Military bureaucracies may not be the quickest to respond to concerns, but that hardly excuses the way officials for years overlooked warnings from Utah's Dugway Proving Ground about the vulnerability of certain equipment.
The oversight could have proved deadly during the Persian Gulf War.In 1987, officials at Dugway warned that no one knew whether the Bradley Fighting Vehicle would withstand attacks from chemical or biological weapons. Yet not until last year did an Army study determine the vehicles needed more testing.
The same study showed that two-thirds of the military's weapons systems fell short of decontamination standards. In addition, one-third couldn't be operated effectively by soldiers wearing hot and bulky clothing during the threat of a chemical, biological or nuclear attack. The interior of the Abrams tank, for example, could reach 106 degrees during hot days - an unacceptable temperature even without additional protective clothing.
And fully half the systems were found vulnerable to corrosion or infiltration by chemical or germ agents.
The Deseret News obtained information about the report and the Dugway warnings through the federal Freedom of Information Act. The importance of this information would seem hard to underestimate, particularly considering how concerned U.S. forces were about Iraqi chemical attacks during the gulf war.
Given the dangers of biological and chemical weapons in modern warfare, extensive tests should be a routine part of the development of any new military weapon. It's a matter of national security.
The good news is military officials now appear to realize this. As a result of the study, the Pentagon is adding people with chemical and biological defense backgrounds to committees that oversee the development of weapons.
The puzzling question remains why they weren't added long ago.