Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (PEO ACWA)
Destroy Chemical Weapons Stockpile
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.
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. The United States' chemical weapons stockpile was produced as a deterrent against the creation and use of such weapons against the U.S. 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, now known as the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Activity (CMA), 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, an island in the Pacific. CMA remains 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.
1996: 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.
1997: 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 (PCAPP) 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 (BGCAPP) 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 CMA. 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 PCAPP.
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 CMA 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, the Department of Defense requested that the ACWA Program Manager study how to maintain continuity of demilitarization operations between U.S. Army CMA completion and ACWA start-up, consistent with ongoing efforts to accelerate destruction operations in both Colorado and Kentucky. Bechtel Pueblo Team receives Star Status in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Voluntary Protection Program.
2010: An environmental assessment is conducted to evaluate the environmental impacts of the proposed acceleration of the construction and operation of an explosive destruction system/explosive destruction technology 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 2010. The Under Secretary subsequently directs ACWA to proceed with the program without any significant changes to the destruction technology. The BCAPP 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. The Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass team receives Star Status in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Voluntary Protection Program. The Bechtel Pueblo Team earned recertification of Star Status in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Voluntary Protection Program.
2012: 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 (NEPA) 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 PCAPP 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 PCAPP at the Pueblo Chemical Depot in Colorado. 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 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. The Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass team 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 (SDC).
2014: Construction began on the PCAPP EDS site, located at the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot. The first of two EDS units arrived on site, aligning with the completion of specially-designed environmental enclosures that will house the EDS units for added protection. The BGCAPP received approval from the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection to begin initial construction activities of an Explosive Destruction Technology (EDT) facility. Provisional Operations, a two-month period in which operations and maintenance staff practice training with simulated munitions and agent, began at the PCAPP. This extensive training is conducted on a large-scale to ensure employees are better prepared for plant operations. Systemization reached 67 percent completion at the PCAPP and 25 percent completion at the BGCAPP. The PEO ACWA Anniston Field Office was established in June 2014 to retain the technical expertise of the staff at the former Anniston Chemical Agent Disposal Facility. An SDC at Anniston will be maintained for training and use in destroying non-contaminated energetics during chemical weapons destruction in Colorado and Kentucky.
2015: Chemical stockpile destruction in Colorado was initiated on March 18, 2015, by the EDS, located on the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot near the PCAPP. This event marked the first step towards eliminating the final 10 percent of the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile. The Bechtel Pueblo and Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass Teams earned recertification of Star Status in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Voluntary Protection Program. In June, operators at the PCAPP EDS took things up a notch with the introduction of 4.2-inch mortars into the destruction process. The first three mortars were joined by three 105mm projectiles. All were safely detonated in the vessel on June 18. On July 16, the first 155mm projectiles from Pueblo's stockpile were safely destroyed in the PCAPP EDS. In June, the SDC completed Factory Acceptance Testing at the Dynasafe workshop in Kristinehamn, Sweden. The SDC arrived at BGCAPP in August to be assembled, tested and installed. The Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant declared construction of the main facility substantially complete Oct. 28, 2015. With construction complete, the Blue Grass project is fully transitioning into the systemization phase.
2016: On Feb.11, 2016, the PCAPP EDS successfully completed its first campaign at the Pueblo Chemical Depot in Colorado, destroying 560 problematic munitions. The EDS went on stand-by and will resume further operations at a later date. At PCAPP, technicians began testing the biotreatment area using a surrogate solution, thiodiglycol. Preliminary results showed the system worked effectively In September, the plant entered into its Pilot Testing phase, where destruction operations are tested. The plant began chemical weapons destruction operations on Sept. 7, 2016. In October, the plant began the neutralization process. Meanwhile, at BGCAPP in Kentucky, systemization activities began, where workers tested equipment. The Static Detonation Chamber was placed and the building's walls went up around it. At ACWA headquarters in Maryland, Tamika Atkins was named Chief of Staff and Joseph Novad was named Deputy Program Executive Officer.
2017: On April 28, 2017, Conrad Whyne retired as Program Executive Officer. On June 25, 2017, Suzanne S. Milchling assumed duty as the Program Executive Officer. In September 2017, PCAPP marked its first full year of the pilot testing phase in which the plant destroyed 253 U.S. tons of mustard agent and 42,897 155mm projectiles. On Sept. 8, 2017, agent destruction operations were paused at PCAPP due to higher than anticipated amounts of solids being washed out of munitions and clogging agent neutralization systems.
2018: On Feb. 15, 2018, PCAPP ordnance technicians reached a plant milestone when the last of more than 28,000 105mm projectiles went through Baseline Reconfiguration. In March, the BGCAPP systemization team turned over 21 of 59 Blue Grass plant systems to operations. By July, the BGCAPP systemization team turned over more than half of the 59 Blue Grass plant systems to operations. On Sept. 10, Michael Abaie assumed duties as the Program Executive Officer.
PEO ACWA is responsible for the management of 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 has been responsible for safe and secure storage of 2,613 U.S. tons of mustard agent in projectiles and mortars, though PCAPP operations are reducing the amonut of agent stored at PCD. 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 product of neutralization called hydrolysate by microbial digestion. Additionally, the Army's EDS is being used for the safe destruction of chemical munitions unsuited for processing by the Pueblo plant's automated equipment.
PEO ACWA is responsible for the management of BGCAPP at the Blue Grass Army Depot located in east central Kentucky. The 14,600-acre (59 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 it will use supercritical water oxidation (SCWO) as a secondary process. Additionally, the SDC, an explosive destruction technology, will augment BGCAPP's neutralization/SCWO technology to destroy approximately 15,000 155mm mustard projectiles in the Blue Grass stockpile, many of which have been found unsuited for processing through the main plant. The plant is currently in its systemization phase, testing equipment and best practices.
The Blue Grass Chemical Stockpile Outreach Office in Kentucky and the Pueblo Chemical Stockpile Outreach Office in Colorado serve as the local communities' 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.