Acknowledging it has not done enough, the Pentagon said Tuesday it would double the money it is spending to find whether U.S. troops were exposed to chemical agents in the Persian Gulf War.
President Clinton, meanwhile, named a senior Navy officer to his National Security staff to coordinate efforts concerning illnesses suffered by U.S. troops who served in the war.
Deputy Defense Secretary John White, the Pentagon’s No. 2 official, told reporters the Pentagon is pumping $27 million into further medical research and an intensified investigation of events during and after the gulf war. White also named a senior civilian Navy official, Bernard Rostker, to a new position on gulf war illness issues.
The announcement came a day before the Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’s Illnesses, a panel that has been sharply critical of the Pentagon, was to hold a daylong hearing on the issue.
“I wanted to make sure that we had sufficient resources available,” White said. “We’ve determined that we did not, and we substantially increased those resources.”
At the White House, National Security Adviser Anthony Lake announced the appointment of Rear Adm. Paul E. Busick to the NSC staff as the lead White House coordinator on gulf war issues.
The Pentagon decision came after Rostker and other senior defense officials told White in recent weeks that the job of sorting out what happened in the gulf relating to chemical weapons was far larger than previously believed.
The additional $27 million includes $5 million for further research into the possible effects of low-level exposure to chemical weapons, $10 million for research into chemical hazards and $12 million on general research into chemical weapons-related aspects of the gulf war.
Rostker, who is giving up his post as assistant secretary of the Navy, said the Pentagon will be hiring private contractors who have worked with the military to investigate gulf war operations. The team under his command will grow from a dozen people to 110 over the next month.