From Tue May 4 07:45:06 2004
Date: Fri, 23 Apr 2004 02:11:54 -0500 (CDT)
From: Edward Hammond <>
Subject: [NL CBW] GSI: Pentagon Panel Suggests Chemical Calmatives
Article: 178355
To: undisclosed-recipients: ;

Pentagon Panel Suggests Chemical Calmatives

By David Ruppe, Global Security Newswire, Wednesday 21 April 2004

WASHINGTON—The U.S. military should consider developing chemical agents for temporarily incapacitating humans, a Defense Department advisory panel said in a recent report.

The so-called “calmative” agents “might be considered to deal with otherwise difficult situations in which neutralizing individuals could enable ultimate mission success,” the Defense Science Board said in a report late last month, Future Strategic Strike Forces.

It suggests the Pentagon's Joint Nonlethal Weapons Directorate run by the Marine Corps pursue the technology and investigate its relationship to international treaty requirements.

The directorate “should broaden its tactical and operational focus to consider the strategic applications and associated treaty issues of nonlethal weapons,” the report says.

Treaty Issues

The report drew media attention late last month for recommending that the United States develop low-yield nuclear weapons for replacing some high-yield arms in the U.S. strategic arsenal

That recommendation is one of several potentially controversial suggestions in the 166-page report, including: a better high-yield earth-penetrating nuclear weapon, “low-fission” nuclear weapons that might cause less “collateral damage” but require nuclear testing, and “directed energy” weapons such as lasers and high-powered microwaves for “less-than-lethal” use against humans.

The report cites a need for “nonlethal effects directed at the physiological or psychological functions of specific individuals or the populace.”

“Applications of biological, chemical, or electromagnetic radiation effects on humans should be pursued,” it says.

Development of chemical incapacitants by the military could raise questions about U.S. compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits using chemicals against humans in warfare, experts said. Creating some ambiguity, the treaty does not prohibit use of riot control agents such as pepper spray for crowd control or use of chemicals for law enforcement purposes, they added (see <>GSN, April 29, 2003).

The report acknowledges the treaty issue, and suggests the directorate also examine the matter.

“The treaty implications are significant,” it says.

Ed Hammond, co-director of the advocacy group The Sunshine Project, called the recommendation “shortsighted,” because it could weaken international adherence to Chemical Weapons Convention restrictions.

“Do they really think we’re the only ones that can do this?” he said.

Hammond's organization has documented Defense Department chemical incapacitant program activities. A GSN story in November 2002 reported Pentagon funding of chemical incapacitants research (see <>GSN, Nov. 4, 2002).

“Speaking for The Sunshine Project, we’ve concluded that it's already taking place. I think it's clear from the evidence,” Hammond said.

He said the report and a report by the National Academies of Sciences released in November 2002 effectively legitimize such research and help bring it “out of the closet.”

Technical Issue

The Defense Science Board report recommends pursuing incapacitants and other technologies as means to give the United States a “richer set of effects” produced by payloads on strategic weapons systems.

The report does not detail how the chemicals might be applied. It noted, though, the difficulty of using chemical incapacitants in a way that minimizes unintended fatalities and conforms to the Chemical Weapons Convention.

“The principle technical issue is the balance between effectiveness (i.e., the targets are truly ‘calmed’) and margins of safety (i.e., avoiding overexposure and resulting fatalities of neutral bystanders),” the study said.

In an example that experts say illustrates both the utility and difficulty of having such a capability, Russian authorities in October 2002 used a reported anesthetic derivative in a rescue operation to free nearly 600 theatergoers held by suspected bomb-wielding hostage-takers.

Hostages were freed, their captors killed, and no bombs went off. More than 100 hostages, however, reportedly died from exposure to the agent or agents.

Other Technologies

Another issue suggested by the board with potential treaty implications is using lasers or high-powered microwaves against people. The microwaves could be used to produce a burning sensation that would drive a person out of an area, and lasers may be used “at lower powers to dazzle eyesight or burn skin and objects,” the report says.

“Existing treaties may limit some aspects of these applications,” it states.

Also having international treaty implications is a so-called “low-fallout” nuclear weapon, designed to “reduce or eliminate collateral damage.”

While designs for such weapons were previously tested by the United States, the report says the nuclear design community has not reached a consensus on whether nuclear testing would be needed. Testing would require ending a U.S. moratorium on live testing and withdrawal as a signatory to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

The report says testing is not considered necessary for two other controversial activities recommended, which the administration currently is pursuing: developing a better high-yield earth penetrating weapon and low-yield weapons.