U.S. Destroys More of Its Chemical Agent Stockpile
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 2, 2004 The United States continues to whittle down its stockpile of chemical weapons as part of fulfillment of an international treaty, U.S. officials told the House Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities April 1.
Under the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, the United States and other signatories are obligated to destroy 45 percent of their chemical weapons' inventories by the end of December 2007. The treaty allows for a deadline extension up to 2012.
The U.S. Congress mandated the destruction of military chemical weapons stocks in 1986, said Dale Klein in a prepared statement. He is assistant to the secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs.
The DoD Chemical Demilitarization Program, Klein said, "is now entering an important milestone, where six separate sites each operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in four separate time zones -- will be simultaneously destroying different chemical agents in various configurations, using different technologies, and employing different contractors."
Three chemical weapons destruction sites at Tooele, Utah; Anniston, Ala.; and Aberdeen, Md., "are now operational," Klein reported. He noted the Utah and Alabama facilities use incinerators to destroy chemical weapons, while the Maryland site uses chemicals to neutralize chemical agents.
DoD, he pointed out, plans to start more chemical demilitarization operations later this year at incinerator plants at Umatilla, Ore., and Pine Bluff, Ark., and at a neutralization technology site in Newport, Ind.
Two other neutralization sites, at Pueblo, Colo., and Blue Grass, Ky., Klein continued, "are early in the design and environmental permitting stages of development."
The U.S. Army is the executive agent for DoD's chemical demilitarization program. Claude M. Bolton Jr., assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics, and technology, told subcommittee members the program has "safely destroyed more than 27 percent of the nation's original stockpile of 31,000 tons of lethal chemical agents" since its inception.
"We are proud of the progress to date," Bolton noted, "and we anticipate similar progress as we bring more facilities into operation."
Today's aging stocks of chemical weapons were deposited for storage in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Destroying those weapons is "essential to ensuring the U.S. meets its obligations," Klein pointed out, while also "eliminating targets of opportunity for terrorists."