Pentagon scrutinizing weapons neutralization plants

Three Pentagon officials have visited the construction areas of several chemical weapon neutralization plants in Kentucky and Colorado to intensely scrutinize the plants' spending habits under the Nunn-McCurdy Amendment, though they have assured local officials that the project is not in danger.

The Nunn-McCurdy Amendment was passed in 1983 in an effort to reduce cost growth in the procurement of weapons. When costs exceed estimates by over 15 percent, Congress is notified. A program can be terminated if it overruns by more than 25 percent unless it has secretary of defense assurances, the Richmond Register reports.

The assurances are that the program is essential to national security, that there is no suitable alternative, that the new estimates are reasonable and that management structure is adequate to control costs.

The cost of the destruction-by-neutralization project was estimated when the plant was one-third complete, according to the Richmond Register.

"Now that the plants are fully designed, an accurate estimate of the costs can be made, and that's what triggered the Nunn-McCurdy review," Craig Williams, the Chemical Destruction Citizens Advisory Board co-chair said, according to the Richmond Register.

Williams expects the project to move forward as a result of Kentucky's delegates being well placed in the Senate and because the project is currently under construction. The plant in Pueblo, Colorado, is over 70 percent complete, while the plant near Richmond, Kentucky, is 30 percent complete.

"This far along in these projects, I think there is no way either Congress or the Defense Department is going to call a halt or radically revise them," Williams said, according to the Richmond Register.