Chemical Weapons:

Obstacles to the Army's Plan to Destroy Obsolete U.S. Stockpile

NSIAD-90-155: Published: May 24, 1990. Publicly Released: Jun 12, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Defense's (DOD) Chemical Stockpile Disposal Program (CSDP), focusing on its efforts to destroy obsolete chemical weapons.

GAO found that: (1) the Army's 1985 cost estimate for completing on-site disposal has increased from $1.7 billion to over $3.4 billion; (2) the Army would not complete its destruction of the stockpile by 1997, as the law required; (3) the Army believed that more stringent environmental requirements to operate incineration plants, budget cuts, and operational delays at disposal plants hampered its ability to meet the mandated deadline; (4) the disposal program was further hampered by strong citizen opposition in some states and the Army's failure to allow adequate time for obtaining environmental permits; and (5) because of the delays in obtaining required environment permits, most of the $123 million the Army requested in fiscal year (FY) 1991 might not be needed until FY 1992.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD fully concurred with the recommendation and stated that the recommendation will be implemented through intensive program management.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should prohibit the use of Army funds for the hiring of consultants or other personnel by state regulatory agencies to assist in the review of permit applications unless it can be determined that: (1) such action will sufficiently expedite the Resource Conservation Recovery Act application process to permit the Army to complete the disposal program by April 1997; and (2) the use of Army funds for this purpose will not, or in any way appear to, compromise the independence of the review process.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Depending on the outcome of the ongoing study, GAO will address future action needed during planned follow-on work.

    Recommendation: If the congressionally directed study demonstrates that CSDP disposal facilities could be safely and efficiently used for the destruction of other hazardous wastes, the Secretary of Defense should sponsor a request for a legislative change that would allow such usage.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred and stated that starting in the first quarter of FY 1991, the Deputy for Chemical Demilitarization will provide quarterly reports to the Army leadership on the status of the Emergency Preparedness Program.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should require the Deputy for Chemical Demilitarization to report periodically on the progress being made in achieving key milestones at each disposal site.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD stated the recommendation will be implemented through intensive program management and personnel interaction with each of the affected state governments, Army installations, and contractors.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should require the Deputy for Chemical Demilitarization to take action to ensure the timely completion of all emergency preparedness plans, guidelines, studies, and manuals, as well as acquisition and installation of equipment.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with the recommendation. No funds will be obligated until program milestones conform to expected receipt of environmental permits.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should direct procurement officials not to solicit bids for the construction contracts or issue equipment purchase orders for any of the remaining disposal facilities until realistic dates can be established for receipt of all required environmental permits.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Procedures currently in place for cost estimating will be reviewed. Improvements needed will be implemented by the Program Manager for Chemical Demilitarization.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should ensure that accurate and complete cost information is developed to effectively control future program expenditures.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD believes that to discuss an amendment to the existing legislation is premature. While GAO disagrees, it plans to follow up the issue after the Army completes its ongoing study of possible future uses for the disposal plants.

    Recommendation: Regardless of the study's results, the Secretary of the Army should propose an amendment to the existing legislation that would allow CSDP incinerators that the Army plans to build in Aberdeen, Maryland, to be used to decontaminate and thermally treat empty 1-ton containers and metal parts removed from a former chemical production plant.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

 

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