SHAD - Project 112 - Deseret Test Center
WASHINGTON, June 30, 2003 (DeploymentLINK) - The Department of Defense completed today its nearly three-year investigation of operational tests conducted in the 1960s. These tests were known to some as "Project SHAD," which was in fact a subset of "Project 112." Project 112 tests were conducted under the auspices of the Deseret Test Center, at Fort Douglas, Utah. Investigators have been able to confirm that the Deseret Test Center planned 134 operational tests; 50 are confirmed to have been conducted and 84 were canceled.
Tests were conducted on the open sea in the North Atlantic, open water locations of the Pacific Ocean and near the Marshall Islands, Hawaii, Baker Island, Puerto Rico and the California coast, investigators report. Land-based tests took place in Alaska, Hawaii, Maryland, Florida, Utah, Georgia and in Panama, Canada and the United Kingdom. Investigators have identified 5,842 servicemembers as having been present in one or more of these tests, and their names have been provided to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
"This release concludes a significant effort on the part of many people in the Department of Defense to ensure important information was made available to service members and the Department of Veterans Affairs," says Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Dr. William Winkenwerder Jr. "That effort reflects our individual and collective commitment to veterans and their families. I am pleased that our investigators were able to bring closure to this in-depth investigation, and by replacing speculation and uncertainty with fact, to offer the veterans of these tests some much deserved peace of mind."
The investigation began in August of 2000, when the VA's acting secretary sent a letter to the secretary of defense asking for medically relevant information from Shipboard Hazard and Defense testing that was done in the 1960s. The responsibility to obtain and provide that information was assigned to an office in the Department of Defense now known as Health Affair's Deployment Health Support Directorate.
In the initial meetings with the VA, DoD's commitment was to obtain dates and locations of three tests - Autumn Gold, Copper Head and Shady Grove - the vessels involved, the chemicals and biological agents used, the types of simulants, tracers and decontaminants used. The names of military personnel aboard the ships during the testing were also to be provided by DoD. The VA's commitment was to notify those who were present during this testing and to evaluate the health of any who were concerned.
"Beginning in October 2000, our investigators met with VA staff at the VA on a weekly basis. We wanted to ensure that the investigators were searching for information that would help the VA provide health care and clarify claims information from servicemembers who believed they might have been exposed. We agreed to deliver that information when it could be found - and to provide it as expediently as possible," says the Deployment Health Support Deputy Director Dr. Michael E. Kilpatrick.
As DoD investigators began their work on this project, Kilpatrick says, they learned that prior requests for this information from Congress or the VA had been routed to the Army because it served as the DoD executive agent for chemical and biological issues. The information that the Army had previously provided had not resolved the concerns that had been raised.
"We knew our work had to be meticulously thorough and very well documented," says lead investigator Dee Dodson Morris. "We had to find as many records as we possible for the tests because our Gulf War investigation experience had taught us that we had to understand the entire operation to best sort out the medically relevant information. We knew that a declassification effort would be necessary. The VA also wanted to know who was present during each test. Finally, we knew that the information needed to be presented so that it was useful for both the VA and the veterans of the tests, hence the fact sheets. I'd worked on a similar investigation 23 years earlier, I knew we faced major challenges."
And there were challenges. Even after the passage of more than 40 years, the information on these tests remained classified because these were operational tests, and it was valid for those details to remain classified. At the time of the testing, DoD had no indication that there was any cause for health concerns, so there had not been an effort to declassify the information that the VA was requesting, Morris said. Throughout the process, she and the DoD investigators coordinated closely with DoD declassification teams to get medically relevant information cleared for release without jeopardizing operational details that still have military significance.
Investigators soon learned of other SHAD tests that were done, and it was decided all should be added to the investigation.
"It was like researching your family tree. As we found information on the tests the VA asked us to investigate, we found other documents that showed more than these three tests," says Morris.
But when investigators began to look for information on the tests they faced a major hurdle. They discovered that records of these tests were not stored in any one place. Investigators received some initial documentation from the Dugway Proving Ground technical library and searched for more in the archives of the Dahlgren Naval Surface Warfare Center. They then learned that 'SHAD' was not commonly used at the time of the testing and thus was not a helpful search term.
Investigators had to identify individual test names and numbers and use those as search criteria. Even with that information, document searches proved to be more difficult than expected because some of the tests had more than one name and/or test number. A major breakthrough came with the discovery of several of Deseret Test Center's semi-annual progress reports, which allowed a better understanding of the universe of tests being investigated.
"We were very fortunate to find the progress reports. They served as a valuable template and a roadmap of sorts," Morris says.
Further digging revealed that Project SHAD was a subset of Project 112. In 1961, then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara launched 150 management initiatives. The 112th initiative concerned chemical and biological warfare capabilities. Because DoD's knowledge of chemical and biological warfare agents was so limited, a testing program was critical. This testing, done under Project 112, was one component of a far-reaching series of actions by the services to make chemical and biological weapons an effective part of the national defense. To support this effort, the Joint Chiefs of Staff directed the establishment of the Deseret Test Center at Fort Douglas, Utah, in June 1962. Plans were for most tests to be conducted on ships in the Pacific Ocean or on land in Alaska and Hawaii.
With this understanding, DoD investigators committed to obtaining medically relevant information on all Deseret Test Center testing from 1962 to 1973. The DoD investigative team has searched for documents in some 28 locations and has interviewed a number of the scientists who planned and conducted these tests.
As soon as investigators had complete information about a test compiled and cleared by security personnel, it was released. In September 2001, DoD released the first three SHAD fact sheets. Further releases were made in January, May, October and December 2002.
"I became aware of the investigation early on in my appointment as assistant secretary of defense for health affairs," says Winkenwerder. "I established a task force and made a commitment to complete the investigation by June 2003. At the time I established the deadline, I had no idea where the investigation would lead us. My focus then - as it is now - is to ensure that needed information was made readily available to the VA and the veterans who need the information."
Winkenwerder notes that all Project 112 test fact sheets are available on the Deployment Health Support Directorate Web site, DeploymentLINK. The site includes a chart listing all planned tests and the associated status to allow the public easy access to the information. The Web URL is http://deploymentlink.osd.mil/current_issues/shad/shad_intro.shtml
To keep the public informed of the investigation, DoD officials involved with the Project 112 investigation have testified before congressional bodies and briefed individual lawmakers or committees 18 times. Additionally, DoD and VA officials attended a reunion of crewmembers of the USS Power, which was involved in a SHAD test. On June 30, 2003, DoD announced the final public release of the medically relevant information on all the remaining Deseret Test Center chemical and biological operational tests from 1962-1973.
Veterans who believe they were involved in Deseret Test
Center tests and desire medical evaluations should call the VA's Helpline
at (800) 749-8387. Veterans who have DoD related questions or who are
DoD beneficiaries and have medical concerns or questions should call the
Deployment Health Support Directorate's contact center at (800) 497-6261.