Disarmament Milestone: Chemical Agents Eliminated

The United States Chemical Materials Agency (CMA), a department of the U.S. Army, announced today that it had completed the safe destruction of almost 90% of the 31,500 U.S. tons of deadly chemical agents that have been stored at nine declared military arsenals in the U.S. since the middle of the last century. CMA Director Conrad Whyne stated that the U.S. had completed destruction of 27,473.65 U.S. tons of chemical agents and more than 2.2 million munitions and bulk containers as of January 21, 2012, with the final elimination of several tons at the Deseret Chemical Depot in Tooele, Utah.

This important disarmament milestone is a major step towards complete, verified, and global abolition of a whole class of weapons of mass destruction, with the United States leading the way. We congratulate the many men and women in the Army, the defense contractors, the local communities, and all other stakeholders who have made this program successful and thereby made our world a much safer and secure place.

With this milestone accomplished, the U.S. Army has now destroyed the chemical weapons stockpiles at seven of the nine declared US arsenals: Johnston Atoll in 2000; Aberdeen, Maryland in 2005; Newport, Indiana in 2008; Pine Bluff, Arkansas in 2010; Anniston, Alabama  and Umatilla, Oregon in 2011; and now Tooele, Utah in 2012.  The two stockpiles that remain -- in Pueblo, Colorado and Blue Grass, Kentucky -- will take another decade to eliminate.

The United States is bound by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) to abolish its chemical weapons stockpile in a safe and timely manner. We began the destruction program unilaterally in 1990, signed the CWC in 1994, and ratified the treaty in 1997 when it entered into force. Six other countries -- Albania, India, Iraq, Libya, Russia, and South Korea -- have also declared chemical weapons stockpiles. The two largest possessor states, Russia and the U.S., accounted for about 95% of the declared weapons stocks. Russia has completed destruction of about 55% of its stockpile. Albania, India, and South Korea have also completed their destruction programs, while Iraq and Libya are continuing to work on their efforts.

All chemical weapons stockpiles were mandated by the CWC to be destroyed by April 2007 (ten years after CWC entry into force), but no possessor country was able to meet this deadline. Both the U.S. and Russia received a five-year extension, as allowed under the treaty, to April 2012; however, Russia has now stated that it will finish in 2015 and the U.S. has projected 2021 as its final deadline.

The complete elimination of chemical weapons, verified by international inspectors, over the next decade, will be a major step forward to the larger goal of abolishing all weapons of mass destruction -- nuclear, chemical, and biological -- from the globe.