On the high plains at this city’s eastern edge, fields of concrete bunkers arrayed like a vast cemetery hold most of the remaining stockpile of the nation’s chemical weapons. The earth-covered “igloos” with their reinforced concrete headwalls contain 2,611 tons of mustard agent in mortar rounds and artillery shells.
Slated for destruction since at least 1985, the munitions are old, leaky and expensive to protect.
The process of dismantling them is 29 years behind schedule and $33.8 billion over budget, according to Defense Department documents and historians.
Ronald Reagan was president when Congress first directed the Army to eliminate its stockpile of 31,500 tons of mustard agent, sarin and VX developed by the U.S. military for use in war. At that time, the Army thought the job would be done by 1994 and cost $1.7 billion, according to the Henry L. Stimson Center, a Washington, D.C.-based research institute.
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