Parker, APG manager, to head new Army unit

Agency to oversee stores of chemical weapons

February 23, 2003|By Lane Harvey Brown | Lane Harvey Brown,SUN STAFF

Michael A. Parker, deputy commander of one of Aberdeen Proving Ground's key commands, has been named acting director of a new Army agency designed to streamline and improve the storage and destruction of the nation's chemical weapons stockpile.

The Chemical Materials Agency, a provisional agency expected to become a permanent entity in October, brings destruction and storage functions together under one umbrella, said Mickey Morales, spokesman for the Soldier and Biological Chemical Command.

Parker has been the program manager for the Pentagon's Assembled Chemical Weapons Assessment (ACWA) program since its inception in 1997. The ACWA program helped identify and develop alternatives to incineration for chemical weapons disposal at sites in Colorado and Kentucky.

Craig Williams, director of the Chemical Weapons Working Group, a Kentucky-based group that monitors the Army's destruction activities, said that "Mr. Parker has earned the respect of federal and local elected officials and community members because he has treated everyone with respect, rather than secrecy or contempt.

"We are confident Mr. Parker will maintain his commitment to true community involvement."

Parker said combining activities once divided under disparate commands is a positive step for chemical demilitarization.

"The CMA brings all the parties under one roof necessary to carry out the mission of the safe storage and elimination of obsolete and aging chemical weapons in the United States," said Parker, adding that he plans to work closely with community members at the nation's eight stockpile sites.

"I have learned that establishing and promoting a cooperative working relationship between a broad spectrum of stakeholders can and will yield positive results," he said.

Morales said Parker brings experience in research, storage and destruction of chemical weapons to the new job. He also has a good working relationship with communities at the sites.

"Mr. Parker has gained the confidence of communities all around the country in his role with the assembled chemical weapons program," Morales said.

Parker will retain his role in ACWA, which means he will oversee sites using both incinerators and alternative technologies.

"Even sites which now have incinerators can benefit from the kind of honesty and transparency Mr. Parker has established in the ACWA program," said Brenda Lindell of the Anniston, Ala., group Families Concerned About Nerve Gas Incineration.

The agency's creation is part of a reorganization of the chemical demilitarization program ordered in January by Secretary of the Army Thomas E. White.

The Army's stockpiles are located in Tooele, Utah; Pine Bluff, Ark.; Anniston, Ala; Pueblo, Colo., Richmond, Ky.; Newport, Ind.; and Aberdeen, where destruction of the mustard agent stocks is scheduled to begin next month.

Morales said the Army has destroyed 8,082 tons of chemical agent, more than 25 percent of the original stockpile.

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