In the spring of 1996, Deputy Secretary of Defense John White met with the leadership of the National Academies to discuss the DoD 's continuing efforts to improve protection of military personnel from adverse health effects during deployments in hostile environments. Although many lessons learned from previous assessments of Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm have been reported, prospective analyses are still needed: (1) to identify gaps and shortcomings in policy, doctrine, training, and equipment; and (2) to improve the management of battlefield health risks in future deployments.

DoD determined that independent, external, unbiased evaluations focused on four areas would be most useful: (1) health risks during deployments in hostile environments; (2) technologies and methods for detecting and tracking exposures to harmful agents; (3) physical protection and decontamination; and (4) medical protection, health consequences and treatment, and medical record keeping. This report, which addresses the issues of physical protection and decontamination, is one of four initial reports that will be submitted in response to that request.


This study, conducted by two principal investigators with the support of an advisory panel and National Academies staff from the Commission on Engineering and Technical Systems, assessed DoD approaches and technologies that are, or may be, used for physical protection—both individual and collective—against CB agents and for decontamination. This assessment includes an evaluation of the efficacy and implementation of current policies, doctrine, and training as they relate to protection against and decontamination of CB agents during troop deployments and recommends modifications in strategies to improve protection against deleterious health effects in future deployments. This report includes reviews and evaluations of the following topics:

  • current protective equipment and protective measures, as well as those in development;

  • current and proposed methods for decontaminating personnel and equipment after exposure to CB agents;

  • current policies, doctrine, and training for protecting against and decontaminating personnel and equipment in future deployments;

  • the effects of using current protective equipment and procedures on unit effectiveness and other human performance factors; and

  • current and projected military capabilities to provide emergency response to terrorist CB incidents.

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