Global Security Newswire
Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues
Pentagon Boosts Funding for Chemical Weapons Disposal
The United States plans to spend an extra $1.2 billion on two new facilities in an effort to accelerate the elimination of its chemical weapons arsenal, USA Today reported today (see GSN, April 29).
Despite this increase, the Defense Department does not expect to meet the April 2012 disposal deadline prescribed by the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention. It has destroyed 60 percent of its arsenal so far, but does not anticipate finishing the job for another 12 years. The stockpile, which includes mustard blister agent and the nerve agents sarin and VX, once stood at more than 30,000 tons of material in munitions and bulk storage containers.
The move would provide a 60-percent boost in funding to fiscal 2015 for construction of chemical neutralization plants at the Pueblo Chemical Depot in Colorado and the Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky, according to Pentagon budget papers. The two sites are the only storage depots that have yet to begin disposal of their stocks of banned chemical warfare materials.
"The department is committed to accelerating," said Jean Reed, the Pentagon's top manager for the disposal program. The weapons "need to be destroyed both for the potential threat they could pose if they fell into the wrong hands and...to reduce the potential risk to local communities and [workers]" that might result from a leak.
It remains to be seen if the budget plan will become reality, said environmental activist Craig Williams, head of the Kentucky-based Chemical Weapons Working Group. Proposed funding has disappeared from the disposal program in the past, he said.
Nonetheless, Senator Mitch McConnell said he was "pleased" by the anticipated funding boost.
"Once the acceleration options are implemented, I expect even more time can be cut from the schedule," he said. Congress has demanded that the U.S. chemical arsenal be eliminated by 2017 (Peter Eisler, USA Today, May 6).
June 14, 2012
An annotated chronology of chemical-related developments in China