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Saturday, 30 November, 2002, 18:48 GMT
US soldiers may have faulty gear
A soldier wearing a gas mask during the Gulf War
US troops may have to use decade-old equipment
US soldiers may not be equipped with the latest protective equipment against chemical and biological attacks in the event of military action against Iraq, US Senators and a non-partisan government office have warned.

Additionally, some 250,000 defective suits have gone missing and may have been mixed in with functioning equipment.

"We don't know where some of our best suits are. In some cases, we've mixed bad inventory with good," Senator Christopher Shays, who chairs the national security subcommittee of the Government Reform Committee, told the Washington Post newspaper.

But a retired army general who commanded troops in Iraq in 1991 and is now consulting for the Pentagon told the newspaper that he believed US troops did have proper gear.

Retired General Barry McCaffrey, who is advising the Pentagon
McCaffrey: Soldiers are properly equipped
"Every fighter wing, every Navy ship at sea, every army battalion is fully equipped to fight in a chemical environment," said Barry McCaffrey, who commanded the 24th Infantry Division during the Gulf War.

But a member of the House of Representatives wrote to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld this week to express concern about the suits, according to the newspaper.

Representative Janice Schakowsky asked Mr Rumsfeld for assurances that US soldiers sent to the Gulf "have been provided with equipment to protect against chemical and biological attacks in quantities sufficient to meet minimum required levels previously established by the Department of Defense", the newspaper said.

Suits recalled

The missing suits were manufactured by a company whose officers have been convicted of intentionally providing the Department of Defense with defective equipment.

More than half a million have been found and pulled from use, but 250,000 have not been accounted for, the General Accounting Office told Mr Shays's committee last month.

A British soldier receives an inoculation
Allied troops were inoculated during the Gulf War
Raymond Decker, head of the defence capabilities and management office at the GAO, said the military would be forced to make use of protective suits more than a decade old in the event of war with Iraq.

Those suits deteriorate with age, he said. An unnamed source told the newspaper that they will be useful for only a day or two after they are deployed.

Analysts say Saddam Hussein is likely to use biological or chemical weapons against US troops in case of a war because he knows their goal will be to remove him from power.


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28 Nov 02 | Middle East
28 Nov 02 | Middle East
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