In a rather surprising announcement, the US Army is blaming post leaders for the anthrax scandal that rocked the military last year. The scandal revolved around the unauthorized shipment of live anthrax to several sites around the world and the United States in particular. After a lengthy investigation, the Army now says that chronic sloppy data collection and poor lab procedures led to the mistake. The investigation also lays the majority of the blame on past Dugway Proving Grounds commanders and leaders.
In the report, it was said that past commanders had allowed for data to be rigged in order to hide certain mistakes. Poor lab procedures were also cited. The report did not call these actions a “cover up” but came very close to doing so as it announced its findings. The investigation covered more than a decade of past actions by a variety of commanders and leaders.
“Despite multiple safety-related incidents and mishaps in the laboratories and involving shipments to external customers, Dugway leadership and Life Sciences Division management failed to take action,” the investigation by Army Maj. Gen. Paul Ostrowski said.
The report went on to say that instead of taking corrective actions, Dugway Proving Grounds leaders “blamed external entities or downplayed the seriousness of the incidents in reports to higher headquarters.”
The report also recommended that the Secretary of the Army hold certain Dugway personnel “accountable for their failures to eliminate the culture of complacency.” One of the immediate results is that Dugway is no longer producing biological agents that are used by various agencies for developing vaccines or detection devices.
During a press conference at the Pentagon, Ostrowski made it clear that no one person was at fault; this was a systematic problem that covered many years. The investigation also concluded that no threat to public health or to those involved in handling the samples was present. Even so, at least 30 personnel were treated with antibiotics as a precaution. No one developed any symptoms.
The anthrax shipment scandal broke last May when a lab in Maryland discovered live anthrax spores in what was supposed to be an inert sample shipped from Dugway. The problem only got worse. At last count, at least 194 labs had received live anthrax samples. These labs are located in all 50 states and some samples went to nine foreign countries, as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Guam.
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