February 15, 2012
President’s budget would boost funds for depot weapon disposal
Register staff report
RICHMOND — The 2013 budget request President Obama sent to Congress on Monday would boost spending for chemical weapons disposal at the Bluegrass Army Depot by $277 million.
The budget would spend $778.7 million on projects underway at the depot in Madison County and another in Colorado where weapons will be “demilitarized” via chemical neutralization. The Blue Grass depot’s share would be $411 million.
“The funding request reflects a continued commitment by the Pentagon to accelerate efforts ridding us of these weapons,” said Craig Williams, director of the Berea-based Chemical Weapons Working Group.
“This funding level, if approved by Congress, will maintain aggressive progress toward completing this important project.”
Funding amounts have fluctuated drastically over the past decade, hitting a $33 million low in 2005, which virtually halted disposal efforts in 2006, Williams noted.
A renewed effort to pick up the pace of the project took place in 2008 when funding began to increase, he said.
“Over the past three years, excellent accomplishments have been seen with facility construction now near 50-percent completion,” said Madison Judge/Executive Kent Clark, who co-chairs the local project’s citizen advisory board with Williams.
“This year’s numbers will make a big difference in the project. I’m happy to see we’ll be getting what we need to keep going,” Clark said.
The $411 million proposed for the Blue Grass mission includes $296 million for research, development, test and evaluation with $115 million for construction, Williams said.
At last year’s international Chemical Weapons Convention meeting in The Netherlands, the United States pledged to vigorously pursue completion of the disposal project, “in the shortest time possible,” he said.
“This year’s budget request underscores the seriousness of that commitment by our government and I believe it will be viewed very positively by the international community,” Williams said.
U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Sixth District, who was in Berea on Tuesday morning to visit the Veterans Affairs Clinic there, said he was hopeful the funding request would be approved even as Congress is looking for funds to cut.
The bi-partisan nature of the effort led by U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, gives it greater likelihood of success, Chandler said.
Although a relatively small amount in the national military budget, a project of great interest mainly only to two states may not be able to withstand a general effort to reduce spending, the congressman said.