National Academies Press: OpenBook
Suggested Citation:"BACKGROUND." National Research Council. 2003. Assuring the Safety of the Pentagon Mail: Letter Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10901.
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1 DIVISION ON EARTH AND LIFE STUDIES Board on Radiation Effects Research December 12, 2003 Joel B.Hudson Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Army 105 Army Pentagon Washington, DC 20310–0105 Dear Mr. Hudson, In response to the US Army's request that the National Academies evaluate the safety of Pentagon mail, the National Research Council has constituted a committee to review current procedures of the US Post Office and Pentagon. The Committee to Evaluate the Safety of the Pentagon Mail evaluated the efficacy of procedures implemented to ensure the safety of the mail and made recommendations for improvements. This letter describes the overall process that the committee followed and the issues it considered. Specific recommendations are considered sensitive information and therefore are included in an appendix (Appendix D) that is available only to the US Army. BACKGROUND The anthrax cases that occurred in the fall of 2001 resulted from spores that were sent through the US mail and demonstrated the devastation that bioterrorism can wreak on a free and open society (Cole 2003). In the weeks immediately after anthrax was confirmed in October 2001, the Federal Government took steps to protect its employees and operations from attacks by biological agents and related materials sent through the mails. Various branches of the government used experts to establish procedures quickly to prevent such incidents in their facilities. Members of the US scientific community were called together to discuss techniques that could be used to protect employees of the US Postal Service (USPS) and other government agencies. The initial focus was on anthrax, an easily dispersed and extremely hazardous biological agent. A recent publication describes some of the methods that can be used to mitigate or sterilize the spores of anthrax or closely related species (Whitney and others 2003). However, the nation needs to consider protection against a variety of chemical and biological agents, and efforts are under way to improve the detection, containment, mitigation, and decontamination of such agents (see for example Raber and others 2001 and 2002; Byrnes, King, and Tierno 2003).

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