Pentagon's efforts to fight weapons of mass destruction flayed

Report cites too little coordination and too little central oversight

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 2 2008 12:08 a.m. MST

The Pentagon's work to combat weapons of mass destruction has been so splintered and uncoordinated that officials cannot be sure what spending is accomplishing, whether "U.S. interests are protected" or even whether America "can properly respond to attack."

That is according to a Department of Defense Inspector General report, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the Deseret Morning News. It was originally classified "For Official Use Only," but the Pentagon provided a declassified copy that censored sensitive information.

The report says that because of its findings, Pentagon officials are now taking steps to improve coordination of work that has been spread among 40 offices and commands.

The report is of special interest to Utah because its Dugway Proving Ground is where many defenses against biological, chemical and radiological weapons — the main weapons of mass destruction — have been tested, sometimes amid controversy about how safe those tests are.

The Inspector General reviewed Pentagon initiatives against weapons of mass destruction and issued a report on March 30 (but the Morning News obtained a copy only this month). It complained that such Pentagon work had too little coordination and too little central oversight.

It warned that "without improved management, DoD (Department of Defense) cannot be assured that planned expenditures of at least $9.9 billion for Fiscal Years 2006 through 2011 is effectively spent, that U.S. interests are adequately protected, and that DoD can properly respond to an attack."

The report complained that the Pentagon "did not establish a lead office to adequately coordinate its WMD (weapons of mass destruction) initiatives," and instead spread various responsibilities among 40 separate offices and commands. It said those offices had only limited coordination by a loose working group.

Some of their many responsibilities included developing new defenses against such weapons; finding and seizing any such weapons abroad; assisting former Soviet nations to secure and destroy their stockpiles; and facilitating new counterproliferation treaties.

But the report said the Pentagon "managed each of these initiatives separately and did not coordinate initiatives within the responsible offices, even though all are interrelated."

As a result, it said "senior DoD officials did not receive the necessary information to understand the status of DoD actions for combating WMD."

Inspectors complained that because of splintered responsibilities and lack of coordination, annual Pentagon reports to Congress updating efforts against weapons of mass destruction did not clearly show what was being accomplished with spending.

It said if managers or Congress tried to follow the reports from year to year for 31 specific programs (on which $917 million was spent in 2003), they could not determine "whether those programs were complete or exactly what was accomplished with the funds."

Among such programs were developing chemical and biological weapon detectors, protective clothing, protective shelters and decontamination systems — some of which have undergone testing at Dugway Proving Ground.

The report said the Pentagon, as recommended by the Inspector General, was taking new action to try to improve coordination. Several offices were appointing lead agencies to coordinate their efforts, and a new coordination committee with more power had been formed.

The report also recommended that more detailed operations plans for combating weapons of mass destruction be prepared — to allow measuring progress from year to year — and it said several offices and commands concurred with that or said such plans are being refined.

Many of the specifics, and internal debate about them, were blacked out in the censored report provided to the Morning News.

To show the importance of the topic, the report noted that a survey by Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., of experts in June 2005 estimated "a 70 percent chance of a WMD attack somewhere in the world within the next 10 years." The threat is considered increasingly high as terrorist groups have attempted to gain such weapons.


E-mail: lee@desnews.com

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