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January 18, 2007

Government & Policy

Chemical Weapons Disposal Is Critical To National Security

Top Pentagon official certifies need to destroy weapons stored in Colorado and Kentucky

Lois R. Ember

A senior Pentagon official has certified that disposal of the chemical weapons stored at Pueblo, Colo., and Blue Grass, Ky., is "essential to national security."

The certification from Department of Defense Undersecretary Kenneth Krieg is required for the two sites to continue to receive funding for weapons destruction. Krieg also noted that, as recently as June 2006, each storage site remained a terrorist "target threat."

According to the certification document, complete destruction of the stored weapons is estimated to cost $7.9 billion. At the Pentagon's planned spending rate, weapons disposal would be completed at Pueblo by 2020 and at Blue Grass by 2023. The chemical weapons treaty, which the U.S. has ratified, requires that all U.S. chemical weapons be destroyed by the extended deadline of 2012.

The Chemical Weapons Working Group and its local community allies claim that increased Pentagon spending at the two sites could "reduce the overall cost of the program by more than $3 billion and have the weapons gone by 2015, perhaps earlier."

Preliminary preparations have been undertaken at both sites, but construction of the disposal facilities has not yet begun. Both sites will use neutralization to destroy the stored stockpiles. Krieg said no other destruction technology would reduce current cost estimates.

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