American troops deployed overseas for the war against Iraq are much better equipped to deal with possible chemical or biological attacks than their Gulf War predecessors, DoD experts said on Capitol Hill today. “I can assure you our war fighters are much better prepared to fight and win in a weapons of mass destruction environment than they were in 1991,” Dr. Dale Klein, assistant to the Secretary of Defense for nuclear, chemical, and biological defense programs, remarked to members of the House Armed Services Terrorism Subcommittee. The U.S. government has warned Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and his military commanders not to use chemical, biological or nuclear weapons of mass destruction against U.S. or coalition troops, the Iraqi population, or neighbors in the event of war. If Iraq does deploy WMDs against U.S. or coalition troops, American officials have said that swift and severe retaliation would follow.
In the first 24 hours of Operation Desert Storm in 1991, coalition military aircraft “struck more targets than were struck in all of 1942 and 1943 by 8th Air Force during the Combined Bomber Offensive,” an Air Force officer said in the Pentagon today. In the opening hours of the impending military conflict with Iraq, American aircraft could drop 10 times as many bombs. The looming clash will be “an order of magnitude larger in terms of numbers of targets struck within the first 24 to 48 hours,” Col. Gary Crowder, chief of strategy, concepts and doctrine for Air Combat Command, said. Advances in precision and stealth technology and a new approach to planning have allowed for more efficient prosecution of bombing campaigns, the colonel said.
Advances in technology and changes in procedures are leading to improved health care for troops before, during and after deployments, U.S. defnse officials say. “An array of medical technologies and capabilities” is being used to provide “layers of protection” to U.S. service members on the modern battlefield, the Defense Department’s top physician said today. Vaccines, protective and detective equipment, and first-rate front-line care combine to ensure American forces are prepared to face any threat, Dr. William Winkenwerder, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said in a Pentagon press briefing with several military medical experts.
Pentagon officials showed pictures today from the 1991 Gulf War of an Iraqi tank completely destroyed by a 105 mm round made of depleted uranium. The round had pierced the tank’s thick armor, leaving only a burned out shell. Even more impressive, they told of how a DU round had penetrated directly through a sand dune to demolish a tank hiding behind it. “That’s how much of an edge it gives us, and we don’t want to give that up,” Col. James Naughton of the Army Materiel Command said today at a Pentagon briefing to explain the uses and health effects of DU on the battlefield.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said at a Pentagon Town Hall meeting that his department is still “not yet arranged to deal successfully” with the new threat of terrorists with weapons of mass destruction, and that a reorganization he began before September 11, 2001 must continue.
A little-known organization that canvasses private industry to quickly find and develop innovative solutions to problems inherent in fighting terrorism may be emerging from the shadows. The Technical Support Working Group seeks “better ideas” from industry for use by military and other government and civilian agencies’ counterterrorism missions, said Jeffrey M. David, deputy director of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Combating Terrorism Technology Support Office.
Military environmental health risk experts were unprepared in 1991 when Saddam Hussein ordered engineers to blow up hundreds of Kuwaiti oil wells. Over the next seven months, more than 1 billion barrels of oil went up in flames, some creating huge, dark soot plumes. Kuwait and much of the Persian Gulf was shrouded in poisonous smoke, creating a large-scale environmental disaster and possible medical problems for U.S. troops breathing the contaminated air.
The current method of handling the remains of U.S. service members will remain in place, DoD officials said today.
Senior defense officials examined the policy of handling human remains contaminated by biological or chemical weapons. They wanted to be certain that all options were open to commanders to ensure the health and safety of all service members. The group ? which included representatives from the services, the Army’s mortuary affairs, DoD’s health affairs and DoD’s personnel and readiness staffs ? wanted to ensure that any decision was based on the latest medical thinking.