Deputy Director-General Visits Washington DC and Anniston Chemical Weapons Destruction Facility

28 October 2011

The Deputy Director-General of the OPCW, Ms. Grace Asirwatham, paid an official visit to the United States of America from 17 to 21 October 2011. This is the first official visit of Ms. Grace Asirwatham to the United States as the Deputy Director-General since assuming that office earlier this year. 

The programme of Ms. Asirwatham consisted of meetings with senior officials in Washington and a visit to the chemical weapons destruction facility in Anniston, Alabama. She was accompanied by Mr. Henry de Croutte, the new Director of Verification and Ms. Gabriela Coman-Enescu, Senior Chemical Demilitarization Officer.

The Deputy Director-General met with the Honorable Andrew Weber, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Defense Programs, Mr. Frank Rose, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance; and with Mr. Alexander K. Lopes Jr., Director of the Office of Nonproliferation and Treaty Compliance at the Department of Commerce and Mr. Phillip R. Dolliff, Director of the Office of Threat Reduction. 

The discussions with the senior State officials were centered on the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention including, inter alia, the 29 April 2012 deadline for completing the destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles, review of progress made in the destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles in the United States, issues related to industry inspections, status of national implementation and universality, international cooperation activities and the ongoing discussions on future priorities of the OPCW. The Deputy Director-General commended the United States for its commitment to meeting its obligations under the Convention and for its continuing support to the work of the OPCW. 

At the Chemical Weapons Destruction Facility in Anniston, Alabama the Deputy Director-General was received by Mr. Carmen Spencer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army, Mr. Philip M. Trued, Chief of Staff of the Anniston Army Depot and Lieutenant Colonel Willie J. Fluker, Commander of the Anniston Chemical Activity. Detailed briefings were conducted, including a general overview of the status of destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles in the United States and the associated technical, regulatory and financial challenges. 

The briefings also focused on the activities of the Anniston facility in terms of successful completion of destruction operations and the commencement of closure activities as well as the plans with regard to the two new sites under construction at Pueblo and Blue Grass. A team of officials including Mr. Conrad Whyne, Director of US Army Chemical Materials Agency and Mr. Timothy K. Garett, Site Project Manager of the Anniston Chemical Agent Disposal Facility participated in the briefings. Ms. Tamara Fitzgerald, Deputy Permanent Representative of the United States in The Hague also attended the programme organized in Washington and Anniston for the Deputy Director General.

The Anniston depot was one of nine chemical weapons storage locations in the United States of America and used to store GB and VX nerve agents as well as blister agent, amounting to 7.4 percent of the total U.S. stockpile. The Chemical Materials Agency (CMA) began disposing of these weapons in August 2003 using high-temperature incineration technology and completed operations on 22 September 2011.