Udall, Bennet: $92.5 Million for Weapons Destruction at Pueblo Chemical Depot Approved by Senate

Funding Included in Senate Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill

Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, U.S. Senators for Colorado, announced today that the Pueblo Chemical Depot is on track to receive $92.5 million in new federal funding for construction of a facility to destroy chemical weapons stored there.

The funding was included in the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill for fiscal year 2010, which was approved by the Senate by a vote of 100 to 0.

The bill now goes to a conference committee to be reconciled with the version passed in the House. The $92.5 million in funding represents a portion of the money requested for work at Pueblo Chemical Depot.

The Defense Appropriations Act approved by the Senate earlier this year includes an additional $154.4 million for weapons destruction at the Depot, which would bring total funding for Fiscal Year 2010 to $246.9 million. That bill awaits consideration by Conference Committee.

Earlier this year, the Department of Defense requested about $550 million for the Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (ACWA) program, which manages chemical weapons destruction at the Pueblo Chemical Depot and the Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky.

The funding would allow the Pentagon to speed up the schedule for weapons destruction and clean-up at Pueblo Chemical Depot, and complete the work by the Congressionally mandated date of 2017. Construction has already begun in Pueblo on a neutralization facility for the mustard agent, as well as a biotreatment facility that would break down the hydrolysate byproduct.

"After fighting this battle for many years, we are finally on track to keep our promise to the people of Pueblo and destroy the chemical weapons stored at the Pueblo Chemical Depot," said Senator Udall, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who previously served on the House Armed Services Committee. "This bill is a huge step forward. The next step is to ensure that Congress keeps its commitment, and keeps the money flowing this year and in the years to come. I'm fighting to make sure that happens."

"This is a big step forward for residents of Pueblo and its surrounding communities," Bennet said. "People in Southern Colorado have waited a long time to see weapons destruction at the Chemical Depot completed. We need to keep up the fight to make sure the funding for weapons destructions continues to flow until this important project is complete."

The Pueblo Chemical Depot holds 2,611 tons of liquid mustard agent. The Chemical Weapons Convention, ratified by Congress in 1997, requires these munitions to be destroyed by 2012. Because of schedule delays, management problems, and funding shortfalls for the ACWA program, the DOD has said that the U.S. will not meet the Chemical Weapons Convention treaty deadline. In 2007, Congress mandated that DOD complete all chemical weapons destruction activities by 2017.