Friday, January 28, 2011

Misplaced nerve Agent

Readers who follow me on TWITTER (PJCoyle) probably noted a retweet that I made yesterday about an incident at Dugway Proving Grounds, UT the night before. There was no information available in the earlier tweet other than a report that the facility was in ‘lock-down’. I have since tracked down some news reports ( and about the incident. It seems that the facility lock-down was conducted to allow for a search for a missing vile of VX Nerve Agent.

It turns out that it never left secure storage; it had simply been placed in the wrong container and was improperly marked. That’s the good news. The investigation into the how and why of the incident is on-going. Readers who have been trained in chemical warfare operations know how serious a missing vile of this stuff would have been if it had actually left Dugway.

Many researchers were upset when DHS set a 100-g screening threshold quantity for various chemical weapons. This STQ was probably responsible for a handful of University or pharmaceutical research labs having to submit Top Screens. I would suspect that DHS ended up classifying as high-risk any of these labs that did not decide to destroy their inventories to avoid CFATS coverage.

Those of us who spent hours practicing donning chemical warfare gear in very short time limits and were schooled in the wonders of the atropine auto-injector pen will be very happy to know that people are taking seriously the security of even the smallest quantities of these agents. The response of the folks at Dugway is a good example of how seriously the military takes that security. I hope the final investigation shows that this was just an honest mistake. We certainly don’t want to hear that criminals or terrorists were in anyway connected with this incident.

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