Quick Takes

Defense bill paves way for ‘new missions’ at Blue Grass Army Depot, says McConnell

By: - December 14, 2023 3:49 pm

Blue Grass Army Depot entrance (Photo by BGAD)

The newly passed national defense act “lays the groundwork for Blue Grass Army Depot to take on new missions,” said U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, who called for “ramping up production of defense materials at installations” like the 14,600-acre site in Madison County.

The depot housed the United States’ last stockpile of chemical weapons, the last of which were chemically neutralized and destroyed on July 7. For years Kentuckians battled plans to incinerate chemical weapons in the densely populated area before the Army agreed to use a chemical neutralization process instead.

Mitch McConnell (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The defense legislation which Congress approved Thursday includes a requirement that the Army pursue opportunities identified in a feasibility study of potential reuses of the Kentucky facility, says a release from McConnell, the Senate’s Republican leader. 

The chemical-weapons neutralization and destruction plant, roads and related facilities represent a $2 billion investment by taxpayers, says the feasibility study released in September. Among its recommendations is adapting BGAD to produce chemicals critical to the defense industry.

McConnell on Thursday said he also had secured a provision requiring the Department of Defense to “onshore production of crucial chemicals by 2028, addressing a supply-chain vulnerability in 15 chemicals essential for explosive materials and currently produced overseas in countries like China. The provision requires consideration of BGAD’s suitability to meet this vital need.”

Other possible reuses identified in the feasibility study include producing metal shipping containers or 155-mm artillery munitions metal components, expanding BGAD’s security guard training program and collaborating with the Army National Guard on a centralized Army regional security monitoring center.

The study said the depot has the capacity to execute all five of the recommended reuses simultaneously.

It will be late 2027 before the final phase of weapons destruction —  cleanup, processing secondary wastes and completing administrative tasks — is completed, the feasibility study said.

McConnell said other provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act that benefit Kentucky are:

  • $39 million for a multipurpose training range at Fort Campbell.
  • $16.4 million for a modern maintenance facility at Kentucky Army National Guard.
  • $3.3 million to plan and design a state-of-the-art munitions supply facility at the Blue Grass Army Depot.
  • $2.5 million to plan and design a new air traffic control tower at Fort Campbell.
  • $2.0 million to complete construction of a Kentucky National Guard headquarters building in Frankfort
  • Study requirement to support the Army Human Resources Command’s 2030 Transformation Plan at Ft. Knox.
  • Continued support for the University of Louisville’s cybersecurity workforce development partnership with the National Security Agency.
  • Vital investments in Kentucky’s defense manufacturing and innovation industry.

McConnell said the NDAA also authorizes the following provisions to support service members and their families:

  • Secures a well-deserved 5.2% pay raise for servicemembers, the highest pay raise in 22 years to offset inflation.
  • Provides scholarship opportunities for recruits enrolled in community and junior colleges and increases scholarship opportunities for those pursuing military health careers.
  • Authorizes quality improvements for military enlisted barracks, including the replacement of barracks that do not meet basic standards.

 

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