Review of Matters Relating to U.S. Army Laboratories and Research Activities in the San Francisco Area

Gao ID: HRD-81-98 May 29, 1981

GAO reviewed a number of allegations concerning activities at the Letterman Army Institute of Research (LAIR) and the Letterman Army Medical Center Area Laboratory. It was alleged that unauthorized biological research was being conducted at LAIR, an outbreak of fever linked to LAIR research activities had occurred among the staff, and physicians from a nearby medical center refused for philosophical reasons to work at the adjacent LAIR facility. Several questions were also raised about the relocation of the Laboratory to LAIR, including: (1) whether the Government was adequately compensated for the sale of vacated buildings and abandoned equipment at the Laboratory's original location; (2) whether the Laboratory buildings and equipment were properly decontaminated when they were being used and when the relocation took place and what procedures were followed in disposing of contaminated waste; and (3) what research activities remain at the original location.

GAO found no evidence that unauthorized research was being conducted at LAIR or that physicians refused to work there. An outbreak of fever among employees at LAIR was attributed to infected sheep being used in research. Such a fever among those working closely with sheep is not uncommon, and the infected individuals are fully recovered. The buildings and equipment in question were properly disposed of, and the procedures followed in decontaminating buildings and equipment and disposing of contaminated waste appeared proper and in accordance with established guidelines. All research activities have been transferred to LAIR. The primary source of information leading to this request remains a witness of questionable credibility.

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