2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: 26 Aug 2003 15:33:14 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Destroying Chemical Weapons
Destroying Chemical Weapons
Army's problem-plagued program more costly than originally planned
Lois R. Ember  August 26, 2003

The Army's program to destroy the nation's arsenal of chemical weapons
as mandated by the Chemical Weapons Convention is way over budget and
far behind schedule. Persistent, pesky problems at operating disposal
sites offer little to encourage hope for better performance.

Originally, the Army's price tag for the destruction program was pegged
at $1.8 billion. That was in 1985. In 2001, the Pentagon's estimate had
spiraled to $24 billion.

In the 1980s, the Army confidently envisioned eliminating the weapons by
1994. Today, it's likely the U.S. will have to ask the Organisation for
the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons--the treaty's oversight agency--for
a five-year extension of the 2007 disposal deadline.

Greg Mahall, spokesman for the Army's Chemical Materials Agency, admits
that "earlier projections were overly optimistic and maybe not based in
reality." But, he adds, "it's a complex and challenging program."

In 1982, the Army selected incineration as its destruction technology,
which to date has destroyed 26% of the 31,500 tons of chemical agents in
the U.S. stockpile. Craig Williams, who directs the Chemical Weapons
Working Group, which opposes incineration, says, "There's no question
that the technology selected has, in significant part, been responsible
for the cost overruns and the time slippage." He also believes that it
will be a "challenge" for the U.S. to meet even the 2012 deadline.

He may have a point if the experience at the Tooele, Utah, incineration
facility is any guide. Tooele--which originally stored 43% of the
nation's chemical weapons--has destroyed 44% of its holdings over the
past seven years. But not without glitches and delays. Though original
projections set 2004 as the date for complete elimination of its
weapons, Tooele will probably not meet that goal until the end of 2007,
fully 11 years after operations began.

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