Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Pentagon (Again) Extends Timeline To Destroy Aging Chemical Weapons

The Pentagon has once again extended its timeline to destroy its aging chemical weapons arsenal until 2023, despite concerns by Congress and watchdog groups that the stockpiles raise the risk of an accident or theft by terrorists.

The new schedule, outlined in Pentagon documents, means the military won't eliminate its stocks of deadly nerve gases and skin-blistering agents until 2023, instead of 2012. Earlier, the Pentagon received a five-year extension, from the original deadline of 2007.

Pentagon spokesman Chris Isleib said the military remains committed to the job and that the war in Iraq has not drained money from the effort. “Destroying these weapons safely is not a fast or simple process,” Isleib said.

But critics say the plan will ultimately raise costs and create needless risks of an accidental chemical release or terrorist attack.

“To intentionally put tens of thousands of Americans at an unnecessary risk by continuing to store these weapons is reprehensible,” said Craig Williams of the Chemical Weapons Working Group, a Kentucky-based coalition of citizen groups from stockpile sites. “Not only are they ignoring our international treaty obligations, they are undermining the military's … obligation to protect U.S. citizens.

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