ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - The U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency announced Dec. 10 the safe destruction of 50 percent of the United States\' chemical agent stockpile since the April 29, 1997 entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention, accomplishing yet another landmark in its chemical demilitarization program.

"Last June, we met the Chemical Weapons Convention 45 percent destruction milestone of the agent that was in the U.S. stockpile when the treaty entered into force in 1997 for the United States," said CMA Acting Director Dale Ormond.

"Reaching the 50 percent agent destruction mark shows that the Army's chemical weapons demilitarization program has truly hit its stride in destroying chemical agent safely and efficiently."

The CWC, formally known as the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling, and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction, is a treaty among more than 170 nations to ban development and use of chemical weapons and to destroy any existing chemical weapons stockpiles and production facilities in countries that have ratified the CWC.

Entry into force is when the signatory nations began complying with its provisions. When the CWC entered into force, the United States stockpile contained approximately 30,000 tons of chemical nerve and blister agents.

Since then, the nation's first chemical demilitarization facility, located 800 miles southwest of Hawaii on Johnston Atoll, completed its mission in 2000. The Aberdeen Chemical Agent Disposal Facility in Aberdeen, Md., completed destruction of another 5 percent of the stockpile in 2006. Both facilities have since closed.

The five remaining CMA chemical destruction facilities are currently operating and are scheduled to destroy more than 78 percent of the U.S. stockpile by 2017. That, added to the chemical agent destroyed at Johnston Atoll and Aberdeen, will bring the total amount of agent destroyed by CMA to 90 percent.

The final 10 percent of the U.S. stockpile will be destroyed by disposal facilities presently under construction in Pueblo, Colo., and near Richmond, Ky., under a separate Department of Defense program.

"The United States has established technological leadership by implementing both incineration and neutralization agent destruction systems, providing the rest of the CWC member nations with a model of safe disposal-safe for the workers, the public and the environment," said Col. Robert Billington, CMA's Project Manager for Chemical Stockpile Elimination.

"As we share our technologies and lessons learned with other nations, we look forward to a world without chemical weapons," he added.

"The Army and CMA have clearly demonstrated that both technologies work well. It's not only a technology success story but a testament to the skill and expertise of all the highly trained men and women who work in our facilities every day," added CMA's Deputy Director Conrad Whyne.

Reaching the 50 percent destruction milestone is a major step in achieving the final goal of 100 percent destruction of the nation's chemical weapons materiel.