Kentucky Weapons Disposal Project Could See Budget Increase

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Chemical weapons disposal projects in
Kentucky and Colorado could see a major increase in funding under a
proposed 2009 budget President Bush sent to Congress Monday.

Bush is proposing $398 million split between the sites in
Richmond, Ky., and Pueblo, Colo., which plan to use neutralization
rather than incineration to destroy the chemical weapons to comply
with an international treaty.

Although the president's budget is just a blueprint, with
Congress later setting the nation's spending initiatives for the
year, the proposal does signal renewed interest from the
administration toward disposing of the weapons without further

The spending level is about $50 million more than the program
received the past two years. Three years ago, the White House asked
for only $31 million for the sites - a level that would have put
operations in a holding pattern in Kentucky and Colorado.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has been one of
several lawmakers pressuring Defense Secretary Robert Gates to bulk
up spending for the neutralization sites. In a news release Monday,
McConnell said Gates had written to him last month and signaled he
was behind a spending increase for the program.

Under a measure McConnell pushed through Congress last year, the
weapons sites now have until 2017 to destroy the chemical weapons
stockpiles left over from the Cold War.

The (Louisville) Courier-Journal reported Monday that Gates'
letter suggests he is looking at destroying the weapons even
earlier - perhaps by 2012. McConnell said he was pleased with the

"The bottom line is, more dollars plus an earlier deadline
equals quicker and safer disposal," McConnell said.

Blue Grass is housing 523 tons of chemical weapons containing
sarin, VX and mustard gas. The disposal site is currently under
construction, and the destruction process is expected to take about
two years once the buildings are finished.

Last August, a rocket leaked nearly one gallon of liquid nerve
agent - the largest leak ever at the depot. Army officials said the
public and employees were never at risk of exposure, although some
members of the public have raised concerns about not getting word
of the extent of the leak until months later.

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