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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 46, May 2000

Doubts Raised over US CW Destruction Schedule

On May 8, the US Congressional General Accounting Office (GAO) released a report suggesting that America would struggle to complete the destruction of its vast chemical weapons stockpile - 31,496 tons of nerve agent - by the 2007 deadline set out in the Chemical Weapons Convention. The report notes that only 18% of the stockpile has thus far been eliminated, in an incineration programme dating back to 1986. The US has two incineration sites, in Utah and an island 800 miles southwest of Hawaii, and is currently constructing further facilities in Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Maryland and Oregon. However, according to the GAO, the collapse of plans to incinerate portions of the stockpile at sites in Colorado and Kentucky have seriously complicated the destruction schedule. The GAO report also found nearly $500 million of funds allocated to the destruction programme unspent in the period between 1992-99, and $63 million of funds insufficiently accounted for.

Reacting to the report on May 9, Senator Wayne Allard (Republican - Colorado) stated: "It raises a whole series of questions. If we miss the deadline, what then? More importantly, how do we deal with a bureaucracy that seems to have made a mess of this program?"

Reports: Chemical weapons disposal - improvements needed in program accountability and financial management, GAO Report, NSIAD-00-80, May 8; GAO says US lags on chemical arms, Associated Press, May 9.

© 2000 The Acronym Institute.

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