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Briefing on Chemical and Biological Warfare Tests

NEWS TRANSCRIPT from the United States Department of Defense

DoD News Briefing Dr. William Winkenwerder, Jr., ASD HA Wednesday, October 09, 2002 - 1:07 p.m. EDT

(Briefing on Cold War-era Chemical and Biological Warfare Tests Identified as Project 112. Also participating where: Bryan Whitman, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Public Affairs; Michael Kilpatrick, deputy director, Deployment Health Support Directorate, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs; Dr. Anna Johnson-Winegar, deputy assistant to the Secretary of Defense, Chemical And Biological Defense; Jonathan Perlin, deputy undersecretary for Health, Department of Veterans Affairs; Robert Epley, associate deputy undersecretary, Policy and Program Management, Veterans Benefits Administration; and Dan Cooper, undersecretary of Veterans Affairs for Benefits.)

Whitman: Thank you for all -- thank you for attending this afternoon's briefing. Today we have with us Dr. William Winkenwerder. Most of you in this room probably know him. He's the assistant secretary of Defense for Health Affairs. He's here today to discuss with you 27 Cold-War-era chemical and biological tests that were part of a comprehensive program that was initiated nearly four decades ago out of concern by the department and the United States government with respect to our ability to protect and defend against these potential threats. It was known as Project 112.

The 27 tests that are being released today are in addition to what the department released earlier, actually last September, a year last September, and January and May of this year, in which we released a total of 10 other test findings.

We decided to do this briefing today, instead of just releasing the material, because I think it's important for us to be able to understand the historical context in which these tests took place, as well as have an appreciation for what we knew and what we didn't know about these agents and the threats that they posed 40 years ago.

Dr. Winkenwerder and his staff have put forth a tremendous effort over the past several months to bring this information forward. And I'm sure that he'll tell you that this effort is not yet complete. But today does demonstrate the results of a lot of hard work and is reflective of his commitment to transparency and fullest possible disclosure.

Finally, the release of this information is important also because it's part of an ongoing effort to provide information to the Department of Veterans Affairs, who is responding to concerns by some veterans that were involved in these tests in the 1960s and early 1970s that have concerns that some of these tests may be affecting their health.

Dr. Winkenwerder has been on Capitol Hill today, briefing, and he's got some more meetings this afternoon. So he will be with us for about 30 minutes.

And with that, let's go ahead and get started.

Winkenwerder: All right, thank you, Bryan.

Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. Today the Department of Defense is releasing an additional 28 fact sheets that describe operational tests involving biological and chemical agents and simulates conducted by the Deseret Test Center from 1962 to 1973. I had the opportunity to brief the House Veterans Affairs Committee this morning. I'll be briefing the Senate Armed Services Committee tomorrow. I'll be pleased to take your questions this afternoon, following just a few brief comments that I hope will be helpful to provide an overall picture of what we're describing today.

I also want to introduce a couple of other people that have joined me: Dr. Mike Kilpatrick from my office of deployment health, Dr. Anna Johnson Winegar, who is from the chemical, biological and nuclear programs; Undersecretary Cooper from the VA; and Dr. John Perlin, also from the Veterans Affairs Department.

Let me make first some important points about the nature and history of these tests. The purpose of these operational tests was to test equipment, procedures, military tactics, et cetera, and to learn more about biological and chemical agents. The tests were not conducted to evaluate the effects of dangerous agents on people. As such, they were not medical tests but were operational tests of a war-fighting capability. Nonetheless, people were involved. And so that has led us to where we are today in sharing this information.

It's also important to understand the historical context during which these tests were performed. In 1961 the Kennedy Administration, led by Secretary McNamara, undertook a broad review of defense programs, numbering more than 150 different management initiatives. During this period, there were serious and legitimate concerns about the Soviet Union's chemical and biological warfare program. The operational tests, as part of this Project 112 -- and 112 was merely the ordinal number of those 150 programs that were evaluated -- 112 had to do with chemical and biological tests, and as a result of that, an initiative was established under the direction of some scientists at the Desert Test Center, and this program began at that time, in early 1962.

These operational tests were conducted over land as well as at sea and included locations in the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. The purpose of the sea-based tests known as Project SHAD -- S-H-A-D, or Shipboard Hazard and Defense -- was to identify U.S. warships' vulnerabilities to attacks with biological or chemical warfare agents and to develop procedures to respond to such attacks while maintaining a war-fighting capability. The purpose of the land- based test was to learn more about how chemical and biological agents behave under a variety of climatic and environmental and use conditions.

Here is what we know today about these operational tests. The department planned 134 tests under Project 112. Of these 134 tests we know that 62 were cancelled and were never conducted. We know that 46 tests did take place. That's what we know happened today. We are investigating, if you add the numbers up, the remaining 26 planned tests, although preliminary findings suggest that most of these tests were likely not performed. Of the 46 tests that we know were completed, we now have released information on 37 of them -- we've released a few earlier in the year this year -- and have turned the medical information over to the VA. For those five additional, we're continuing to seek the final reports, and an additional four are pending final review. We hope to be able to release that additional information in the near future. But we didn't want to be -- we didn't want to take the time to wait until all of this happened to release it. We're trying to make this available as we know it.

The information we have released in the past 13 months adds more detail to a public record that does exist. And it was created in 1977, when the Army released its report on the U.S. Army activity and the U.S. biological warfare program -- and this is -- this document is an unclassified document which I'm sure we can make available -- and participated in open hearings before the Senate subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research. These information that were included in these reports are of a general nature.

What we're saying today is a much more detailed nature.

From these and other reports, there is documentation that -- as quoted in this report, that extreme care was taken to assure the ultimate in safety, the highest level of review and approval, and appropriate governmental coordination.

Today no research, development, test or evaluation involves the exposure of human agents -- I'm sorry -- human subjects to chemical or biological agents. The military services do still use simulants during operational training and testing, but follow specific federal laws, procedures and regulations in place. Small quantities of chemical agents are used in controlled facilities for training U.S. forces in protective equipment and to operate detection and decontamination in a chemical environment.

The department has worked diligently to release the medical relevant facts about this testing and to ensure that the VA has the information it needs to respond to questions and benefit claims from veterans. We're on track to meet our stated promise of having all relevant information released by spring of '03. I'm optimistic that, barring any unforeseen problems, we'll have concluded the effort far in advance of that time.

I'm pleased to accept your questions now.

Q: Doctor, what evidence is there that civilians, either contractor employees or others, might have been exposed? And what, if anything, is being done to notify those people?

Winkenwerder: We do know that some civilians were exposed in tests that occurred in Hawaii, possibly in Alaska and possibly in Florida. And I'm going to turn to Dr. Kilpatrick. Were there any other sites where civilians may have exposed?

Kilpatrick: And in Vieques.

Winkenwerder: And in Vieques, Puerto Rico.

Q: (Off mike) -- Maryland?

Winkenwerder: Pardon?

Q: But not Maryland?

Winkenwerder: But not Maryland. We do not believe that civilians were exposed in that situation. And in all the situations where civilians were exposed, it was with simulants, not live agents, not real agents.

Q: Do you have any health data indicating that anyone got sick or was injured, either in uniform or not in uniform, from any of this body of work?

Winkenwerder: What we know today is that there have been a number of veterans who have expressed concerns about their health. And beginning, as I understand it, going back several years, in fact, into the early 1990s, is the first time that I'm aware of that these concerns began to be expressed.

And what we know today is, there are approximately in the 50s, I think, roughly -- number of individuals who filed claims related to their belief of exposure.

Q: What kind of symptoms are they expressing?

Winkenwerder: Well, we don't -- can't characterize those in terms of a specific set of symptoms. It looks like the broad variety of medical conditions that you might find in a group of people of that age.

Q: At the time of these experiments, no one expressed any symptoms of exposure to any of these elements?

Winkenwerder: From the records, which again -- I would characterize them as fairly detailed and complete but not as detailed or as complete as we would do today -- there is not a suggestion that people did experience adverse health effects at the time of the test.

I'm going to turn to Dr. Kilpatrick for any other comments in that regard.

Kilpatrick: And we've tried to take a look at things like ships' logs for the tests done at sea to see if there's any indication of people becoming ill at the time or shortly after the time of the testing. There's no indication of that. The only indication we have found is that for the 11 years of the existence of Deseret test center, four people were infected. And they were treated and cured. We don't -- we're not able to identify those people. And what was the cause of the infection? Were they involved in these tests? Were they handling agents from these tests? We just don't know the answer to that. It's still, as I said, an investigation underway.

Q: Infected with what?

Kilpatrick: We don't know.


Q: The total of military personnel that took part in this -- what's the number? And also --

Winkenwerder: Our best estimate today is that roughly 5,000 service members were involved in the sea-based tests, and roughly 500 in the land-based tests.

Q: And where did the land-based -- you mentioned the states. Where precisely did these tests take place in the various states?

Winkenwerder: In Alaska, in an area near Ft. Greeley.

Q: Outside Ft. Greeley?

Winkenwerder: Yes, and -- Dr. Kilpatrick, you want to describe in any more specificity?

Kilpatrick: Okay. Again, there are several areas: Ft. Greeley, the Tana River valley, a couple of other locations. They're listed in each of the fact sheets. Each of the fact sheets give the location of the tests. That we felt was very important. And when you get fact sheets, they'll list each of the locations in each of the states as to where the testing was done.

Q: Were you spraying people? What were you doing in these land-based experiments? Explosives? Spraying? Fogging? What?

Winkenwerder: The people who were conducting the tests at that time were doing a variety of different things. In some cases there was spraying of agent in the air. In other case, at more near range. And again, it was to look at the variety of conditions -- climatic, environmental -- and how that affected the ability to conduct missions.

Q: They felt it was necessary to use VX and sarin in the open air in order to check the way the wind was blowing?

Winkenwerder: The reasoning behind all of these is not altogether clear from the record that we have. But certainly it was to evaluate our own protective capabilities and procedures and tactics, as well as how an offensive use of that particular type of agent might affect --

Q: So therefore, if you use a poison agent and the equipment doesn't work right, the person inside would die, right?

Winkenwerder: Well, we don't have any -- clearly, any evidence that anyone died as a result of these operational tests.

Q: Can we go back to the locations? What --

Q: What was the -- what was the --

Winkenwerder: Let me take your question.

Q: Yeah. What was the role of the U.S. forces in that? Were they wearing gear that was being sprayed? Could you explain that?

Winkenwerder: The role of the forces?

Q: Yes.

Winkenwerder: It was a variety of different roles, depending upon the test and the situation.

Let me turn to Dr. Kilpatrick to describe some of that.

Kilpatrick: For the shipboard personnel, when simulants were used, they were evaluating the ability of the ship to withstand chemical or biological attack. And people were going about their normal duty, whether it was underway in battle condition or hunkered down, closed up, buttoned up.

When we look at the land-based tests, these were really done to evaluate the behavior of agents, and there were not personnel that were there as where the agents were used; they were people putting out monitors, coming back collecting information. The land-based tests had very few people involved. One test we know had 18 people identified as involved in performing that test -- collecting the information after an agent was released into the air and seeing what its persistence was in that climate.

Q: And were the land-based tests also used to test the effect of equipment or was it just terrain and --

Kilpatrick: It was terrain and delivery capability.

Q: I notice that here on this list, under "biological and chemical agents," most of them say not available.

Can you tell us why that information isn't available? Is that going to be available later?

Winkenwerder: The specific agents used will be made available. You'll have that for each test and total.

Q: "NA" is for "not available" or "not applicable"?

Winkenwerder: Pardon?

Q: "NA." Does it stand for "not available" or "not applicable"?

Winkenwerder: Not applicable.

Q: Can we go back to locations? You mentioned outside of Fort Greeley in Alaska. They don't list, for example, in Maryland where exactly these took place.

Winkenwerder: In Maryland, they were done in and around the Aberdeen Proving Ground site where that type of work was done.

Q: In and around? So, outside of the Aberdeen Proving Ground or on the facility itself?

Winkenwerder: I'm going to turn to Dr. Kilpatrick for the specifics.

Kilpatrick: Again it's -- what was the area, it was government land, and it was the Edgewood Arsenal at the time. Now, those borders and boundaries have changed since that time. So again, we have from the document where the locations were, and they were not, obviously, inhabited areas, they were open areas.

Q: And do you know how many military personnel took part in that?

Kilpatrick: We are still looking to investigate that. It's harder on the land-based. Ships have a crew roster; land-based, we need to see who was assigned duty to do these tests.

Q: (Off mike) -- they notified local officials?

Kilpatrick: We have indications that local officials were notified on all of these land-based tests. Now, how much information went from there, we don't know, but the test documents is all we can really talk to, and those indicate coordination with local governmental agencies.

Q: And one last thing. You mentioned that a number of veterans have come forward with certain sicknesses and so forth. Do you have a ballpark on how many?

Winkenwerder: At this time I believe that those are in the 50's I don't know if Dr. Perlin or anyone from the VA wants to comment.

Perlin (?): Approximately 50 is the number, slightly in excess of 50 have come in for claims to their veterans' benefits administration.

Q: So, 50 out of --

Kilpatrick: Five thousand five hundred.

Winkenwerder: We should note that not all those 5,500 have yet been notified. We're working to make this information available to the VA, who is turn writing letters and notifying people specifically so that they might forward.

Q: Any civilians, how do you notify them?

Winkenwerder: We don't have a process for that at this time. We're making this information available so that anyone who believes there may have been some ill effect could come forward. I might say that, again, in the case of civilians, these were simulant agents and not live agents.

Let me turn back here to the back.

Q: I have some questions about the specifics of the testing in Canada. Where exactly did this happen? How many people were involved? Who was involved? And why did the United States need to do this in Canada?

Kilpatrick: This testing was part of a tripartite agreement with Canada, the United States and Great Britain. And the testing that was done involved people doing -- conducting the tests from each of those three countries. The testing in Great Britain was done at Portandown. The testing done in Canada was at Ralston, their, again, chemical testing facility. And both Great Britain and Canada have released this information to their public some years ago.

Q: This is a follow-up. Are you aware of whether any Canadians have come forward with complaints about their health -- (off mike)?

Kilpatrick: We're not aware of any of that. And again, this has been released to their public some years ago.

Q: Going back on to the civilians, you say some -- you believe some were exposed. Do you know how many? And how do you know it's only some? And how do you know it's just simulants and not agents? Can you definitely rule out the possibility absolutely that no civilian was exposed to a live agent? And how were they exposed to these simulants?

Winkenwerder: I would say that based on the information I've seen, we are highly confident that civilians were not exposed to live chemical or pathogenic biologic agents. Simulant biologic agents are real organisms. For example, the bacillus globigii is a organism that is in the same family as bacillus anthracis, or anthrax. But it is thought to be then and it is thought to be now a harmless bug, if you will, that is in the environment, is in the soil.

The place where the likely largest exposure might have occurred would have been in Hawaii. And we don't know the numbers there, but it could have been into the thousands of people that might have been exposed in that --

Q: Which island?

Winkenwerder: Oahu.

Q: Oahu.

Q: And how can you be so certain, since you're still looking at the information, that the possibility of thousands being exposed to these simulants -- how can you be certain they weren't exposed to live agents?

Winkenwerder: Because the record indicates that no live agent was used in that particular test.

Q: And can you offer any assurances to the people in these states? That's what I'm looking for. What would --

Winkenwerder: I think we're highly certain -- highly confident. We have no information to suggest -- this is not a hedge in any way -- we have no information that we've come across that would suggest that civilian populations were exposed to live agents.

Yes, sir.

Q: You've been careful to say that the civilians were only exposed to the simulants. The case of the military personnel: Is there a division there, if some were exposed to the actual agents? If so, how many? And how do you know that -- were there no civilians present or even nearby those --

Winkenwerder: These were -- the tests were conducted in very remote areas, and in terms of the -- sort of the breakdown, we think that roughly half of the test were -- maybe a little less than half used live agents, and roughly half used simulants.

Q: And that translates into how many military personnel?

Winkenwerder: Again, the total number is around 5,500.

Yes, ma'am.

Q: Two question: In the military people that were tested, can you go back and address the issue -- the protective gear that they were wearing, the people who are experience symptoms -- in other words, were they wearing protective gear at all that you now feel may not have been fully protective? And my other question is: To go back to the issue of the kind of symptoms that the veterans are complaining of -- you indicated that was consistent with people of that age group, I believe. Could you address that question? Has anyone complained of any symptoms that -- can you be more specific about the symptoms, and are any of them in any identifiable way other than the typical symptomatic conditions of people of that age group?

Winkenwerder: Let me take the first question with regard to -- I'm sorry -- if you would restate that?

Q: The protective gear.

Winkenwerder: The protective gear -- and that is that -- the information seems to suggest that in every case where live agents were used that protective gearing measures were taken, whether those would be of the same standard of today, you know, that's something that we don't know the answer to. But we -- it is clear from looking at these records that at that time, people took the measure that they thought would be fully protective of the people involved.

And your second --

Q: (Off mike) -- symptoms of the age group.

Winkenwerder: Yeah, let me turn to Dr. Perlin for a moment.

Q: (Off mike.)

Winkenwerder: Yes, and -- but also --

Q: (Off mike.)

Winkenwerder: Yes. And let me just note that we are working with the VA. The VA is going to be conducting a study and is funding a study through the Institute of Medicine to look at this whole group of people.

Q: And could you say your name, sir?

Perlin: Dr. Jonathan Perlin, the deputy undersecretary for Health, Department of Veterans Affairs.

The -- while the experiences of these individuals are, in their right, remarkable, the illnesses with which these individuals have presented have been fairly unremarkable and very consistent with individuals of the same age. The top diagnoses out of the first 622 veterans identified to us include such things as muscular-skeletal disorders like arthritis, digestive disorders, reflux, that sort of thing, loss of -- visual loss and hearing loss associated with aging, skin conditions and cardiovascular conditions.

Q: How much -- how many of this group have you reached, of the 5,500 identified in --

Perlin: Right. The -- actually, we were notified of the first 622 at the end of January, the beginning of February, and actually by going back and mapping the service numbers to later Social Security numbers, working through NIOSH, the Internal Revenue Service, we were able to locate addresses. We did that over a period of 90 days. And, in fact, we have been able to locate or sent mailings out initially to 611 and 707. So we have 1399 that have been contacted thus far out of the approximately 5,000 identified to us. About 2,100 were identified to us last month, and we're working to try to identify a good address or communication point for every last one of those veterans.

Q: So there are -- just to make sure I understand this -- 622 are the people who have registered symptoms, as it were.

Perlin: No. I'm sorry. The 622 were the first large group of veterans or military retirees identified to us January 31st and February 15th.

Q: And the symptoms are about --

Q: (Off mike) -- 50 people --

Q: Fifty people.

Q: Yeah. What about the 50 people --

Q: And the symptoms you described are --

Perlin: The 50 -- I'm sorry. The 50-ish people -- and let turn to my colleague Admiral Cooper -- are individuals who have registered service-connected claims. Those claims are for diseases that are fairly common diseases: muscular, skeletal, digestive, hearing, skin and cardiovascular disorders.

Q: So as difficult as it is to ask you, as a medical doctor, do you at this point in your mind have any indication that you can offer as to whether or not the medical evidence shows you people are experiencing these symptoms as a result of events 40 years ago?

Perlin: The -- in fact, we will respond to any veteran's symptoms. But we have in the open literature no causal association with those exposures and current symptomatology.

What we have is the information that people present to us as they come in for routine care, and in response to these letters, to be evaluated.

Dr. Winkenwerder alluded to something very important that's going on, which is that VA has just commissioned a study with the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine Medical Follow-up Agency. This study will seek to contact all 5,000 of these individuals to look at the experiences with respect to each of the individual exposures, and compare these veterans, who participated in Project SHAD and Project 112, with other veterans with similar military histories, but not those exposures, to provide the definitive association of anything with those exposures.

Winkenwerder: Before we take another question, I want to make another point clear, because I know it is likely to be a question, and that is, what do we do today?

And I want to ask Dr. Anna Johnson Winegar to come forward and just describe to you our more -- our current processes for ensuring appropriate health and safety standards are followed and that individuals are protected.

Winegar: Thank you. I just wanted to be perfectly clear that the Department of Defense is very aware of all of the legislation regarding the protection of human subjects. And we do file an annual report to the Congress each year that affirmatively states that no human subjects have been exposed to chemical or biological agents as part of our research development and acquisition program.

What Dr. Winkenwerder did mention in his opening comments, and that I'd like to clarify on, is that during some training exercises, individuals in the military services may be in an environment -- and when I say "an environment," I mean a closed, controlled environment -- in a training facility where chemical agents may be used. And in those circumstances, those individuals are provided with the appropriate protective gear that we make available to our military personnel today.

Q: These are the people who are being trained to detect chemical agents and --

Winegar: Yes. They're being trained to operate detectors, to do decontamination, and to perform other types of functions that they may be called upon to do while wearing the protective gear.

Q: Can you compare how the chem gear today compares to that of 40 years ago when these people -- some people were asked to go into fields and check out the persistence of these chemicals?

Winegar: I certainly think that over that period of time we have made significant improvements in the quality of our protective gear, both the over garment as well as the protective mask that's available to our individual service members.

Q: Are you familiar with the use of BG in any recent or current testing in recent years -- open-air dispersion, not in a controlled environment?

Winegar: Yes. Earlier this year, there was a study that was conducted off the Florida Keys to do some preliminary analysis of whether commercially available radar systems could be used as an early warning and detection system for biological agents. And during that time, several different biological simulants were used, and one of them was irradiated BG spores.

Q: Are you familiar with the test in Los Alamos about two or some years ago, where the open-air dispersion was proposed, and then canceled due to outrage from the local community about them not being notified of that test?

Winegar: I would have to refer that to the Department of Energy, since Los Alamos is a Department of Energy lab.

Q: One more question on that: Looking through this list, I see Utah and California. And I'm just wondering what the Defense Department knows about how chem and bio agents behave in a desert environment. Is all that information basically from these tests, or are there other ways that we know about that?

Winegar: The large bulk of the information that we have is based on those tests. We are able to use current standards of modeling and simulation and applying meteorological data, both that which we gather from actual testing, as well as from extrapolation to controlled environmental test chambers, where we do the vast majority of our testing.

Winkenwerder: I want to make sure we get somebody that hasn't gotten answered.


Q: I wanted to also go on to the test in Florida. Could you elaborate a little bit on what tests were conducted in Florida and where? Were those near bases and installations, or were they in more --

Winkenwerder: The detail of that will be in the fact sheet, but the short answer is near a place called Yee-Ha Junction -- (laughs) -- and it used an agent called wheat rust, which was not -- it's actually -- effect is on plants.

Q: What was the purpose of that?

Winkenwerder: Let me have --

Kilpatrick: Wheat rust is a fungus which kills wheat and is an offensive test if you want to take the breadbasket away from the enemy. Wheat wasn't grown; they had to actually import wheat stalks, put them in little -- on the ground and then pick them up, take them to the hothouse and see how well it worked.

Q: So is there any -- may I?

Winkenwerder: Go ahead.

Q: Is there any application of any of this research to possible offensive use of chemical or biological agents?

Winkenwerder: Yes. And I think things were learned at that time that would have been useful to that purpose. All of this type of testing and these types off activities were brought to a halt in 1970, when President Nixon declared an end to the offensive biological and chemical program in the United States. And about the same time, the Environmental Protection Agency and OSHA came into being, which further regulated how these kinds of activities might or might not take place.

Q: Then was this as much directed towards the study of the possible use of chemical and biological agents as offensive arms as it was to defensive?

Winkenwerder: Well, I think there's a great debate that goes on about what one learns that could be used for an offensive purpose being the same kinds of information that you would need to defend yourself. So it really is in the eye of the beholder. But this type of work is, from all the information we have here, is not the kind of work that goes on today.


Q: Were the people that participated in these tests aware of the potential risks from them? And were the tests voluntary? And could you talk about what the VA is doing for the -- will do for the 5,500 folks? Are they getting some kind of a benefit or some medical treatment?

Winkenwerder: The records seem to indicate that most people were aware of the fact that they were participating in an operational test. It's not clear that in every instance there was full -- that people were fully informed.

Q: Civilians, too? Are you saying civilian -- most of the thousands exposed in Hawaii were aware?

Winkenwerder: I would presume that they were not aware individually. The communications that may have taken place between the department at that time and state and local authorities suggested and I believe in that case that there had been some communication, as well as in Alaska.

Q: Participation, was it voluntary? Knowing it and being able to opt out are two different things.

Winkenwerder: Because it was operational in nature and not a medical human subjects type of research, I would presume that it was not voluntary, that people were part of units that were doing this kind of work and were expected to do that kind of work.

Q: And the VA benefits?

Winkenwerder: Yes, sir?

Cooper: My name is Dan Cooper, and I am the undersecretary for benefits at the Department of Veterans' Affairs. And in the last several months as we have been getting information on each of the tests, we are given the same slips, I believe, that you-all will see. And along with that, then, we get the names of all the people who participated in the various units involved in that particular test.

Now, what we get, because they were long ago, is we get the name of the individual that was on board that ship, as well as something called the file number, which is the way we used to identify military people. We now do it by Social Security number. Unfortunately there's nothing from which you can cross-reference to Social Security numbers from file numbers, and it's a very difficult process.

So as we get each one of those lists, we then try to identify each one of those people by Social Security number, or any way we can, and then we have to go through a rather circuitous process, because of Freedom of Information, Privacy Act, various laws, to finally get an address of an individual. Dr. Perlin mentioned this earlier; we have to go -- many times to IRS. There are other ways of doing it. We're trying to do every single way we can, every search mechanism we can find to find the specific veteran.

The fact is, the total number of names we've gotten so far on the number of tests we have received is about 7,000. However, many of those -- don't -- I wouldn't put that down because many of those people are in several different tests because some of the ships participate in ongoing tests. The total number we have of different, individual names is about 5,000. Now, going through the process that I tell you is rather torturous, we have in fact come up with something in excess of a thousand names that we can identify, we have the address, and in fact, in May sent out 600-plus letters, under my name, to each of those veterans telling them because they were on -- and we name the ship -- you in fact -- that ship participated during that time frame in this particular test. If in fact you have any problem at all and want to check into it, we give them a number to call, a website to look at, and then we have set up a local number, a number in the United States for everybody to call and talk about SHAD. They can say, "I was on the USS" -- whatever it was -- "and did I participate in certain tests?" And that person there can help them to identify that yes, they were in fact under the SHAD testing.

The total number of letters I've sent out: In May we sent out 600-plus; in August we sent out 770 additional, for a total of something in excess of a thousand. We have now gotten approximately a thousand names still in the works that we're attempting to identify and send out yet a third set of letters. We have also notified all our people in the regional offices and in the hospitals that in fact there are SHAD people out there. We have gone out to various veterans service organizations to make sure all the veterans are aware of it.

The total number that we have received of people who have come in with possible claims predicated on participating in SHAD, is approximately 55. Of those, approximately 19 have been found to be service-connected for other problems that give them disability claims and make them valid claims, and we have in fact adjudicated those. So of the 55, some of them are already in the process and have had claims properly adjudicated.

Q: So the benefit, then, is -- what happens if you check out you were in involved in SHAD, what then?

Cooper: When you come in -- when you come in for a particular -- for SHAD, for instance, we will try to see if you have a proper claim predicated that's service-connected, and the medical exam shows us that you rate a certain benefit, predicated on the law, then we will give that benefit. There is nothing specifically identified at this moment for SHAD, but when they come in, we try to find out if there is some way they can be service-connected and, therefore, give them the benefit due them as a veteran.


Q: Have you made any positive determinations on exposure to materials used in Project SHAD?

Cooper: As far as I can ascertain, we have not.

Isn't that what you said, Dr. Perlin?

As far as I can ascertain, we have not. However, we are watching these people very carefully, trying to ascertain exactly what it is they have. And, as Dr. Perlin said, we are conducting an ongoing study to really determined what possibly could be there.

Yes, sir.

Q: Could we just have a little more details on the California tests -- what was used, how many people, where it was -- (inaudible) -- just say why?

Cooper: The fact sheets will -- and I think that is the handout that Bryan will have right now -- will have some questions and answers and a considerable detail and facts about each test, each location, that should answer most of your questions.

Let me take one more question, and --

Q: The 62 tests that were canceled -- can you give any information about why they were canceled? Is that just because they were scheduled after the ban went into place, or are there other reasons that they were canceled?

Cooper: It appears there were other reasons, not just --

Q: Do you have any idea about what those reasons (would be ?)?

Cooper: We don't. We don't.

Let me just make one final point, and that is, we're here today talking about this not because of anything else that's going on in the world, though one might think that. We have been on this process of attempting to uncover this information and unearth these facts for about a year and a half now and had released information earlier about a year ago, January of '02, May of '02. And I was most interested in getting all of this information out. We've got an obligation to our veterans and to our service members to do right by them and to make this information available. So we've moved forward, and we hope that we'll be consulted with this effort in the near future.

Q: Point of clarification: The 55 who have made claims -- 55 veterans -- they were all in the shipboard tests? Is that correct?

Cooper: Yes.

Q: Yet no one in the land-based tests has come forward with claims?

Cooper: We have not received the information on land-based tests yet. So all the people that I've discussed are, in fact, shipboard.

Q: (Inaudible.) -- among the 55 on a particular ship or --

Cooper: No, we have not. But I haven't really looked to that, but I think I would have been told that, and the fact is, we have not identified that.

Winkenwerder: Part of what's new about today's announcement is the land-based testing. In the past, all that had been made available related to sea-based testing.

Q: One housekeeping matter: How do you define "simulant," as opposed to "live" chemical or biological agents?

Winkenwerder: "Simulant" is something that is, first and foremost, believed to be harmless to humans. So -- and it acts like, in terms of its properties, a real agent. But it is harmless in terms of its effect on humans.

Q: Not all of the simulants were, in fact, harmless.

Winkenwerder: Well, there are a couple of them that we know today that if they were -- if people with immunocompromised health status were exposed to a simulant biological agent, that they could, in fact, get sick from that.

Q: Was one VG?

Winkenwerder: Probably E. coli and Ciracea morassassins .

Q: Thank you. I didn't know that you had to get to another meeting.

Winkenwerder: Yes. Thank you very much.


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