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Budget Office Calls Chem-Demil 'Ineffective'

Kerry Boyd

An assessment by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that accompanied President George W. Bush’s fiscal year 2004 budget request rates U.S. chemical demilitarization efforts as “ineffective” and says the program, run by the Army, might not meet a 2007 deadline for destroying the entire U.S. chemical weapons stockpile.

The United States is a state-party to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which requires members who have declared chemical weapons to destroy all of their stockpiles by April 29, 2007. There are also several interim deadlines, one requiring states to destroy 45 percent of their stockpiles by April 2004—a goal the United States might also miss, according to the OMB assessment. The United States has already met its deadlines for destroying 1 percent and 20 percent of its chemical weapons.

Under the terms of the CWC, a country can ask the Conference of the States-Parties, a decision-making body including all CWC members, for an extension on its destruction deadlines, but states must destroy 100 percent of their stockpiles by April 2012.

Delays in stockpile destruction and increased costs were the primary reasons the OMB assessment cites in giving the “ineffective” rating. Destruction has been delayed by several factors, including disagreement between the Army and communities and state and local governments, problems with environmental permits, and safety concerns.

The OMB report is not the first time the Army’s potential inability to meet the CWC deadline has been acknowledged. The Department of Defense approved a new schedule in September 2001 that would miss the 2007 deadline after two groups that participated in an internal review suggested the program would require two to three additional years to complete destruction. (See ACT, November 2001.)

The Army’s chemical demilitarization program did receive positive marks from the OMB in some areas. For example, the program’s purpose is clear and is designed to have a “significant impact”; the Army has taken “meaningful steps” to address planning deficiencies; and the Defense Department regularly collects performance data and adjusts the program accordingly, the assessment says.