Udall, Bennet: Defense Appropriations Bill Will Help Keep Pueblo Chemical Weapons Destruction On Track

$154.4 M Included in Department of Defense Bill is in Addition to $92.5 M in Previous Funding Bill

Funding Will Help Ensure Government Can Destroy Weapons by Congressionally Mandated Date of 2017

Today, U.S. Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet and Congressman John Salazar announced that the $154.4 million for weapons destruction at Pueblo Chemical Depot has been included in the Department of Defense Appropriations Conference Report, which passed the Senate today by a vote of 88 to 10.

The funding for fiscal year 2010 will help the federal government stay on track to destroy the chemical weapons stored there by the congressionally mandated date of 2017. The Defense funding is in addition to $92.5 million for construction at Pueblo Chemical Depot, which was approved by the Senate earlier this month as part of the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009.

"This funding, combined with the funding we approved in the military construction appropriations bill, is a great first step to finally beginning the process of destroying the weapons stored at Pueblo Chemical Depot," said Senator Udall, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who previously served on the House Armed Services Committee. "After years of pushing hard, we're finally on track to keep faith with the people of Pueblo, and I'm going to keep fighting to ensure Congress keeps its commitment and keeps the money flowing in the years to come."

"2017 is a long ways away, but for folks in Pueblo, it couldn't come soon enough," said Bennet. "We're headed in the right direction, but we need to make sure we stay on course. We need to ensure the federal government makes good on its promise and gets these weapons destroyed on-site and on-time."

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. But because of schedule delays, management problems, and funding shortfalls for the ACWA program, the DOD has acknowledged that the U.S. will not meet the Chemical Weapons Convention treaty deadline.

This year, the Administration announced it was committed to speeding up the schedule for weapons destruction and clean-up at Pueblo Chemical Depot. And this year's funding for Pueblo Chemical Depot is part of a $550 million request by the Pentagon to pay 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 enable the Pentagon to complete the work at Pueblo by 2017, as Congress mandated in 2007.

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.