Following the State Department announcement that the remainder of America’s chemical weapon stockpile was destroyed, government agencies, including the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC) and the Pentagon, have come out in favor of the decision, declaring it a “major milestone.”
Speaking to reporters at a Pentagon news conference last week, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics, and technology Douglas Bush said the destruction of U.S. chemical weapons ended decades of effort to eliminate chemical weapons. The Pentagon said that employees made history last Friday by eliminating the last chemical weapon at Blue Grass Army Depot, Kentucky.
“The U.S.’s destruction of declared chemical weapons stockpiles in a safe, secure, and environmentally responsible manner was a difficult task, requiring many years to complete,” he said.
The U.S. destroyed over 30,000 metric tons of declared chemical agent contained in nearly 3.5 million chemical munitions, 22,500 one-ton containers containing chemical agent, and over 50,500 bottles and containers containing chemical agent, according to deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Threat Reduction and Arms Control, Kingston Reif.
Reif explained that the latest efforts strengthen America’s compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention by the Sept. 30 deadline and for America’s “moral and diplomatic leadership.
“The most important action the United States can take to contribute to a world free of chemical weapons and lead by example is to follow through on our own treaty commitments. With verifiable completion of destruction operations last week, we have done just that,” Rief told reporters.
Reif praised the program’s executive officer of the Army’s Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives, Michael Abaie, who led the team of DOD civilians and contractors in the $13.5 billion effort. Abaie worked with Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), state offices, local communities, scientists, and others to create safe and efficient methods of destroying the chemicals.
In the past, Pentagon officials also worked with other nations to help them destroy chemical weapons, including Russia, Syria, Albania, and Libya, despite experts and analysts still wondering whether Moscow and Damascus have destroyed their WMDs.
When asked for more information regarding the subject, the State Department referred The Foreign Desk to a press release from the Pentagon last week.
Following the President and his administration officials’ praise for the latest milestone, the CDC released a public statement stating that “over 30,000 tons of America’s chemical warfare agents have been destroyed.”
“This milestone has successfully eliminated a major public health threat for communities, the U.S., and the world,” the CDC said.
The CDC also noted that Publica Law (50 USC 1521) required the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Office of the Surgeon General to “provide independent oversight to protect the safety and health of the communities during U.S. chemical weapons destruction of stockpiled and recovered or buried chemical weapons in the U.S.”
Officials say this was delegated to the agency in 1982, which “has been providing oversight for 40 years in August 2023.”
Officials at the CDC noted that the latest announcement by the White House came with the 40th anniversary of the CDC’s Chemical Demilitarization (CDM) Program.
The CDC said it would celebrate the destruction of the weapons stockpile in November by hosting a chemical demilitarization awards ceremony to recognize the “efforts of the DoD, PEO ACWA, and CDM Program with the elimination of a major public health threat.”