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July 8, 1997

 

 Mr. James F. Hinchman

Acting Comptroller General
US General Accounting Office
441 G Street, NW, Room 7125
Washington, DC 20548

Dear Mr. Hinchman:

Recently representatives of the General Accounting Office (GAO) and members of my Committee staff met to review and discuss work GAO is currently performing in response to my request to you last March. As a result, GAO has been developing a matrix identifying Persian Gulf War related inquiries and examining possible exposure of U.S. service personnel to chemical weapons during the War and missing chemical weapons logs.

With regard to the matrix GAO has developed to identify the organizations working on gathering information on potential chemical weapons use, I consider that work complete, with the exception of several suggestions made by my staff on the organization of the chart.

Concerning the missing chemical weapons logs issue, GAO staff have informed Committee staff that the DOD IG has decided to pursue this matter through the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS). Because it is now an ongoing criminal investigation, it is my understanding that the DCIS cannot discuss this matter in great detail. I understand, as a practical matter, that this would make any work difficult as long as the investigation is proceeding. However, I believe that once the investigation has been completed, it would be worthwhile to review and evaluate the response of DCIS. I am requesting GAO remain in contact with the DCIS and be prepared to review its work after it has completed its duties.

 

Mr. James F. Hinchman
July 8, 1997
Page 2

 

As recently discussed by our respective staffs, a number of related issues have arisen since my March request. As also discussed, I am revising my March request so these related issues can be examined by GAO as part of its response to my March request. Specifically, I am requesting GAO examine and evaluate the operations of DOD's Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illness and determine the extent to which information contained in military documents, such as division, staff or joint logs, could be useful in reconstruction of possible chemical weapon episodes and to identify other possible instances where chemical weapons may have been used.

Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses (OSAGWI)

Please review the operations of the OSAGWI and address the following questions:

Is the OSAGWI conducting a thorough and aggressive investigation of the possible causes of Gulf War illnesses? Has the OSAGWI thoroughly investigated all possible instances of chemical or biological weapons exposure to U.S. service personnel?

Is the OSAGWI organized properly and composed of the right mix of investigative personnel to ensure a proper and thorough investigation? How does reliance on contractor personnel for many of its functions affect its operations?

Does the OSAGWI have complete access to all data on the Persian Gulf War?

How does declassification of Persian Gulf War documents affect the OSAGWI's investigation? Are there adequate resources devoted to declassification to ensure that it is done in a timely manner?

 

Mr. James F. Hinchman
July 8, 1997
Page 3

Missing Chemical Weapons Logs

Is there information contained in other military documents including reports available from allied military sources, such as division, staff or joint logs, that could be useful in helping to reconstruct possible chemical or biological weapon episodes and to identify other possible instances where chemical weapons may have been used?

Please feel free to contact Tom O'Donnell of my staff if you or your staff should have any questions concerning this request. Again, thank you for the work GAO has already performed and for your responsiveness to this request.

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