Pentagon chief criticizes Gulf War record-keeping

But Cohen pledges 'thorough' investigation

March 5, 1997

In this story:

From Military Affairs Correspondent Jamie McIntyre

STUTTGART, Germany (CNN) -- Defense Secretary William Cohen said Wednesday he is disappointed that most Gulf War chemical weapons logs are missing but he expressed confidence that the Pentagon is conducting a thorough investigation of the matter.

While critical of the military's record-keeping, Cohen promised to "pursue all the leads that we can" to find missing logs that tracked chemical warfare during the Persian Gulf War.

"I think there's general disappointment with the level of record-keeping that took place," Cohen told reporters traveling with him in Germany on his first trip abroad as Pentagon chief.

'It's not been well handled'

"Obviously, it's not been well handled," Cohen said of the disappearance of most of the records kept by U.S. commanders during the 1991 war.

On Monday, Cohen ordered the Pentagon's inspector general to investigate the mishandling.

A separate Pentagon team investigating the missing files said in a preliminary report last week that more than three-quarters of the records are missing even though multiple copies had been stored in safes at U.S. military bases after the war.

The records are being sought as part of the wider investigation into effects of chemical weapons on U.S. soldiers during the war.

Change in investigators not a criticism

Cohen said the decision to have the Defense Department's inspector general take over the matter does not reflect a lack of confidence in Bernard Rostker, the Pentagon official whose team conducted the preliminary investigation.

"While our study is incomplete and will now be continued by the (inspector general), I have seen no evidence thus far that anyone intentionally destroyed the log," Rostker said on Monday.

Cohen said on Wednesday he saw "true dedication on the part of Bernie Rostker and others to get to the bottom of the entire affair."

"We'll pursue all the leads that we can and whatever bad news there is we will dig through and make public. I'm satisfied we are making a very honest thorough effort to get to the facts," Cohen said.

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