The Richmond Register

Viewpoints

May 27, 2009

Making progress at the depot

Kentuckians got some good news recently regarding the deadly chemical weapons stored by the Department of Defense at the Blue Grass Army Depot. A recent report from the Department announced progress toward their disposal and a path forward for complete elimination.

For years, the people of Central Kentucky have lived and worked near stockpiles of weapons such as VX nerve agent, mustard gas and sarin nerve agent. It has taken the work of a unique partnership between federal lawmakers and the local community — spearheaded by the Chemical Weapons Working Group and Craig Williams — for the Department to realize the gravity of the situation and to reverse its position toward a safe disposal alternative.

After many years, the Department has finally acknowledged the priority of this project to safely dispose of these weapons. Proof of this is seen in its latest budget request to complete this important project. Because of the 2017 deadline Congress enacted, the Department has finally agreed to a long-term, five-year budget plan that is robustly funded.

For years, the Department failed to request sufficient funding for the elimination of these weapons, showing it was not taking the effort seriously. Over the past several years, we worked together to pass legislation in Congress increasing the project’s funding one year at a time. While we were met with some success, it was an uphill fight since there was not a finalized, long-term plan on how to best speed up the disposal efforts. At last, the Department has put its foot on the accelerator.

While the Blue Grass Army Depot project is still in its construction phase, the Administration requested $545 million for the Blue Grass Army Depot and Pueblo Depot to dispose of these weapons in its 2010 budget. This is the highest request for this project in history. Just five years ago, the request was for only $33 million. This increased request — combined with a commitment to a well-funded, five-year budget plan — demonstrates that the Department has finally acknowledged this project’s importance and is working to finish it.

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