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Funds for demilitarization drop more than 30 percent.

The war on terrorism and U.S. armed forces' efforts to improve their ability to fight similar wars in the future are cuffing into the Pentagon's program of scrapping its stockpiles of obsolete, unwanted and dangerous conventional ammunition.

As the services have struggled to modernize their weapons systems, funding for disposal of obsolete munitions--known as demilitarization, or demil for short--has declined. Funds for conventional demil have dropped from a peak of $106 million per year in 1995 to $73 million in 2002, said James Q. Wheeler, director of the U.S. Arm/s Defense Ammunition Center. Now, with a war on, funding apparently is headed even lower.

"In fiscal year 2003, it's projected to be $50 million," he told National Defense. "That's going to be a tremendous challenge for us."

Wheeler's center--located at the McAlister Army Ammunition Plant, near Tulsa, Okla.--conducts munitions-related training and research for all of the armed services.

Currently, the stockpile of conventional ammunition includes more than 453,000 tons of outdated bullets, bombs, artillery shells, torpedoes and missiles, he said. Much of the material in the stockpile today was manufactured as long ago as World War II. Large portions of it are unstable and must be handled, stored and discarded with care, he said.

Munitions are consigned to the stockpile as they are replaced by more technologically advanced versions, Wheeler explained. The process has picked up speed since the end of the Cold War and the subsequent shrinkage of the services, he noted.

"Since 1985, the Army has demilitarized more than 1 million tons of conventional ammunition," Wheeler explained. But during that same period, "almost 1.7 million tons have entered the demilitarization stockpile."

Within the next decade, "the forecast is that nearly 1 million tactical missiles will require demilitarization," Wheeler said. Additionally, he said, increased numbers of strategic rocker motors and nuclear weapons may need to be dismantled.

These munitions come from all military services and other government agencies, such as the Energy Department, which is responsible for dismantling nuclear weapons, Wheeler explained. The Army, selected as the Defense Department's manager of conventional ammunition, is responsible for disposing of obsolete non-nuclear items, he noted.

This effort is managed by the Army Material Command's deputy chief of staff for ammunition, in Alexandria, Va., with a ream at the Operations Support Command, in Rock Island, Ill., running day-to-day operations, Wheeler said.

Conventional demil activities are conducted primarily at a dozen or so Army ammunition plants, depots and arsenals around the United States.

Until recently, most of the work was done by the services.

The traditional way of disposing of munitions was by open burning or open detonation. Known as OB/OD, this method consists of burning or exploding old ammunition in open sites designated for the purpose.

In recent years, however, OB/OD--which involves release of toxic fumes into the atmosphere--has come into conflict with increasingly strict federal environmental, health and safety regulations, Wheeler pointed out.

Also, outright destruction of obsolete munitions increasingly is seen as wasteful, because many of them contain valuable materials that can be recycled. Recyclable materials in ammunition include lead projectiles, brass cartridges and even explosives--known in the industry as energetics--such as gunpowder and TNT.

With this in mind, the Army in 1995 began to move away from open burning and detonation toward a program of resource recovery and recycling--known as "R3" or "R cubed"--as the primary way of disposing of ammunition. The R-cubed process rakes ammunition (the resource), disassembles it, retains valuable components (recovery) and finds new uses for those parts (recycling).

Disposing of explosive material is tricky, and scientists are working to find safer and environmentally friendlier ways to do the job. At the University of California's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory at Berkley and the Indian Head Division of the Navy Surface Warfare Center, in Maryland, researchers have developed a molten salt oxidation process.

Increased Recycling

This procedure neutralizes explosive wastes by immersing them in a molten-salt bath at about 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit, converting organic parts of the waste into non-hazardous steam, carbon dioxide and nitrogen. Inorganic parts, such as metal, remain in the bath, where they can be removed for later recycling.

Livermore has built molten-salt facilities for the Energy Department in Richland, Wash.; the Alt Force at Eglin Alt Force Base, Fla., and the Army in Korea. Another such unit is scheduled to open sometime this year at the Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky.

General Atomics, of San Diego, has come up with a munitions-disposal process called cryofracture. It involves cooling the munition in liquid nitrogen, until the casing becomes brittle and can be cracked open in a hydraulic press. The explosives then can be removed for disposal or recycling. Thousands of explosives have been cryofractured at the Army's Dugway Proving Ground, in Utah. A $6 million cryofracrure plant, under construction at McAlister, is scheduled for completion in 2004.

As such technologies emerge, recycling of munitions is growing, Wheeler said. A decade ago, 87 percent of surplus ammunition was destroyed, he noted. Now, 68 percent is recycled. The Army eventually plans to recycle 75 percent.

In 2001, Congress directed the Army to study the feasibility and costs of eliminating OB/OD altogether. The study found that nearly 95 percent of all OB/OD could be replaced with an 18 percent cost increase, Wheeler said. To do away with all open burning and detonation would increase costs by 32 percent, he noted.

As recycling increases, the Army is relying more and more upon private contractors to do the work, Wheeler explained. A total of 55 percent of the demilitarization budget now is paid to contractors.

Developing technologies to recycle ammunition and other explosive material takes more time available in the usual one-year contract, Wheeler said. Thus, the Army has begun awarding simplified, five-year compacts, known as "indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity," or IDIQ contracts. Since 1999, the Army has awarded a flurry of such contracts to two teams, one headed by General Dynamics Ordnance Systems, of Burlington, Vt., and another led by PB/Nammo Demil LLC, of New York, a partnership of U.S. and Nordic companies.

In 2001, General Dynamics won a $9.8 million job in March, followed by one for $11.7 million in August. Simultaneously, PB/Nammo received awards for $10.7 million and $9.8 million.

The work is for the demilitarization of nine families of conventional ammunition, including pyrotechnics, bombs, high-explosive cartridges, improved conventional munitions, bulk propellants, fuzes and small-caliber ammunition.

Contractar Teams

Both General Dynamics and PB/Nammo have assembled reams of subcontractors to complete the jobs.

The General Dynamics team includes: General Atomics; Arrow Tech, of South Burlington, Vt.; Hitech, in Camden, Ark; ICI, in Joplin, Mo.; Primex, of Marion, Ill.; TPL, in Albuquerque, N.M.; ESE, in Salt Lake City; Alliant Techsystems, in Hopldns, Minn., and EBV, from Germany.

PB/Nammo's subcontractors include the Army's McAlester plant, plus: Crane Army Ammunition Activity, in Crane, Ind.; Tooele Ammunition Depot, in Tooele, Utah; El Dorado Engineering Inc., in Salt Lake City Indiana Ordnance Works, in Charlestown, Ind.; and QuantiTech Inc., in Huntsville, Ala.

Although McAlisrer is a subcontractor in the PB/Nammo team, officials at the Army plant last year complained to the Defense Department inspector general that the service was contracting our demil work, while the capacity for such work at its own ammunition plants is underused. At the end of 2000, "the unused industrial capacity of the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant was 86 percent," according to an audit by the inspector general.

Some of the contracts required ammunition to be shipped from the service's storage facilities in the United States to contractor locations in Germany, Norway and Sweden, Army officials complained.

The audit of three Army facilities--McAlister; Rock Island Arsenal, Ill., and Watervliet Arsenal, N.Y.-found that a recent pilot program encouraging such plants to sell products and services to contractors who provide weapons systems to the military services "has been only minimally successful."

From 1998, when the program began, to January of 2001, the three facilities received only 12 contracts, valued at $6 million, according to the audit. One of these was a five-year, $5.2 million job awarded to McAlister.

Nevertheless, the auditors recommended that the pilot program be extended. They noted that Congress and the Army have been making efforts to improve the program.

Also, the report said: "Overall, the pilot program is beneficial to [the Defense Department] and the military industrial base. "The [department] benefits, because the pilot program eliminates an impediment to obtaining work for the Army industrial facilities. The military industrial base benefits, because it can contract or partner directly with an Army industrial facility for needed articles and services."

Any increased work for the plants, the report noted, would use idle capacity, reduce overhead costs and result in lower prices to customers. "More importantly, the added work would aid the retention of critical manufacturing skills that are being lost because of the lack of work at the industrial facilities," the report said.

The war on terrorism is a major new complication for the demil program. For one thing, money is being poured into paying for the war, rather than routine defense operations, such as demil.

Another concern, after the terrorist attacks of last fall, is the security of the stockpiles, said Wheeler. It is hard to protect, because it is huge and spread out all over the country he said.

"The size of the stockpile is about the same as the all of the ammunition that we shipped to the Gulf War," he said. "It is a drain on our pipeline. It's a vulnerability to our force protection and a constant strain on our resources. It's a challenge that isn't going to go away."
Current Stokpiles of Obsolete Conventional Munitions

Type Tons

Bulk high-explosives 2,264
Bulk propellants and black powder 11,123
Demolition materials 2,368
Depleted uranium 7,235
Fuzzes 10,725
Guided missiles, tactical 24,752
Hexachlorolethane 481
High-explosive bombs 49,070
High-explosive cartridges 44,230
High-explosive components/devices 4,420
High-explosive "D" 32,790
High-explosive depth
charges and underwater munitions 16,136
High-explosive grenades 652
High-explosive improved
conventional munitions/cluster bomb
units and submunitions 90,188
High-explosive land mines 3,033
High-explosive projectiles
and warheads 24,204
High-explosive rockets 1,158
Incendiary/thermite 1,867
Inert 10,966
Large rocket motors 65
Miscellaneous and incinerable
munitions and components 7,308
Propellant charges and increments 55,489
Propellant munitions/components 25,874
non-frag/tracers 10,589
Small-caliber ammunition 4,265
Smoke (hexachlorolethane, colored,
sulfur trioxide in chlorosulfonic
acid, red phosphorous) 667
Smoke (Riot Control) 1,586
Smoke (white phosphorous or
plasticized white phosphorous) 6,814
Spotting dyes 300
Torpedoes 2,221
Variety of unidentifiable
ammunition and components 165
TOTAL 453,005

Source: Defense Ammunition Center
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Title Annotation:war on terrorism depletes Dept of Defense funding
Author:Kennedy, Harold
Publication:National Defense
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2002
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