America's Struggle with Chemical-Biological Warfare

By Albert J. Mauroni | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
Changes in Doctrine
and Training

With the changes in military philosophy after Vietnam, the Chemical Corps leadership soon realized that it had to change with the Army to remain a valuable supporting asset. The attempt to disestablish the Corps in 1972 prevented the Chemical Corps from effecting any significant changes in Army doctrine, training, leader development, or organizational units. With the Dugway sheep incident in 1968 and the BWC's initiation in 1975, the visibility and political pressure was just too intense to expect anyone to change their minds about the fate of the Chemical Corps. In addition, the "Chemistry Corps" image persisted among the military leadership, biasing the judgment of the "war-fighters" (infantry, armor, artillery, aviation) that CBR defense was not really an important issue. Important indicators such as the use of nerve agents in the Yemeni Civil War were ignored or dismissed summarily as not representative of future war. With the Chemical School under the Ordnance branch, there was no "official" general officer proponent to champion the cause. As a result, the threat of chemical-biological warfare was not considered as the other Army branches began their post-Vietnam reforms. It took the combined effects of the Arab-Israeli wars, the Sverdlovsk accident in the Soviet Union, and reports of chemical warfare in Laos, Afghanistan, and the Iran-Iraq war to allow the Corps to initiate its reform efforts into the new AirLand Battle philosophy.

Once these reforms began, they took shape in four areas of emphasis. First, the Army had to upgrade its training programs for chemical warfare significantly, both for its specialists and for every individual soldier. This was a quickly implemented, low-cost investment. Second, the armed forces had to procure available defense items (masks, protective clothes, etc.) immediately and in quantity, with the understanding that while limitations existed, there was time later for improvements through research and development. Third, the armed forces needed to improve the credibility of their retaliatory capability, which was deemed both quantitatively and qualitatively deficient (and therefore not credible). Last,

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