Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives
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|Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (PEO ACWA)|
|Mission:||The safe and environmentally sound destruction of the chemical weapons stockpiles stored at the Blue Grass Army Depot, Kentucky, and the Pueblo Chemical Depot, Colorado.|
|Unit Distinctive Insignia:||The benzene ring is symbolic of the U.S. Army Chemical Corps, and the two entwined benzene rings allude to the two chemical weapons storage sites at Pueblo Chemical Depot and Blue Grass Army Depot. The green ring represents Blue Grass, while the blue ring represents Pueblo. A third, red benzene ring, created by the entwinement, and emblazoned with an artillery projectile, signifies the successful assessment phase and recognizes PEO ACWA’s unique charge to develop destruction alternatives specifically focused on assembled chemical weapons. The gold projectile, set against a red background, is reminiscent of the Field Artillery branch, the original chemical weapons delivery arm. The color red together with the white “ACWA” letters are reflective of the red and white Crossland family botonee cross on the Maryland state flag and are meant to honor the Maryland headquarters of PEO ACWA.|
|Country:||United States of America|
|Headquarters:||Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland|
|Motto:||“A Partnership for Safe Chemical Weapons Destruction”|
|Program Executive Officer:||Conrad Whyne|
The Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (PEO ACWA) is responsible for the safe destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles at the U.S. Army's Pueblo Chemical Depot in Colorado and Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky. PEO ACWA was originally established by the United States to test and demonstrate alternative technologies to baseline incineration for the destruction of chemical weapons. Today, the program’s mission is to oversee the design, construction, systemization, testing, operation and closure of two chemical weapons destruction pilot plants – the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant in Colorado, and the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant in Kentucky.
History of chemical weapons in the United States
The production of chemical weapons in the United States began during World War I, after their first large-scale use against Allied troops in Belgium. America’s chemical weapons stockpile was produced to deter the use of such weapons by other countries against the United States. Chemical weapons include blister agents that were designed to inflict chemical burns or blister the skin, and nerve agents that were designed to impair the nervous system. Production ceased in 1968.
In 1985, with the rise of international dialogue concerning the effects of chemical warfare, the United States started to destroy its stockpile of chemical weapons. In 1997, the United States formally agreed to destroy its stockpile by ratifying the Chemical Weapons Convention. The international treaty bans the use of all chemical weapons and aims to eliminate them throughout the world.
Under the management of the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency (CMA), now known as the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Activity, chemical stockpile destruction was completed at Army installations near Anniston, Alabama; Pine Bluff, Arkansas; Newport, Indiana; Aberdeen, Maryland; Umatilla, Oregon; Tooele, Utah; and on Johnston Atoll in the Pacific. CMA is also responsible for storage management of the chemical stockpiles at sites near Pueblo, Colorado and Richmond, Kentucky, whereas PEO ACWA is responsible for stockpile destruction at these sites.
“Assembled” chemical weapons refer to weapons that contain a chemical agent in addition to fuzes, explosives, propellant, shipping and firing tubes and packaging materials. Examples include rockets, projectiles and bombs.
History of PEO ACWA
- 1997: Congress establishes the Assembled Chemical Weapons Assessment (ACWA) program to safely test and demonstrate at least two alternative technologies to the baseline incineration process for the destruction of the nation’s stockpile of assembled chemical weapons. ACWA program leaders implement an open, participatory public process called the ACWA Dialogue to engage stakeholders in the program’s decision-making process.
- 1999: Congress authorizes ACWA to manage the development and pilot-scale testing of these technologies. Public Law 106-79 states that funds would not be allocated for a chemical weapons disposal facility at Blue Grass Army Depot until the Secretary of Defense certifies demonstration of six incineration alternatives. ACWA successfully demonstrates three alternative technologies.
- 2000: ACWA successfully demonstrates three additional alternative technologies and concludes that four of the demonstrated technologies are viable for pilot testing. Public Law 106-398 mandates the Department of Defense to consider incineration and any demonstrated ACWA technologies for disposal of the Colorado stockpile.
- 2002: ACWA is assigned responsibility for the destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles in Colorado and Kentucky. With community input garnered through the ACWA Dialogue process, Department of Defense selects destruction technologies for both sites that same year - neutralization followed by biotreatment for the Colorado stockpile and neutralization followed by supercritical water oxidation for the Kentucky stockpile.
- 2003: ACWA shifts its focus from assessing chemical weapons disposal technologies to implementing full-scale pilot testing of alternative technologies at these sites and changes its name from Assembled Chemical Weapons Assessment to Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives to reflect its new program goals.
- 2004: Groundbreaking for the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant marks the start of construction in Colorado.
- 2006: In an April letter to Congress, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld affirms that there are no options by which the U.S. can destroy 100 percent of its remaining national chemical stockpile by the Chemical Weapons Convention treaty deadline of April 29, 2012. Groundbreaking for the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant marks the start of construction in Kentucky.
- 2007: The U.S. Army Element, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives is formally activated by the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. The new designation as an Army “element,” meaning an Army organization assigned to a non-Army program, signified the official change from the program’s former alignment with the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency. The ACWA program manager reports directly to the Department of Defense, as mandated by Public Law 104-208. Congress enacts legislation (Public Laws 110-116 and 110-181) mandating destruction of the remaining U.S. national chemical stockpile by the Chemical Weapons Convention deadline of April 29, 2012, but in no circumstances later than December 31, 2017. The Department of Defense begins working with Congress to develop an accelerated schedule to meet the 2017 date as closely as possible. The Department of Defense accepts the final design for the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant.
- 2009: Department of Defense provides Congress options for accelerating the ACWA program per Public Laws 110-116 and 110-181. The proposed plan sought additional resources to: 1) aim toward the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency completing destruction operations of all the U.S. chemical stockpile under its purview (90 percent of the U.S. stockpile) by 2012 utilizing performance incentives and risk mitigation actions; and 2) accelerate the ACWA program schedule toward completing destruction of an additional eight percent of the U.S. stockpile at Pueblo in 2017 and the remaining two percent of the U.S. stockpile at Blue Grass in 2021, resulting in an acceleration in destruction of three years at Pueblo and two years at Blue Grass. On-site treatment and disposal of hydrolysate at Pueblo and Blue Grass would continue, unless unforeseen technical difficulties arise.
- 2009: Operation Swift Solution Team fulfills its mission to safely eliminate three deteriorating steel containers that stored a mixture of GB (sarin) nerve agent and its breakdown products at the Blue Grass Army Depot. The multi-agency effort eliminates health and safety risks associated with continued storage of the containers as well as other wastes accumulated during years of their management. In May, the Department of Defense submits its Semi-Annual Chemical Demilitarization Program Report to Congress in conjunction with the President’s Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2010 laying out a path forward and funding requirements necessary to accelerate the ACWA program in order to complete destruction of the Pueblo chemical stockpile by 2017 and the Blue Grass stockpile by 2021. The Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2010 (Public Law 111-118) is signed into law. In October 2009, the Department of Defense requested that the ACWA Program Manager study how to maintain continuity of demilitarization operations between U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency completion and ACWA start-up, consistent with ongoing efforts to accelerate destruction operations in both Colorado and Kentucky. 
- 2010: An environmental assessment is conducted to evaluate the environmental impacts of the proposed acceleration of the construction and operation of explosive destruction system/explosive destruction technology systems at Pueblo. The environmental assessment is withdrawn. The Department of Defense accepts the final design for the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant. The systemization phase begins at Pueblo and Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plants. Construction teams turn over the first subsystems to the start-up groups for systemization testing and commissioning to begin to prepare the facilities for chemical weapons destruction operations.
- 2011: The Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics certifies the ACWA program to Congress under the Nunn-McCurdy Amendment. This certification is the result of a nearly six-month program review to determine the factors that led to the "critical" Nunn-McCurdy cost breach reported to Congress in December of 2010. The Under Secretary subsequently directs ACWA to proceed with the program without any significant changes to the destruction technology. The Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant partners with the Blue Grass Chemical Activity to conduct an X-ray assessment of the mustard agent stockpile. The assessment shows that removal of mustard agent from projectiles would be difficult using the current Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant design. The Blue Grass team evaluates the feasibility of utilizing explosive destruction technologies to destroy this segment of the stockpile.
- 2012: The Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass team received Star Status in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Voluntary Protection Program. ACWA is redesignated Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (PEO ACWA) and administratively reassigned to the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center. This transition was directed to increase the program’s visibility and obtain necessary support and resources. As mandated by law, the program’s direct reporting connection to the Department of Defense remains unchanged. To meet the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and Title 32 Code of Federal Regulations Part 651, PEO ACWA, in conjunction with the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot, completes an environmental assessment regarding the possible use of explosive destruction technologies in Pueblo. Following a public comment period, and review of the comments, it concluded that no significant environmental impacts will occur due to the proposed installation and operation of an explosive destruction technology. The Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant officially declares construction complete on Dec. 12 and moves into systemization phase of the project.
- 2013: Program Executive Officer Conrad F. Whyne announced his selection of the U.S. Army’s Explosive Destruction System (EDS) to augment the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant at the Pueblo Chemical Depot, Colo. The decision followed a lengthy review of several explosive destruction technologies designed for the safe destruction of chemical munitions unsuited for processing by the main plant’s automated equipment. In June 2013, Blue Grass Army Depot and PEO ACWA completed an environmental assessment to meet the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, and Title 32 Code of Federal Regulations Part 651, to address any potential impacts of the installation and operation of explosive destruction technology at the depot. The environmental assessment concluded that the installation and operation of an explosive destruction technology will have no significant environmental impacts. A draft Finding of No Significant Impact was prepared and provided for public comment for a 60-day period. It was concluded that no additional analysis was necessary for the proposed action under NEPA. Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass received approval from PEO ACWA to begin initial work on an Explosive Destruction Technology system at the Blue Grass plant. Following a competitive procurement process, Bechtel Parsons selected the Static Detonation Chamber.
Chemical weapons destruction in Colorado
PEO ACWA is responsible for the management of the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (PCAPP) at the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot, located near Pueblo, Colorado. The Pueblo Chemical Depot was originally constructed as the Pueblo Ordnance Depot in 1942 and is currently responsible for safe and secure storage of 2,611 tons of mustard agent in projectiles. The weapons have been stored at the 23,000-acre (93 km2) depot since the 1950s. The destruction technology used is neutralization followed by biotreatment. The follow-on process, biological treatment, consists of breaking down the neutralization byproduct called hydrolysate by microbial digestion. Additionally, the Army’s Explosive Destruction System will be used for the safe destruction of chemical munitions unsuited for processing by the Pueblo plant’s automated equipment.
Chemical weapons destruction in Kentucky
PEO ACWA is responsible for the management of the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (BGCAPP) at the Blue Grass Army Depot located in east central Kentucky. The 14,600-acre (59.1 km2) installation stores and maintains conventional munitions and provides chemical defense equipment and special operations support to the Department of Defense. The Blue Grass Chemical Activity, a tenant of the depot, is responsible for the safeguarding of a portion of the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile, 523 tons of nerve agents GB and VX and mustard agent in rockets and projectiles. BGCAPP will also use neutralization to destroy chemical agent, but will use supercritical water oxidation (SCWO) as a secondary process.
PEO ACWA schedule
After systemization of the facilities, destruction operations are expected to begin in Pueblo in 2015 and in Blue Grass in 2020. The plants will operate until all the chemical weapons have been destroyed. Closure activities (shut-down, dismantling, and restoration of site) are slated to be wrapped up in Pueblo by 2022 and in Blue Grass by 2026.
The Blue Grass Chemical Stockpile Outreach Office in Kentucky and the Pueblo Chemical Stockpile Outreach Office in Colorado serve as the local community’s primary resource for information regarding chemical weapons destruction. The offices work closely with Army leadership and its contractors to respond to inquiries, develop and provide information materials, coordinate guest speakers for a variety of different civic groups and organizations and interface with the governor-appointed Colorado and Kentucky Chemical Demilitarization Citizens’ Advisory Commissions.
- "Department of Defense Report : Chemical Demilitarization Program : Semi-Annual Report to Congress". Peoacwa.army.mil. Retrieved 2013-09-22.
- "ACWA Quarterly Brief : December 2009". Peoacwa.army.mil. Retrieved 2013-09-22.
- "U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency : Project Manager for Non-Stockpile Chemical Material". Peoacwa.army.mil. Retrieved 2013-09-22.
- "Explosive Destruction Technology (EDT) at BGCAPP « Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (PEO ACWA)". Peoacwa.army.mil. Retrieved 2013-09-22.
- "Press Release: Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Plant Receives National Safety Recognition « Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (PEO ACWA)". Peoacwa.army.mil. 2011-11-14. Retrieved 2013-09-22.
- "Chain of Command « Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (PEO ACWA)". Peoacwa.army.mil. Retrieved 2013-09-22.
- "Press Release: No significant environmental impacts to result from installation and operation of explosive destruction technology at Pueblo Chemical Depot « Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (PEO ACWA)". Peoacwa.army.mil. 2012-08-13. Retrieved 2013-09-22.
- "Bechtel Corporation: Bechtel Completes Construction Of Chemical Weapons Demilitarization Facility". Bechtel.com. 2013-01-29. Retrieved 2013-09-22.
- "Press Release: Explosive Destruction System Selected to Augment Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant". Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives. 2013-04-18.
- "Explosive Destruction System". U.S. Army Chemical Materials Activity. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- "Pueblo Depot Activity, Pueblo Chemical Depot (PUCD), Pueblo, Colorado". GlobalSecurity.org. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- "Press Release: Department of Defense approves new cost and schedule estimates for chemical weapons destruction plants « Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (PEO ACWA)". Peoacwa.army.mil. Retrieved 2013-09-22.
- "About ACWA". Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives. United States Department of Defense. 2006-04-23. Retrieved 2012-01-30.
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