Pentagon delays Gulf War model for reviewOctober 10, 1996
Web posted at: 10:45 p.m. EDT
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Pentagon said Thursday that it would put a new CIA computer model through a review process before using it, further delaying an estimate of how many U.S. troops may have been exposed to chemical weapons after the Gulf War.
The CIA model, which the Pentagon received last week, was designed to show what happened when Katyusha rockets filled with nerve gas were put in an open pit, then blown up by U.S. troops in March 1991.
However, there are so many variables in the computer program, Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said, that the agency wanted to make sure that each of them made sense.
"How you treat those variables has a big impact on the outcome. And the question is, are we making reasonable assumptions?" Bacon said.
To head off criticism, the CIA has ordered that the model undergo a peer review. Outside experts will look at underlying assumptions about weather conditions, amounts of chemical weapons destroyed, and how the nerve agent sarin travels through the atmosphere.
Although the peer review could push the Pentagon's final report out until after the November 4 elections, the Pentagon insisted that it had no political motive in delaying the report. "It will not help (politically) to delay this," Bacon said.
Unlikely cause of illness?
Although the Pentagon is putting more energy into looking for a link with toxic chemicals-- a panel of outside scientists says that's unlikely.
"We think that a part, at least, of what we're looking at is related to the immense stresses that are on many people in a military setting," said Dr. John Bailar of the National Institutes of Medicine. "It should not be surprising that it leads to physical illness in some veterans," he said.
Scientists from the National Institutes of Medicine said more research should be done on the possible effects of low-level exposure to chemicals, even if it only accounts for a small number of sick veterans.
The Pentagon admits its has no answers, and won't likely come up with any soon. Its slow pace in finding a source for Gulf War Syndrome frustrates both sick veterans and congressional critics. But the Pentagon said it has no reason to hide anything, since veterans are already eligible for compensation.
Military Affairs Correspondent Jamie McIntyre and Reuters contributed to this report.
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