The Richmond Register

July 31, 2009

Funding could accelerate demil process at depot

Defense bill passes House, goes to Senate

Ronica Shannon

The 2010 Defense Appropriations Bill passed Friday by the U.S. House of Representatives includes funding to accelerate chemical weapons disposal at the Blue Grass Army Depot.

The bill now lies in the hands of the senate.

Last month, the Kentucky Citizens Advisory Board (CDCAB) was told that increased funding would cut six years off the completion date, changing the destruction deadline from 2027 to 2021.

“This is a giant step toward finalizing the increased funding to accelerate disposal here in Kentucky,” said Craig Williams, director of the Berea-based Chemical Weapons Working Group.

“There are still several steps to go, but this is a critical one and we applaud Congressman Chandler’s effort to ensure that this occurred in the House of Representatives. This is a very important part of that concerted effort.”

The House Bill matched the Pentagon’s request for increased funds in 2010 for the destruction projects at these two sites.

Historically this program — the Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives program (ACWA) — has been woefully under-funded resulting in a reduced capability to destroy the weapons.

“I’ve noticed a very positive improvement in the morale of the ACWA team and the contractors in light of the sustained movement toward adequate monies being put forth for this project,” Williams said. “It’s difficult to maintain a positive attitude when you’re given significantly less than the amount of resources necessary to execute the program. That is turning around and that’s good for the community.”

Representative Ben Chandler (D-KY 6th District), has led the effort in the House to stabilize the funding for the disposal program, and this vote was a major step in accomplishing that objective, Williams said.

“I am so pleased that the House fulfilled the president’s request and was able to give the Blue Grass Army Depot the resources it needs to destroy these weapons in a safe, timely way for our Central Kentucky communities,” Chandler said.

Madison County Judge/Executive Kent Clark, who also is a member of the CDCAB, said he was grateful for all the help legislative representatives have given toward the chemical weapons destruction project.

“Representative Chandler is to be commended for his efforts and, with Senator (Mitch) McConnell achieving the same objectives in the Senate. We are feeling pretty good right now,” Clark said.

The appropriation bill also includes funding that if passed by the senate, will accelerate the destruction of chemical weapons being stored in Pueblo, Colo., changing the deadline from 2020 to 2017.

“With Representative Chandler’s diligence and leadership, we are closer to getting the level of support we need here in Kentucky and in Colorado to move forward aggressively,” Williams said.

Ronica Shannon can be reached at rshannon@richmondregister.com or 624-6608.