Chemical Weapons:

Stockpile Destruction Cost Growth and Schedule Slippages Are Likely to Continue

NSIAD-92-18: Published: Nov 20, 1991. Publicly Released: Jan 24, 1992.

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Henry L. Hinton, Jr
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Army's Chemical Stockpile Disposal Program, focusing on whether the Army will be able to meet its 1988 estimates of program costs and schedules.

GAO found that: (1) in April 1991, the Army reported that the estimated life-cycle cost had increased from $3.1 billion to $6.5 billion and program completion had slipped from April 1987 to July 1999; (2) the disposal program's cost growth and schedule slippages were due to rising material costs and wages, additional program requirements, and technical and programmatic problems; (3) although the Army has taken various actions to correct technical and mechanical problems with the disposal process, it has not completed operational testing to ensure that those problems have been fixed; (4) the Army has not reexamined other, potentially faster and less costly alternatives to its current disposal program; (5) although the Army complied with the legislative requirement to send an annual report on the disposal program to Congress, the reports did not include detailed analysis of the program's estimated costs, destruction schedules, or factors that could affect the reliability of its estimates; and (6) without such information, Congress can not fully assess the progress of the Army's efforts to destroy the stockpile.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Defense (DOD) agreed with the recommendation and asked the National Research Council to evaluate possible alternative technologies for the destruction of the chemical stockpile. GAO will evaluate the results of this effort during forthcoming follow-on review of the chemical weapons destruction program.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should determine whether faster and less costly technologies exist for destroying the stockpile. Particular attention should be given to the Army's earlier decision to use the reverse assembly, high-temperature incineration disposal process.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD believes that the intent of the recommendation is met by the issuance of periodic life cycle cost estimates and that these estimates are based on the best information available. GAO plans to reconsider the need for more cost information in the annual report during planned follow-on review of the results of operational verification testing at the Johnston Island Prototype facility.

    Recommendation: To better inform Congress on the progress of the Chemical Stockpile Disposal Program, the Secretary of the Army should include the following information in future annual reports: (1) estimated life-cycle costs of the disposal program that are based on both actual and projected destruction rates; (2) causes of any growth in projected life-cycle costs; (3) major events or problems that could materially affect program costs and goals; and (4) estimated completion dates for the disposal projects that are based on both actual and projected destruction rates.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army


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