Army launches biggest project in past 20 years to dispose of surplus and obsolete munitions
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill., 11 June 2015. The U.S. Army is spending more than one-third of a billion dollars to get rid of conventional munitions over the next five years -- the largest effort over at least the past two decades to dispose of non-nuclear ammunition, bombs, and explosives that the U.S. military no longer needs.
Officials of the Army Contracting Command at Rock Island Arsenal, Ill., awarded two five-year contracts Wednesday totaling $381.5 million for the demilitarization recycling, reuse, and disposal of various conventional munitions.
The munitions demilitarization contracts are going to General Dynamics Ordinance and Tactical Systems Inc. in St. Petersburg, Fla., and to Expal USA Inc. in Longview, Texas. General Dynamics is receiving a $225.6 million contract, and Expal is receiving a $155.9 million contract.
Demilitarization describes a weapons disposal process in which members of the defense industry with explosives expertise safely dismantle or destroy ammunition, munitions, and other explosives, while recovering and recycling valuable materials.
Examples of conventional munitions are bullets, bombs, mortars, artillery rounds, and other explosive weapons. Often it is munitions manufacturers that handle the job of munitions demilitarization.
Munitions demilitarization is nothing new. It involves the industrial-level dismantling, recycling, and disposal of military munitions that have become surplus, obsolete, or both. It's an often-crucial process to get rid of military explosives that can become dangerously unstable over time.
What is new, however, is the sheer size of the munitions-demilitarization effort announced Wednesday. No other conventional munitions-demilitarization contracts the U.S. Department of Defense has awarded over the past 20 years have come even close to this size.
The only thing similar was a $324.1 million contract awarded on 25 Aug. 1999 to Day & Zimmerman in Philadelphia to manage the Hawthorne Army Depot, an ammunition-storage center in Western Nevada. This contract involved much more than just munitions demilitarization.
Hawthorne Army Depot stores conventional munitions; demilitarizes and disposes of unserviceable, obsolete, and surplus munitions; and performs inspections and renovations to ensure munitions readiness.
Conventional munitions demilitarization is much different from managing chemical and nuclear weapons. The U.S. military leaders spend more money and employ vastly different procedures in handling and disposing of chemical and nuclear munitions than they do for conventional munitions.
Since 1995 the U.S. military has awarded 14 contracts involving conventional munitions demilitarization, according to Pentagon documents. Typically these contracts are for between $5 million and $40 million.
U.S. military forces are drawing down operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other areas of Southwest Asia after nearly 14 continuous years of military action in this region. At the same time military budgets are decreasing, and the military services are drawing down the sizes of their forces.