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Report | March 9, 2023

Evaluation of the DoD’s Response to Anomalous Health Incidents, or “Havana Syndrome” (DODIG-2023-054)


Publicly Released: 3/13/2023


The objective of this evaluation was to determine the extent to which the DoD developed guidance and implemented procedures to identify and evaluate DoD personnel who may have Anomalous Health Incidents, also known as “Havana Syndrome.”



In 2016, Department of State employees assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, began reporting a sudden onset of symptoms, including headaches, pain, nausea, disequilibrium (unsteadiness or vertigo), and hearing loss, commonly referred to Anomalous Health Incidents (AHI), or “ Havana Syndrome.” According t o a Secretary of Defense memorandum dated September 15, 2021, the DoD categorizes the previously described symptoms as AHI. Since 2016, as many as 200 U.S. Government employees in numerous countries reported suspected AHI.



The DoD improved its AHI coordination through reorganizing its central AHI response team and increasing the number of personnel allocated to that team; however, the DoD can still improve the integration of its response, the timeliness of access to the Military Health System for U.S. Government civilians, and the consistency of the classification of AHI‑related information.

The DoD has not fully integrated and optimized its execution of response to AHI because:

  • the DoD’s AHI Cross‑Functional Team lacks the authority to fully execute the DoD’s response to AHI;
  • DoD Instruction 6025.23 does not establish a maximum allowable processing time for authorizing access to medical care for AHI‑affected individuals through the Secretarial Designee process; and
  • the DoD has not published a comprehensive Security Classification Guide for AHI‑related information.



We recommend that the Secretary of Defense designate:

  • an executive agent with the authority to direct all DoD Components in the DoD’s response to AHI; and
  • the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy as the Principal Staff Assistant, with the Cross‑Functional Team assisting in developing policy and guidance to streamline the transition of management for AHI to the Secretary of Defense’s designated Executive Agent.

We also recommend that the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness revise DoD Instruction 6025.23 to formalize timelines for the Secretarial Designee process so the duration of time from receipt of the initial request to final signature does not exceed 14 calendar days.

We recommend that the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security review and update any applicable counterintelligence guidance and policy documents, including DoD Instruction C‑5240.08 and DoD Instruction 5240.04, to address AHI‑related information and counterintelligence investigation requirements; and provide information security advice to the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy for the development of a Security Classification Guide for AHI.

Management Comments and Our Response

Department leaders who responded agreed to take actions that meet the intent of our recommendations. The Assistant Secretary of Defense (Homeland Defense and Hemispheric Affairs), on behalf of the Secretary of Defense, did not respond to the recommendations in the report. Therefore, we request comments on the final report within 30 days.

This report is a result of (Project No. D2022-DEV000-0047.000)