America's Struggle with Chemical-Biological Warfare

By Albert J. Mauroni | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
Reconnaissance, Detection,
and Identification

Avoidance is the most important fundamental of NBC Defense. In addition
to the casualties an attack can cause, the contamination that may come with
an attack also causes casualties and produces long-term hazards that can
interfere with the mission. Overcoming these hazards can tie up tremendous
amounts of labor and equipment. Finding the clean areas when the mission
allows reduces casualties and saves resources.
--FM 3-100, NBC Operations, 1985

In January 1981 the Defense Science Board released a report on the status of chemical warfare readiness in the armed forces. They recommended that the Joint Chiefs of Staff form a task force to develop joint doctrine for conducting operations in a contaminated environment. There was an urgent need, in their estimation, to evaluate the impact of individual protective equipment on military operations. They also recommended that the Undersecretary of Defense, Research and Engineering develop a prioritized list of R&D defense programs for acceleration and review and report on the four services' NBC research and development efforts to remove needless impediments. 1 Specific recommendations of their report emphasized the need to develop a chemical monitor to determine the extent of equipment/personnel contamination; to develop a program that could test water and food for contamination; to address a lack of fixed, semifixed, and tactical collective protection systems; and to ensure effective patient decontamination. Special emphasis was needed to develop more sensitive chemical agent detectors that detected all agents and false-alarmed less often, which would provide soldiers with a more sufficient warning time to allow for donning protective suits.

Detection devices have always played an important role in the Chemical Corps's history, as one of the two most demanded functions of chemical defense (the other being individual protection). The ability to determine whether an area is clear of invisible CB agents could mean the difference between a fully capable

-93-

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