemical- Biological Defense: U.S. Military Policies and Decisions in the Gulf War. On the good advice of my editor, that book focused on how the Army Chemical Corps contributed to the Gulf War success. While it remains instructive to understand what did and did not occur in the Gulf War (in the realm of chemical defense), to me the more interesting story is how the U.S. military arrived at its state of readiness in the first place. One of the strong conclusions of the last book was that the combat arms community has an inadequate understanding of how chemical- biological (CB) defense equipment and CB munitions are used in a tactical environment. Nothing since the publishing of that book in 1998 has changed that perception.

If anything, examining how CB defense equipment was designed during the 1980s has strengthened my belief. The Army Chemical Corps has the mission to act as the combat arms proponent in identifying nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) defense battlefield requirements, in addition to developing doctrine, training chemical defense specialists, and recommending organizational units for the Army force structure. The combat arms community, unfortunately, has also decided that the Chemical Corps requires little additional guidance or oversight, which has resulted in a number of products that were technically world-class but operationally difficult to employ during battlefield conditions. This result is what has been so publicized since the Gulf War as the Army's so-called failure to develop protective clothing that is lightweight, automatic detectors that detect very low levels of chemical warfare agents, and adequate decontaminants to eliminate chemical agent contamination.

The combat arms community's failure to understand the capabilities of CB defense equipment arises from their inability to understand the tactical and operational employment of CB munitions. Since 1968 CB munitions have been routinely included with nuclear weapons in discussions of the U.S. government's arms control agenda, but as political cards rather than as credible weapon systems. The danger is not in this broad inclusion of unconventional weapons (you will . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.