The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs exercised the nuclear option in its continuing dispute with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, opting out  of its five-year, $75 million contract for Gulf War syndrome research after just two years. The V.A. cited "persistent noncompliance and numerous performance deficiencies" as reasons for canceling its agreement, several weeks after it issued a highly critical audit  focused on one leading researcher at the U.T. center. Despite the audit's findings, the university issued a response  expressing surprise at the agency's action and saying it "strongly" disagreed with its conclusions.