Colonel In Charge Of Abysmal Anthrax Safety Failures Promoted To General

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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An Army colonel who was in charge of a bioterror lab which accidentally shipped live anthrax all around the country for a decade, received a promotion to general and has so far evaded discipline.

Then-Army Col. William E. King IV served at the Dugway Proving Ground Utah biodefense lab from 2009 to 2011. He moved over to the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland as commanding general of the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosive Command, in February 2015.

The facility in Utah experienced numerous warning signs of excessive safety violations for years. Yet, leadership at Dugway, specifically King, did nothing even though those warning signs culminated in accidents with anthrax and VX from 2007-2011. In 2007, Dugway took heat from the federal government for shipping live anthrax. In 2009, investigators said that had Dugway been a private entity, it would have been fined $500,000 for abysmal safety practices.

A military investigation report provided to USA Today blasts leadership and now-Brig. Gen. King in particular for failing to take even a modicum of responsibility for his actions. The investigation is part of a review process kicked off to determine how live anthrax was sent across the country to 184 facilities in all 50 states, as well as nine other countries. These facilities were compromised of government, military, corporate and university entities. There were 575 shipments of live anthrax spores in total.

The practice of shipping live anthrax, thought to be dead, continued for a decade undetected. Finally, a private firm in May 2015 discovered the live anthrax after conducting additional tests. The Maryland-based firm reported the incident, which began the scandal.

One Army review blamed lack of scientific knowledge at the Dugway Proving Ground for the incident, also noting the “culture of complacency” in the facility and terrible lab practices.

“This complacent atmosphere resulted in an organization plagued by mistakes and unable to identify systemic issues in the high-risk, zero-defects world of biological select agents and toxins,” the report said, according to USA Today.

“Colonel King repeatedly deflected blame and minimized the severity of incidents,” the report said, adding that “even now, Brigadier General King lacks introspection and fails to recognize the scope and severity of the incidents that occurred during his command at (Dugway).”

The Army has not made any disciplinary decisions, though King faces personal sanctions along with 11 others left unnamed.

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