Public Affairs in the Chemical Stockpile Disposal Program

Since the publication of the committee's letter report in October 1996, POIO for the CSDP has substantiallyexpanded its capabilities (NRC, 1996). However, the challenges facingPOIO have also increased significantly. In October 1996, major facilitiesfor disposing of chemical agent and munitions stockpiles had beenconstructed only on Johnston Island (in the Pacific Ocean) and atDeseret Chemical Depot, Tooele, Utah. No site closings were imminentin 1996. Nearly four years later, the CSDP has a full range of operations,including: (1) active, incineration-based disposal operations attwo sites (Johnston Island; Tooele, Utah); (2) construction of baselineincineration facilities at three sites (Anniston, Alabama; Umatilla,Oregon; Pine Bluff, Arkansas); (3) construction of nonincineration-basedalternative technology facilities at two sites (Aberdeen, Maryland;Newport, Indiana); (4) technology selection for two sites (Blue Grass,Kentucky; Pueblo, Colorado); and (5) imminent transition to closureof one site (Johnston Island).

Judging by trends in the United States during the last five years,the CSDP public affairs program will have to meet far-reaching challenges.The crucial importance of public involvement in the development ofgovernment policies that affect local communities is reflected inrecommendations by President Clinton and Vice President Gore (WhiteHouse, 1995), as well as a number of special government panels (EPA,1997; Presidential Commission, 1997). In the literature, architects,builders, engineers, environmental scientists, ethicists, lawyers,planners, and psychologists have all argued the need for early andmeaningful involvement by local residents who must live with theconsequences of those policies (Clavel et al., 1997; Gerrrad, 1994;Peaks and Hayes, 1999; Peters et al., 1997; Piller, 1991; Schrader-Frechette,1991; Towers, 1995).

The disposal of chemical agents and munitions is an emotionally chargedissue, and the political consequences of ignoring or dismissing publicpreferences and concerns can be severe. In addition to the generalpublic, the CSDP must also take into account the needs of many stateand national entities with substantial responsibilities, including,but not limited to, local emergency responders, regulatory authorities(for ensuring environmental health and safety), and Congress (whichissues legislative mandates and provides program funding).

Since 1994, the Stockpile Committee has consistently recommendedthat the CSDP initiate proactive public affairs efforts, especiallywith regard to public involvement. The committee is concerned aboutthe dangers resulting from delays, which would increase the greatestpublic risk—continued storage of the aging stockpile, especiallythe storage of munitions with the most dangerous weapons configurations.Experiences with the siting and operation of large technologicalfacilities in the United States (e.g., incinerators, electricitygenerating stations, refineries) provide ample proof that major facilitiesare vulnerable to substantial delays or even cancellation becauseof strong local opposition (Cutter, 1993; Flynn et al., 1992, 1994;Freudenberg and Steinsapir, 1991; Gerrard, 1994). By proactivelyengaging the local community and other stakeholders, even thoughthe CSDP might incur some initial delays, public involvement couldultimately lessen the chances of serious delays or cancellations.

The need for public affairs mechanisms that anticipate, monitor,and address ongoing public concerns has increased as the disposalprogram has matured. When the CSDP began its public involvement activitiesin 1994, major technology and risk decisions had been made unilaterallyby the Army, which is ultimately responsible for the safe, expeditious,and cost-effective disposal of the stockpile. Subsequently, becausethe characteristics and timing of operations at Aberdeen



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A REVIEW OF THE ARMY'S PUBLIC AFFAIRS EFFORTS IN SUPPORT OF THE CHEMICAL STOCKPILE DISPOSALPROGRAM Public Affairs in the Chemical Stockpile Disposal Program Since the publication of the committee's letter report in October 1996, POIO for the CSDP has substantiallyexpanded its capabilities (NRC, 1996). However, the challenges facingPOIO have also increased significantly. In October 1996, major facilitiesfor disposing of chemical agent and munitions stockpiles had beenconstructed only on Johnston Island (in the Pacific Ocean) and atDeseret Chemical Depot, Tooele, Utah. No site closings were imminentin 1996. Nearly four years later, the CSDP has a full range of operations,including: (1) active, incineration-based disposal operations attwo sites (Johnston Island; Tooele, Utah); (2) construction of baselineincineration facilities at three sites (Anniston, Alabama; Umatilla,Oregon; Pine Bluff, Arkansas); (3) construction of nonincineration-basedalternative technology facilities at two sites (Aberdeen, Maryland;Newport, Indiana); (4) technology selection for two sites (Blue Grass,Kentucky; Pueblo, Colorado); and (5) imminent transition to closureof one site (Johnston Island). Judging by trends in the United States during the last five years,the CSDP public affairs program will have to meet far-reaching challenges.The crucial importance of public involvement in the development ofgovernment policies that affect local communities is reflected inrecommendations by President Clinton and Vice President Gore (WhiteHouse, 1995), as well as a number of special government panels (EPA,1997; Presidential Commission, 1997). In the literature, architects,builders, engineers, environmental scientists, ethicists, lawyers,planners, and psychologists have all argued the need for early andmeaningful involvement by local residents who must live with theconsequences of those policies (Clavel et al., 1997; Gerrrad, 1994;Peaks and Hayes, 1999; Peters et al., 1997; Piller, 1991; Schrader-Frechette,1991; Towers, 1995). The disposal of chemical agents and munitions is an emotionally chargedissue, and the political consequences of ignoring or dismissing publicpreferences and concerns can be severe. In addition to the generalpublic, the CSDP must also take into account the needs of many stateand national entities with substantial responsibilities, including,but not limited to, local emergency responders, regulatory authorities(for ensuring environmental health and safety), and Congress (whichissues legislative mandates and provides program funding). Since 1994, the Stockpile Committee has consistently recommendedthat the CSDP initiate proactive public affairs efforts, especiallywith regard to public involvement. The committee is concerned aboutthe dangers resulting from delays, which would increase the greatestpublic risk—continued storage of the aging stockpile, especiallythe storage of munitions with the most dangerous weapons configurations.Experiences with the siting and operation of large technologicalfacilities in the United States (e.g., incinerators, electricitygenerating stations, refineries) provide ample proof that major facilitiesare vulnerable to substantial delays or even cancellation becauseof strong local opposition (Cutter, 1993; Flynn et al., 1992, 1994;Freudenberg and Steinsapir, 1991; Gerrard, 1994). By proactivelyengaging the local community and other stakeholders, even thoughthe CSDP might incur some initial delays, public involvement couldultimately lessen the chances of serious delays or cancellations. The need for public affairs mechanisms that anticipate, monitor,and address ongoing public concerns has increased as the disposalprogram has matured. When the CSDP began its public involvement activitiesin 1994, major technology and risk decisions had been made unilaterallyby the Army, which is ultimately responsible for the safe, expeditious,and cost-effective disposal of the stockpile. Subsequently, becausethe characteristics and timing of operations at Aberdeen

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A REVIEW OF THE ARMY'S PUBLIC AFFAIRS EFFORTS IN SUPPORT OF THE CHEMICAL STOCKPILE DISPOSALPROGRAM and Newport made the use of alternative technologies possible, thepublic was constructively engaged in the decision-making processesthat resulted in the selection of the technologies for both. BlueGrass, Kentucky, and Pueblo, Colorado, are the only remaining siteswhere technology decisions are still pending. However, the issuessurrounding the decommissioning, closure, and future use of all ofthe sites must be resolved. Stakeholder concerns include injuries to workers, the adverse effectsof external events (e.g., earthquakes, aircraft crashes), contractorperformance during construction activities, accidental or unanticipatedprocess upsets during chemical disposal operations, short-term andlong-term environmental and health impacts, the safety of off-sitetransport of process effluents, and the use of facilities for thedestruction of nonstockpile chemical agent materiel. Moreover, electedofficials, professional planners, workers, local businesses, advocacygroups, and the surrounding public all have important stakes in theclosure and future uses of the sites.