Watchdog: Accountability

Poop smell has (surprisingly) long history in national defense

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Watchdog,The Pentagon,Army,National Security,Kelly Cohen,Defense Spending,Accountability,Government Contractors,FOIA

Uncle Sam needs someone to make poop — or, at least, a poop-like smell.

He also needs someone to recreate the smells of a wide range of icky items, including blood, vomit and burnt flesh.

The smells would be used by a type of teaching classroom for Army medical personnel called a Transport Medical Trainer Laboratory. The Department of the Army put out a solicitation for the new labs in March.

The solicitation says the new labs need "scent generators" or "combat stressors" — disposable containers that would be mounted on walls and last for about a month, putting out their foul scents for about 8 hours for day.

The scents to be generated "should induce battlefield sensory overload" and would include "hydraulic fluid, blood, vomit, diesel exhaust, fecal odor [and] burnt flesh" — the kinds of stinky stuff that military medics would be confronted with while helping injured and wounded servicemembers in real combat situations.

But this isn't the first time the federal government has needed someone to create artificial poop smells — or to create them in the name of national defense.

During World War II, a government research project dubbed "Who Me" had "fecal odor" packaged into tubes and then given to the resistance in France for use against German occupiers.

According to government documents released to the website GovernmentAttic.org under a federal Freedom of Information Act request, the Who Me plan backfired, as it was later discovered that "people in many areas of the world do not find 'fecal odor' to be offense, since they smell it on a regular basis," the FOIA reveals.

Despite that failure, the government continued to look into bad smells as a possible weapon, federal records reveal.

The Defense Department offered grants worth $300,000 in 1998-99 regarding development of another bad-smell-based weapon, according to documents also released to Government Attic.

The project goal was to develop a "comprehensive set of non-hazardous, odoriferous compounds" that could be "applied against any population set around the world," according to the records, which were made public in 2008 under FOIA.

The new smelly weapon would use "nonlethal odorous substances" such as "fecal odor" and would provide "a vehicle for creating dissension, unrest consternation and confusion among either civilian or military unfriendly personnel," according to the documents.

The grant was set to last 18 months, with a five-part timeline. The documents don't shed much light on who, if anyone, received the grants or how far they went in the weapon-making.

Since the "Who Me" program's inception in 1944, enough odor research has been performed that government — including the U.S. Marine Corps, Army, Air Force and Navy — now has a large "odor atlas" to use. From that, one internal military handout released in 2008 said, "it is now possible to duplicate nearly any odor desired."

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