Calls for Accelerated Efforts to Abolish Remaining Six Chemical Weapons Stockpiles in US
Global Green USA, the US national environmental affiliate of Mikhail Gorbachev’s Green Cross International, applauded the work of the Chemical Materials Agency (CMA) of the US Department of Defense, which announced the neutralization of the final container of deadly VX nerve agent at Newport, Indiana.
Dr. Paul Walker, Director of Global Green USA’s “Security and Sustainability Program,” stated that “the successful elimination of the 1,269 tons of VX nerve agent over the past 39 months represents a major, historic step forward in protecting American citizens, removing a potential target for terrorist attack, and fulfilling our legal obligations under the international Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) to abolish our total declared chemical weapons stockpile of 31,500 tons by 2012.” “However,” he added, “the Bush Administration and the US Congress have failed to adequately fund the safe destruction of chemical weapons in both the US and Russia today, thereby delaying the process for a decade or more and potentially undermining the global ban on this whole class of weapons of mass destruction.”
Newport, Indiana, on the western Indiana border with Illinois, was home to the main production facility for VX nerve agent during the Cold War and was one of seven declared chemical weapons stockpiles in the US when the US signed the CWC in January 1993. It will soon become the third stockpile to be eliminated, after that on Johnston Atoll in the Pacific Ocean which was destroyed in 2000, and a stockpile in Aberdeen, Maryland which was eliminated in 2006. Of the six remaining CW stockpiles in the US, four have operating demilitarization facilities in Alabama, Arkansas, Oregon, and Utah, but two more – in Pueblo, Colorado and Blue Grass, Kentucky – are still in pre-construction phases of development and may take another decade or more to eliminate their CW stockpiles, thereby violating the CWC deadline of 2012.
Walker pointed out that “the US has made great progress in safely destroying over 17,000 tons of chemical weapons over the past 18 years, or about 55% of the declared stockpile, but recent cuts in chemical weapons demilitarization budgets by the Defense Department, including the refusal to implement accelerated destruction programs after September 11, 2001, have only increased costs and risks for all Americans and undermined any possibility for meeting our legal treaty obligations.”
Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wrote Congress in April 2006 that the demilitarization program would not meet the initial CWC deadline for 100% stockpile destruction in 2007, and also stated that it was highly unlikely to meet the extended deadline of 2012. The US Congress subsequently mandated in fiscal year 2008 that all chemical weapons be destroyed by 2012 or, should that not be possible, at least by 2017. A recent congressionally mandated Defense Department study, released in late June, stated that it was still unlikely that the program would finish by 2017 unless funding was increased and/or chemical weapons were shipped to existing demilitarization sites in Alabama, Arkansas, Oregon, and Utah. Congress banned the transportation of chemical weapons two decades ago, and state officials have understandably refused to accept any shipments of these deadly agents into their states since that time.
Regarding recent funding for US chemical weapons destruction, Walker added that “the US Congress has recently increased funding for construction at Pueblo, Colorado and Blue Grass, Kentucky in both the FY08 and FY09 Defense Department budgets, but we need a more long-term funding plan and accelerated schedule to meet at least the 2017 deadline, as mandated by Congress. It is shameful and dangerous that the Defense Department did not implement the post-911 accelerated destruction plans in 2002 and 2003 which would have eliminated these threats by the 2012 deadline, if not sooner. Only with a concerted and cooperative effort by all parties now, including the Defense Department, US Congress, states, and citizens, will we be able to eliminate the remaining 14,000 tons (estimated at about 45% of the declared stockpile) of chemical weapons in the United States in a safe and timely way.”
Global Green USA, headquartered in Santa Monica, California, is the US affiliate of Green Cross International founded by Mikhail Gorbachev in 1993. The “Security and Sustainability Program,” internationally called “Legacy of the Cold War Program,” is managed from the Washington DC office and is an international partnership with Green Cross Switzerland and Green Cross Russia to facilitate the safe and timely elimination of weapons stockpiles and related systems globally. The Legacy Program has over twelve years of experience facilitating meetings and dialogues among all stakeholders in the ongoing threat reduction, nonproliferation, and environmental remediation process for weapons of mass destruction and related issues. The Green Cross/Global Green program regularly facilitates high-level discussions and “Track II” diplomatic initiatives in Moscow, Geneva, Washington DC, The Hague, and elsewhere to promote global threat reduction and non-proliferation.
 April 10, 2006 letters of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to the chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees stating that “I have determined that the United States will not be able to meet even the extended  destruction deadline.”
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