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Stockpiled nerve agent should be destroyed sooner, not later

Posted: Thursday, January 31, 2002

The Army needs to stop ''exploring options'' and commit now to speeding up the destruction of the deadly VX nerve agent stockpiled at Newport in western Indiana. Otherwise, it is inviting disaster.

... Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., met with Assistant Secretary of the Army Mario Fiori and came away optimistic the Defense Department would implement a plan to destroy the agent by 2003, instead of the previous target date of 2006. Later in the day, an Army spokeswoman said any announcement was premature.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, a no-fly zone has been in place over the Newport Chemical Depot, where 1,269 tons of VX are stored. Until every drop of the oily substance is eliminated, the facility will be a tempting target for terrorists bent on mass destruction.

The Army has been considering ways to destroy the agent since 1984. Newport was one of a half-dozen facilities that produced chemical agents stockpiled for deterrence during the Cold War. One drop on the skin or one whiff of the gas can kill within minutes.

There's enough VX at Newport to wipe out the human race. Getting rid of it should be an urgent homeland defense priority.

-- The Indianapolis Star

Jan. 24



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