WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-5) spoke against a decision to exclude a bipartisan amendment in the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2018 to declassify a Vietnam Era project that intentionally exposed servicemembers and civilians to deadly chemical weapons.
The House Committee on Rules did not make in order the amendment to H.R. 2810. This action blocks consideration of the provision that was offered by Representatives Thompson, Young (R-AK), and Walter B. Jones (R-NC). The amendment would have required the Department of Defense (DOD) to declassify and disclose information related to Project 112/Project Shipboard Hazard (SHAD). Should the DOD deem the information could not be declassified due to national security concerns, they would have been required to brief Congress explaining why.
“The DOD continues to stonewall American veterans who were intentionally exposed to Sarin and other chemical agents by their own country, and Congress is complicit by not considering this Amendment,” said Thompson. “To sweep this under the rug is a shame. These veterans served honorably for the security of our nation and when they need it most, this rule effectively turns Congress’s back.”
The issue garnered support from American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Vietnam Veterans of America as well as Members of Congress in both chambers.
“Veterans were exposed to several extremely hazardous agents, including Sarin and VX during Project SHAD and now suffer from debilitating health care conditions,”said Carlos Fuentes, Veterans of Foreign Wars National Legislative Service Director. “The time has long passed when the classified information from this operation would be dangerous to release but the wounds inflicted on these veterans will always be relevant.”
Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) has a similar amendment he is introducing in the Senate when NDAA is scheduled for a Senate vote.
“Often, the impacts of toxic exposure don’t appear until long after service members have returned home from the battlefield and military records are filed away,” said Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.). “We have a duty to make certain our servicemembers’ health is protected both in and out of service, and providing access to classified military records that may prove exposure to toxic substances is critical to veterans applying for VA benefits and service-connection.”
Thompson spoke in opposition to the amendment exclusion today on the House Floor. Text of his remarks as prepared and video are below.
Mr. Speaker rise in opposition to the rule.
I submitted a bipartisan amendment along with Don Young (AK) and Walter Jones (NC) that would declassify a 50-year-old DOD project that sprayed biological and chemical weapons on our servicemembers and civilians, and it was not made in order.
Convulsions. Paralysis. Respiratory failure. Death.
Those are just a few of the most severe side effects of Sarin gas – a chemical weapon so deadly and debilitating it was outlawed as a weapon of mass destruction.
When the Syrian military released Sarin on civilians and children this year, they were broadly criticized and our own military retaliated.
But in the 60s and 70s the United States Department of Defense sprayed biological and chemical weapons like Sarin, VX nerve gas, and E. Coli. on our own servicemembers.
In the years since, many of those exposed have suffered debilitating health effects.
For 40 years DOD has not provided a comprehensive public accounting of these tests nor have they notified all of the veterans and civilians who were potentially exposed.
We cannot allow this information to continue being released piecemeal.
These veterans cannot wait any longer. Their health continues to decline, and some have already passed away.
To sweep this under the rug is a shame on us, for these veterans served honorably for the security of our nation.
These tests were an ugly part of our history. They put veteran lives at risk. And our veterans have every right to know.
I yield back.