Chemical Weapons Destruction:

Issues Affecting Program Cost, Schedule, and Performance

NSIAD-93-50: Published: Jan 21, 1993. Publicly Released: Feb 22, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of the Army's Chemical Munitions Stockpile Disposal Program, focusing on: (1) operational difficulties at the Army's prototype disposal facility; and (2) problems in obtaining environmental permits to construct and operate disposal facilities.

GAO found that: (1) the Army's operation of the prototype disposal facility was generally safe and performance improved, but destruction rates were lower than expected due to unplanned and unscheduled maintenance downtime; (2) the Army and the contractor used different methodologies to compute the destruction rates, but neither fully incorporated downtime in their formulas; (3) the prototype facility operated on its planned 10-hours per day schedule less than 30 percent of the time; (4) the Army has not revised its life-cycle costs and schedules for future sites to reflect the probability that the disposal facility could not operate 24 hours a day as planned; (5) the Army needed to publish its assessment reports with less delay; (6) the Army determined that on-site destruction was the safest and most efficient way to dispose of chemical weapons, but state regulations and public opposition could delay or prohibit new disposal facility construction; (7) the Army initiated a review of alternative chemical weapons disposal technologies, in response to opposition to high temperature incinerators; (8) Congress mandated the use of an alternative technology at three sites if it was significantly safer, equally cost-effective, and would take less time, and prohibited incinerator construction at another site until the Army completed its assessment of alternative technologies; (9) the Army considerably underestimated the time environmental permit processes take, partly due to states not having a priority schedule for permit processing; and (10) some states are considering legislation that would delay or prevent construction of chemical weapon incinerators, which would significantly delay weapon disposal.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army has agreed to establish more definitive work requirements and schedules for state permit writers. However, the Army cannot dictate work priorities to the states. The Army response, dated October 12, 1993, indicates that working groups have been established by the states, EPA regions, and the Army. The Army's action is also partially attributed to the National Research Council's recommendations concerning the oversight of operational verification testing.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should establish clearly defined work priorities for state permit reviewers to follow in those states having other hazardous waste permit applications in process for Department of Defense programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army's response, dated October 12, 1993, indicates that the oversight contractor was directed to submit future oversight reports in a more timely manner. GAO's review of subsequent oversight reports indicates that all reports were submitted within the 90-day window as required by OVT test plans.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should require that the oversight contractor publishes all future assessment reports in a timely manner.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Future equipment acquisitions have been tied to 6 months of successful follow-on full-rate production. The earliest future equipment acquisitions can be awarded is February 1995.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should defer future equipment acquisitions until the results of 24 hour equipment verification tests are completed and analyzed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD reports that extending testing to achieve 24-hour operations is not economically feasible because it would involve modification of the environmental operating permits.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should extend Johnston Island operational verification tests to include 24-hour-a-day operations to provide information on what might be encountered during planned 24-hour-a-day destruction operations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  5. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD has designated the Chemical Stockpile Disposal Program as a major acquisition and will issue a baseline cost and schedule estimate in December 1995. Actual experience at Johnston will be one of the factors considered.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should revise program cost and schedule estimates to reflect actual experience gained from operational verification testing.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army's response dated October 12, 1993, indicates that throughput rates would be computed in accordance with the OVT directive. GAO's subsequent followup review indicates compliance.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should require that computation of destruction rates for the third and fourth campaigns reflect the criteria set out in the operational verification test plan.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  7. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD has gone as far as it can in emphasizing the importance of the stockpile destruction program. Final permit priorities are set by the states.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should require that program officials submit requests for authorization to begin construction projects and requests for permit modifications early enough to allow time for orderly processing, including full public review and comment.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

 

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