The Army and Chemical Weapons Destruction: Implementation in a Changing Context
Lambright, W. Henry, Gereben, Agnes, Cerveny, Lee, Policy Studies Journal
The Cold War left behind a number of environmental legacies. One of the most serious and complicated is that of chemical weapons. During the Cold War, the United States accumulated a stockpile of approximately 30,000 tons of lethal chemical weapons, more than any other nation in the world except Russia, which has a declared stockpile of 40,000 tons (Smithson & Lenihan, 1996). National policy and an international treaty ratified by the United States attest to the nation's intent to destroy the aging chemical weapons on its soil, yet relatively little has happened in implementation of these domestic and international policies because of struggles for control over the decisionmaking process. The Army, the federal agency charged with carrying out destruction policy though its chemical demilitarization (Chem Demil) program, has seen its power to accomplish that mission contested and diffused. The politicization of chemical weapons destruction has raised costs, delayed action, and left frustration on all sides.
This paper analyzes the policy process surrounding the efforts by the U.S. government to destroy chemical weapons. It examines the politics of chemical weapons destruction in the United States from 1985 to 1998 and studies the Army and its struggles with shifting paradigms of decisionmaking in the post-Cold War era. Our analysis seeks to understand how the Army increasingly has been affected by the proliferation of actors at the federal, state, local, and international levels. We show how what began as an apparently straightforward task, to reduce the U.S. supply of chemical weapons at eight continental storage sites, became marred in conflict and dissension during the implementation phase as the command-and-control model gave way to influence from grass-roots organizations and international pressures intensified. The seemingly arcane dispute over technological choice of chemical weapons destruction masks diverse interests and values among those involved. What we see is both a change in the process used to reach decisions and implement policy and a change in the level of government in which those decisions are being made. Chemical weapons destruction is an issue of policy that cuts across federal, state, local, and foreign policy concerns, and it promises to be on the agenda for a long time to come.
To understand the chemical weapons disposal problem, it is necessary to study the actors and debates over the years since 1985 when Congress directed the Department of Defense (DOD) to dismantle the chemical stockpile. This paper emphasizes policy implementation, a process that has turned out to be far more controversial, lengthy, and expensive than originally anticipated. The debate has entailed three distinct phases, or "streams of policy activity," which start at different points, move in parallel, occasionally intersect, and ultimately converge.
Phase 1, which we call the federal stream, was characterized by policymaking largely in Washington, involving the Army, Congress, and various other interests. The dominant question was whether the Army's preferred method of destruction was acceptable to Congress and thus could be implemented swiftly. The assumption during this phase was that once the most appropriate technology had been chosen, the Army would simply implement this program universally in each of the chemical weapons sites (D. Misiewicz, personal communication, March 3, 1997).
Phase 2, the intergovernmental stream, highlighted further debate among federal, state, and local actors over the Army's choice of disposal technology, called baseline incineration. Ultimately accepted at the federal level, baseline incineration ran into a chemical weapons equivalent of NIMBY (not in my backyard). Opposition at the state and local level stymied implementation by the Army and led to conflicts with environmental activists and affected publics at one weapons site after another. Baseline incineration ultimately was deemed unacceptable at 4 of the 8 continental sites. In this phase, the question was how much impact these additional actors would have on the implementation of the program and the technology used.
Phase 3, the international stream, reflects the U.S. effort to make chemical weapons destruction an international implementation process, governed by treaty, subject to international inspection. It focuses on agreements with Russia, the signing and ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), and the role of technological choice in these contexts. Now, the question was how the Army would deal with the cross-pressures from international and local forces in implementing the program.
Our analysis leans heavily on a bureaucratic politics framework, which emphasizes the relationships between different branches of the government, including bureaucratic competition (Allison, 1971; Wilson, 1989). This paper examines the interplay of the Army with other actors in Washington, DC, the states, and various localities that have largely driven or hindered the process of weapons destruction. Our theoretical framework emphasizes the ability of the Army to achieve its goals and demonstrates how other actors strengthen or limit the Army's capacity to implement this program. As a public organization, the Army's influence in asserting its claims turns on internal cohesion and expertise as well as a number of external factors, including its political support from the President, Congress, and other forces. Strategies employed by the Army, especially the use of financial and informational resources to win support of communities at the site, can be critical. The Army and other actors vie to control a technological program, and each actor employs strategies to dominate the program, including the use of rhetoric to appeal to the larger public and the building of coalitions in support of particular positions.
A key aspect of the debate over the technology to destroy chemical weapons concerns how "risk" is perceived and determined by various actors in the contest, including the Army and the public. Douglas and Wildavsky (1982) have asserted that risk is not something that can be measured objectively, but rather decisions entailing risk often are governed by subjective factors such as socio-cultural processes. Risk perceptions often are rooted in moral, political, and economic values that are culturally derived. While some risks are elevated, others are downplayed. Actors involved in the debate over chemical weapons destruction have different perceptions of how risks are constructed and communicated (Palm, 1990). As more actors become involved in the implementation process, they bring to the table different perceptions of risk that often come into conflict with one another. A risk acceptable to the Army may be unacceptable to a given state environmental protection agency or to civilian neighbors of the weapons storage sites. For the Army, the greatest risk was to do nothing and allow weapons to leak into the atmosphere (Schneider, 1991). For others, it has been perceived as more risky to use a particular technological approach to destroy the weapons. Both Jasanoff (1986) and Perrow (1984) have observed how bureaucratic and other competition can underlie risk decisions. Risk assessments and their communication are important to the strategies used by the Army and its opposition to mobilize support for their respective positions.
Finally, the domestic debate is influenced by international questions concerning chemical weapons destruction. International relations theory traditionally assumes the nation-state to be a unitary actor, and perhaps there was utility to this view in a time when national security superseded virtually all other policy considerations, but in the post-Cold War period such a conception no longer holds, as the issue of national security has been infused with nonmilitary considerations such as environmental and social issues (Renner, 1996). In addition to the changing conceptualization of national security in the post-Cold War era, interdependency theorists argue that nation-states have lost some of their sovereignty as economic, social, and environmental issues have risen on the global policy agenda (Keohane & Nye, 1989; Rosenau, 1990). Such a perspective is useful here because it accounts for how state and local actors, including nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), can be influential in an issue that involves foreign policy and arms control and how policies by non-U.S. players can affect actions in the United States.
Thus, by examining the case of chemical weapons destruction within the previously mentioned theoretical framework, this paper seeks to illuminate the hurdles associated with implementing …
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Publication information: Article title: The Army and Chemical Weapons Destruction: Implementation in a Changing Context. Contributors: Lambright, W. Henry - Author, Gereben, Agnes - Author, Cerveny, Lee - Author. Journal title: Policy Studies Journal. Volume: 26. Issue: 4 Publication date: Winter 1998. Page number: 703. © 1999 Policy Studies Organization. COPYRIGHT 1998 Gale Group.
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