Defense cuts not expected to hurt Pueblo weapons destruction

The newly announced cuts in defense spending are not expected to affect the progress of the destruction of a chemical weapons stockpile located in Pueblo, Colorado.

Craig Williams, the head of the Chemical Weapons Working Group based in Kentucky, said that he believes the signs are positive that the cuts will not impact the Pueblo stockpile program, according to

“All indications are that within the defense budget, this program will remain at funding levels necessary to continue acceleration of the project,” Williams said, reports.

Regardless, Kathy DeWeese, a spokeswoman for the Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives program, said that there will be no budget figures released before February 7. AWCA oversees the elimination programs at Pueblo, as well as those at the Bluegrass Army Depot in Kentucky.

Support in Congress, according to Williams, is what will keep the project running smoothly, reports. Williams said that funding is predominantly bipartisan, with Colorado’s two Democratic senators joining with Kentucky’s Republican Senator Mitch McConnell to provide the necessary impetus.

Congress has ordered that the weapons be destroyed by 2017, even though that means missing an international treaty deadline.

The ACWA’s budget request for fiscal year 2011 totals $240.2 million.

Managers are still waiting for approval. The request is less than that for 2010, but officials point out that most of the construction work in Pueblo has been completed. Work has now shifted to the installation of equipment and developing the systems that will be used to destroy 2,611 tons of mustard gas agent beginning in 2015, reports.