U.S. Chemical Arms Schedule Extended

Daniel Horner

Destruction of the last elements of the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile could take two years longer than previously planned, the Army’s Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (ACWA) program said in an April 17 press release.

Under the new schedule, destruction would be completed at Pueblo Chemical Depot in Colorado in 2019 and Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky in 2023. The so-called life-cycle costs of the program are now estimated at $10.6 billion, an increase of about $2 billion, the ACWA release said.

The materials to be destroyed at the Pueblo and Blue Grass depots represent the last 10 percent of the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile. The ACWA program said it might not need the extra two years if it is able to draw lessons from the work to date.

The potential schedule slippage “comes as no surprise,” Paul Walker, director of security and sustainability at Global Green USA, said in an April 19 e-mail. “The most important goal in abolishing our enormous Cold War weapons stockpiles is not any deadline, but rather that no one be hurt in the process,” he said.

Under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), possessors of chemical weapons were supposed to eliminate their stockpiles by April 29, 2012, the 15th anniversary of the treaty’s entry into force. Libya, Russia, and the United States did not meet the deadline.

In a document adopted at their annual meeting last year, CWC parties essentially recognized that the three countries would miss the deadline, but said they should complete the work “in the shortest time possible.” The document also spelled out reporting and monitoring requirements for the destruction work. (See ACT, January/February 2012.)