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january/february 2007

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Project 112/SHAD REPORT
A Question Of Responsibility

BY JACK ALDERSON, CHAIR

As this is being written, Congress is in its lame duck session with not much expected to be accomplished. H.R. 4259, the Veterans Right To Know Act of 2006, although it had 38 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle, did not even get a hearing. This means that it must be reintroduced in the 110th Congress. Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), who sponsored the bill, hopes to get the same bill number in 2007.

Shipboard Hazard and Defense (SHAD) veterans were not given pre-deployment physicals, nor was their health monitored by the government. The Soviet Union, which also conducted chemical and biological tests, did follow the health history of its personnel involved in its tests. Project SHAD Technical Staff (PSTS), with whom I served, were only given security debriefings when departing and told if they said anything about SHAD operations, they would receive free room and board at a federal correctional facility. We were never checked during our time as PSTS. This was a valuable health opportunity lost.

TESTING NOW

The Project SHAD technical staff participated in tests of “hot agents,” simulants, and trace elements, as well as decontamination agents that were used during tests and during training between tests. We were assured of our safety, and we believed that everything we did was within the knowledge and safety precautions of the time. I say this because there is similar training and testing going on right now with service personnel and civilians.

The Air Force, for instance, is testing an Active Denial System, a non-lethal riot control weapon using mid-range radiation. An Air Force spokesman said this weapon limits the effects of radiation if used properly. There reportedly have been some ten thousand exposures of personnel in some of which blistering and burns have occurred. But what about the latent effects of radiation? Weren’t our service personnel involved in the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and those who participated in atomic tests told that if they followed instructions, they would be safe? How many developed cancer and other health problems that can be linked to exposure to radiation?

We understand that an accident recently occurred involving the heavier-than-anticipated dissemination of CS riot control gas on test subjects during testing of a new piece of equipment. We hear that Fort Meade, Fort Detrick, and Dugway Proving Ground will be the sites for testing chemical and biological agents under the auspices of a new federal entity called the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency. One wonders: On whom will BARDA conduct its tests?
We believe that there should—and that there must—be strong and responsible oversight of any tests done by BARDA. Those involved in these tests must have their health cared for and be followed for the rest of their lives. If test-related illnesses occur, it is the ethical, moral, and legal responsibility of the American people, through our government, to care for these men and women.

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