Army Completes Mission to Destroy Chemical Weapons

Army Completes Mission to Destroy Chemical Weapons

Army personnel destroying chemical weapon
Photo by: James Campbell

The Army played a vital role in destroying the nation’s last remaining stockpiles of obsolete chemical weapons, a disarmament milestone that was decades in the making, according to a DoD news release.  

“This is a momentous day for the U.S. chemical demilitarization program,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said in the release. “After years of design, construction, testing and operations, these obsolete weapons have been safely eliminated. The Army is proud to have played a key role in making this demilitarization possible.” 

More than three decades after Congress mandated the destruction of the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile, which at one point comprised more than 30,000 tons of chemical warfare agents in explosively configured weapons and bulk containers, the last chemical weapon, an M55 rocket filled with sarin nerve agent, was destroyed July 7 at the Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky.   

Since the 1986 congressional mandate, the Army has destroyed weapons at various sites, including Johnston Atoll in the Pacific and installations in Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Maryland, Oregon and Utah, according to the release.  

The Army also used “alternative technologies” to safely destroy chemicals at Blue Grass Army Depot and at the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot in Colorado. Those alternatives were driven by additional legislation that required DoD to assess and demonstrate ways to destroy the weapons “by means other than incineration,” according to the release. 

Destruction of the United States’ final munition sends an important signal to the international community and ushers in a new era for the U.S. military, said Deborah Rosenblum, assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs.  

“The level of determination and resolve to overcome challenges has been nothing short of outstanding,” she said. “This achievement demonstrates our credibility to the international community and has helped move the U.S. government toward closing this particular chapter of U.S. military history."

Beyond an international signal, the U.S. is leading the way on disarmament. “We have a national security imperative and moral obligation to work toward eliminating the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction," said William LaPlante, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment. “This is the first time an international body has verified destruction of an entire category of declared weapons of mass destruction—reinforcing the United States' commitment to creating a world free of chemical weapons.”