National Defense Authorization Act Addresses Priorities at Home and Abroad
‘The use of chemical weapons is a stain on human history. It’s time for civilized nations the world over to turn the page once and for all. And the Blue Grass Army Depot is ready to do its part. So this year’s NDAA will authorize the funding that facility needs — and the resources for countless installations across the country that each play important roles in their own communities.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding the National Defense Authorization Act:
“The National Defense Authorization Act is one of the most significant pieces of legislation we tackle each year. It addresses many national and international priorities. But underneath, there are countless local stories — of servicemembers, families, communities, and installations throughout our country.
“A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to help cut the ribbon on a new state-of-the-art chemical weapons destruction facility at the Blue Grass Army Depot in Madison County. For decades, this Depot has been home to a more than 500-ton stockpile of lethal chemical agents. Now, following years of hard work and advocacy, it will instead be the place where this toxic legacy of war is unwound. Earlier this month, the new facility safely destroyed its very first munition. And this is just the very beginning. This work will continue until the entire stockpile is eliminated.
“This Kentucky accomplishment reminds us of the terrible role that chemical weapons have played throughout history. Mankind has conscripted science onto the battlefield since warfare’s earliest days, from contaminating water to poisoning arrows and bullets. But the fast-paced industrialization of the early 1900s brought forth a whole new wave of horrors. The use of weapons like mustard gas caused devastation in the trenches of World War I.
“President Franklin Roosevelt, responding to the proliferation of these weapons by our adversaries, mobilized an unprecedented level of chemical production during World War II. And while neither side deployed chemical agents on the battlefield, their murderous use in Nazi concentration camps and Japanese experiments rank among the worst atrocities ever. And then, during the Cold War, these horrific weapons brought new challenges to our nation’s strategic defense and to communities like Richmond, Kentucky.
“As the first chemical agents arrived in my home state in the 1940s, they were stored at the Blue Grass Army Depot -- only miles away from schools and thousands of families. When I joined the Senate in 1985, the Army had recently announced plans to begin the destruction of Blue Grass’ stores through a process called ‘incineration’—literally burning the agents. Imagine that for a moment. Just throwing a warhead into an oven or burn pit.
“Fortunately, and understandably, nearby residents were concerned about releasing toxins into the air. Those fears only grew as we learned about numerous nerve-gas leaks at the Depot that had occurred over the previous decade. What happened next was a textbook example of representative democracy. The people of Kentucky used their voice in the U.S. Senate, changed the policy of this nation, and made the world a safer place.
“It’s been my privilege for the last three decades to work alongside this community for the safe destruction of these deadly chemicals. This effort would not have been possible without allies like Craig Williams, an incredible local leader who pored over every detail until he became the leading expert on the Depot. Together, we stopped the Army’s incineration plans and convinced the Department of Defense to adopt the safest and most advanced alternative for the responsible destruction of the stockpile. The fight wasn’t easy. But it was a fight worth having. Not only to protect the Kentuckians potentially in harm’s way; but also to uphold our national commitment to destroy these terrible weapons.
“In 1984, President Reagan asserted America’s leadership in calling for an international prohibition on chemical weapons. The next decade we made international progress toward that same goal by joining the Chemical Weapons Convention. The continued work in Madison County is part of this historic commitment.
“Now, unfortunately, while the U.S. is taking these steps, these horrific weapons still pose a threat to international peace. Some of our adversaries are choosing a different path by preserving, modernizing, and using their stockpiles. Remember, Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own people was the subject of the Obama administration’s failure to enforce its own so-called ‘red line’. We also saw Russian operatives deploy advanced nerve agents in the middle of a residential neighborhood in the United Kingdom just last year.
“Thankfully, President Trump has taken a different approach to American leadership. On two occasions, this administration has ordered strikes on Syrian military targets after the Assad regime crossed the red line. As my colleagues remember, we’ve also deported Russian agents and placed new sanctions following the chemical attack on Sergei Skripal. The Senate has taken action as well. The first piece of legislation we passed this Congress, S.1, includes the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act which would hold the Assad regime and its enablers more accountable for recent atrocities.
“The use of chemical weapons is a stain on human history. It’s time for civilized nations the world over to turn the page once and for all. And the Blue Grass Army Depot is ready to do its part. So this year’s NDAA will authorize the funding that facility needs — and the resources for countless installations across the country that each play important roles in their own communities. I hope my Senate colleagues will join me in keeping our commitment to finally finish this national security mission.”
Related Issues: Homeland Security, NDAA, America's Military