Dugway Proving Ground did not follow established protocols when reviewing its chemical agent inventory and personnel requirements, according to a new Defense Department report.
The DOD report by the inspector general titled, “The Army Needs to Improve Controls Over Chemical Surety Materials” found Dugway did not properly inventory its chemical agent supply, including the nerve agent sarin, during semiannual reviews.
Dugway officials did not review the primary container a chemical agent was stored in if it was stored in a sealed secondary container that held more than one primary container, according to the report.
DOD regulations require a 100-percent physical review of the primary container of the chemical.
Dugway used stainless steel cylinders and ammunition cans with tamper-evident seals as secondary containers for chemical agents, the report said.
According to the report, Dugway would rely on the inventory data written on the sealed secondary container instead of actually reviewing the primary containers, unless the secondary container was opened for use or a random inspection.
“Dugway inventory records indicate that from March 2015 to April 2016, custodians conducted chemical agent inventories without opening the secondary containers,” the report said.
As part of the inspector general’s report, an audit sample of 41 of Dugway’s 534 chemical agents was conducted. Included in the audit sample was a vial of sarin gas, a deadly neurotoxin, which was stored in a secondary container.
While the vial was listed in the inventory as 39 milliliters, the audit found it contained only 37.5 milliliters of sarin, according to the report. Dugway records indicated the secondary container containing the sarin had not been opened and resealed since March 2015.
Sarin is a human-made chemical warfare agent originally developed in Germany in 1938 as a pesticide, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The clear, colorless, and tasteless liquid can be evaporated into a gas and is not found naturally in the environment.
As a chemical weapon, Sarin or GB is typically aerosolized. A lethal dose causes respiratory failure and death. A non-lethal dose may cause permanent neurological damage.
The report said the Dugway employee who conducted the previous inventory stated the missing sarin could have been caused by leakage or evaporation, as there was no indication of theft. Dugway’s efforts on physical security, including intrusion detection systems and entry controls, were given as reasons it is unlikely the substance was stolen.
“Although the physical security measures reduce the risk of theft … conducting inventory by secondary container prevents custodians from detecting and accounting for chemical agent that has leaked or evaporated from primary containers,” the report said.
In subsequent inventorying at Dugway by primary container, three additional sealed, secondary containers showed evidence of leakage, the report said. Dugway is looking into a system to better seal chemical agent storage.
The shortage of sarin gas was also not reported in the subsequent inventory results, the report said. It was instead noted in a separate memorandum and the stock record card for the primary container was updated.
The report also claims Dugway combined the duties of the accountability officer and the primary custodian into one person. According to the report, combining the roles made it more likely that record-keeping errors or theft could occur.
The issue, according to the report, is one person would then be responsible for requesting chemical agents and recording the amount received in inventory records, with insufficient controls “to ensure that the actual amount of chemical agent requested and received is the same amount that is recorded in the inventory.”
Dugway also authorized five individuals for its Chemical Personnel Reliability Program (CPRP) whom did not qualify for the duties, the report said.
In one instance, reviewing officials at Dugway waited more than two years to approve prior marijuana use by an employee, which was disclosed during their initial interview, and during which time the employee was CPRP certified.
Dugway Command Col. Sean Kirschner said internal controls identified and resolved the personnel issues prior to the audit, but the inspector general’s report contended controls were not implemented to ensure the same incidents don’t occur in the future.
Personnel security investigations for three employees at Dugway were also not completed in a timely manner, according to the report. One investigation review was submitted two weeks after expiration and two were submitted two months after expiration.
All CPRP personnel are required to complete a personnel security investigation every five years.
In 2015, Dugway Proving Ground was found to have accidentally shipped live anthrax spores to 194 laboratories in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, three U.S. territories and nine foreign nations over a 12-year period.