Chemical Weapons and Materiel:

Key Factors Affecting Disposal Costs and Schedule

T-NSIAD-97-118: Published: Mar 11, 1997. Publicly Released: Mar 11, 1997.

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Under its basic legislative responsibilities, GAO assessed the Department of Defense's (DOD) chemical weapons and related materiel disposal programs, focusing on: (1) the key factors affecting the costs and schedules; (2) actions the Army has taken to improve the programs; and (e) alternatives for improving the programs' effectiveness and efficiency.

GAO noted that: (1) while there is general agreement about the need to destroy the chemical stockpile and related materiel, progress has slowed due to the lack of consensus among DOD and affected states and localities about the destruction method that should be used; (2) as a result, the costs and schedules for the disposal programs are uncertain; (3) however, they will cost more than the estimated $23.4 billion above current appropriations and take longer than currently planned; (4) the key factors affecting the programs include the public concerns about the safety of incineration, the environmental process, the legislative requirements, and the introduction of alternative disposal technologies; (5) the Chemical Stockpile Disposal Program's cost and schedule are largely driven by the degree to which states and local communities are in agreement with the proposed disposal method at the remaining stockpile sites; (6) based on program experience, reaching agreement has consistently taken longer than the Army anticipated; (7) until DOD and the affected states and localities reach agreement on a disposal method for the remaining stockpile sites, the Army will not be able to predict the Chemical Stockpile Disposal Program's cost and schedule with any degree of accuracy; (8) moreover, many of the problems experienced in the stockpile program are also likely to affect the Army's ability to implement the Nonstockpile Chemical Materiel Program; (9) in addition, more time is needed for the Army to prove that its proposed disposal method for the nonstockpile program will be safe and effective and accepted by the affected states and localities; (10) in December 1994, DOD designated the Army's chemical demilitarization program, consisting of both stockpile and nonstockpile munitions and materiel, as a major defense acquisition program; (11) the objectives of the designation were to stabilize the disposal schedules, control costs, and provide more discipline and higher levels of program oversight; (12) in addition, Army officials have identified cost-reduction initiatives, which are in various stages of assessment, that could reduce program costs by $673 million; (13) recognizing the difficulty of satisfactorily resolving the public concerns associated with each individual disposal location, suggestions have been made by members of the Congress, DOD officials, and others to change the programs' basic approach to destruction; and (14) however, the suggestions create trade-offs for decisionmakers and would require changes in the existing legal requirements.

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