several billion dollars.2 Although it is impossible to predict at this time the ultimate cost of completely remediating all CWM buried during the last century, the DOD should initially plan for a multi-billion-dollar program lasting many years. This estimate should be revised as more information about the quantities and condition of the CWM to be recovered becomes available.

The Army’s remediation of RCWM is becoming a very large program, greatly exceeding the existing smaller munition and hazardous substance cleanup programs. The organizational structure of the Army achieves its original mission of handling ad hoc CWM finds. Numerous organizations within the Army, as well as several offices within DOD, are involved in remediating existing RCWM sites. At present, different offices design and acquire the specialized CWM destruction and other equipment, and other offices operate the equipment; another unit transports the equipment and personnel. Moreover, various offices within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the Offices of the Secretary of the Army and of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) play significant roles in setting policy, obtaining federal funding, prioritizing sites for remediation, participating in the selection of remedies, and directing the overall cleanup.

Because of the imminent dramatic change in mission scope and the recognized complexity of the decision making and organizational issues involved, the Army asked the National Research Council (NRC) to examine this emerging mission with a view to improving its efficiency. In addition to examining the organizations and roles and the funding, the NRC was asked to review the technology tools used in the detection, excavation, packaging, storage, transportation, assessment, and destruction of buried CWM now available and those that may be needed in the future.

The committee was provided the latest information available and was given unfettered access to the full range of personnel involved in the process (including briefings and other communication with regulators). The committee benefited from the insight and candor provided by Army and DOD staff, contractors, and other stakeholders.


The mission of the U.S. Army’s Non-Stockpile Chemical Materiel Project (NSCMP) is “to provide management and direction to the United States Department of Defense for the disposal of non-stockpile chemical materiel in a safe, environmentally sound, cost-effective manner, while ensuring compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention.”3 To this end, the NSCMP has pursued four mission areas:

1. Destruction of binary chemical warfare materiel;

2. Destruction of former chemical weapons production facilities;

3. Destruction of miscellaneous chemical warfare materiel covered by the CWC—for example, chemical samples, empty ton containers, and metal parts; and

4. Destruction of recovered chemical warfare materiel [chemical agent identification sets (CAIS)4 and chemical weapons].

Mission areas 1, 2, and 3 have been completed. Efforts in mission area 4 have been under way since the establishment of NSCMP and are expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

Over the past two decades the Army has prepared several reports addressing DOD’s potential liabilities for locating, excavating, and destroying decontaminated buried CWM and for managing any associated contaminated soil or groundwater. Cost estimates for these activities have varied widely because multiple agencies have been creating cost estimates using different assumptions about the number of sites needing remediation, the amount of CWM to be excavated and destroyed or decontaminated at each site, and the amount of contaminated soil or groundwater to be managed at each site. The total estimated 30-year life-cycle cost of the RCWM program ranges from a low of $2.5 billion to a high of $17 billion (DOD, 2007).

As shown in Figure 1-1, past mission area 4 activities were carried out in five areas:

•  Emergency response to assess or destroy RCWM;

•  Planned responses and support to planning and permitting activities;

•  Research and development activities primarily related to the Army’s explosive destruction system (EDS), explosive destruction technologies (EDTs), and portable isotopic neutron spectroscopy (PINS);

•  Assessment support for the U.S. Army’s Chemical Materials Agency (CMA) and the Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (ACWA) Army element; and

•  Assessment support at overseas locations.

There are planned response activities in Alaska, South Dakota, Utah, Alabama, Florida, and Arkansas. Some of the sites listed, along with sites not shown here (see following section), are expected to contain substantial quantities of buried CWM, the remediation of which might be advanced through the findings and recommendations of this report.

More detailed information on the specifics of activities in all four mission areas is presented in Figure 1-2.


2Deborah A. Morefield, Environmental Management, Office of the Deputy Under Secretary for Installations and Environment Department of Defense, “Remediation Operations from an OSD Installations and Environment Perspective,” presentation to the committee on November 2, 2011.

3Laurence G. Gottschalk, PMNSCM, “Non-Stockpile Chemical Materiel Project Status and Update,” presentation to the committee on September 27, 2011.

4Chemical agent identification sets (CAIS) were produced in large quantities for training purposes from 1928 through 1969. A CAIS holds several glass vessels, each containing a blister or choking agent.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement