Recognizing a Need
- “I have the feeling that the increased use of toxic chemicals in conflict leads to the stigma diminishing. … It’s very easy to produce some chemical agents, and the fear effect it produces is powerful.” —Dr. Johnny Nehme, Scientist & Nuclear Weapons Expert
Chemical warfare, which is the use of toxic materials as weapons, has been a concern for centuries. Yet, it was not until the post-Cold War era that an organization presented a practical, time-sensitive plan to rid the world of the threat of these weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Chemical weapons pose a moral dilemma regarding their excessive and long-term physical effects on intended targets, including civilians. In the context of emergency management and national security, chemical weapons carry the ominous risk of them ending up in the wrong hands.
In April 1997, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), a Netherlands-based intergovernmental agency, committed to overseeing the elimination of this WMD through the Chemical Weapons Convention. As part of the disarmament agreement, the original participants, including the United States, were tasked with destroying all chemical weapons stockpiles within ten years.
With its mission to build a safe, secure, and resilient world in mind, since 2010, IEM has continued to assist our country’s commitment to arms control by bolstering major chemical demilitarization efforts. As a subcontractor to science and technology firm Leidos, IEM supports the Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (PEO ACWA), the U.S. government organization that is “responsible for the safe and environmentally compliant destruction of the remaining U.S. chemical weapons.”
The IEM Approach
For more than a decade, IEM has provided public outreach services and other support for the PEO ACWA at its headquarters in Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, and its chemical stockpile sites at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (BGCAPP) at the Blue Grass Army Depot near Richmond, Kentucky, and the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (PCAPP) at the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot in Pueblo, Colorado.
IEM’s public engagement and communications expertise supports the PEO ACWA in effectively conveying their message and connecting with communities and stakeholders for measurable results. IEM’s services include crisis communication and outreach, digital engagement, grassroots organization and public outreach, and media strategy.
Additionally, IEM provides staffing in safety, information technology, and quality at BGCAPP.
Innovating for Resilience
IEM combines the latest technology and our experienced experts to increase community awareness of PEO ACWA’s chemical weapons destruction efforts.
IEM’s creative team has been consistently lauded for its performance including the promotion of the BGCAPP Start of Agent Operations event in May 2019. Kentucky political officials and key stakeholders attended the public event, which recognized the official full-scale start of chemical weapons destruction operations at the site.
In 2020, IEM was a Gold Winner at the Hermes Creative Awards for both the Social Content Campaign in Social Media and the Branded Graphic Suite for Design in Print Media categories for this event.
“This was an unbelievable event,” Abu Talib, IEM’s former Director of Defense Programs previously said. “Congratulations to our entire team for providing exceptional support and products for this significant milestone in the history of the U.S. Army’s chemical demilitarization program.”
IEM successfully helped manage several other special events for PEO ACWA, including back-to-back start-of-operations ceremonies in Colorado, recognized as the 2014 best special event in the entire U.S. Army judged by the Keith L. Ware Public Affairs competition.
Over the decades, IEM has facilitated public outreach activities including community fairs, presentations, meetings, and tours. Additionally, the team produces written and visual information including news releases, fact sheets, advertisements, and web-based materials such as e-newsletters, social media, and videos.
A client offered the following feedback regarding the IEM Public Relations team at Pueblo:
- “As you know, building and maintaining a strong communications team that includes PCD is a priority for me. It pays huge dividends for all of us when calm turns to crisis, and the trust we’ve built comes into play when confidence in our communications and messaging may be questioned. When they can see the level of quality we put into our products, and the experience we show when we support them during exercises, the confidence gained carries over into all other aspects of our relationship.”
IEM is proud of our accomplishments at both sites and the important work that our client is undertaking, which are examples of OPCW’s diligence and commitment to eliminate chemical weapons and prevent their reemergence.
In 2013, the OPCW earned the Nobel Peace Prize for working “toward universal elimination of chemical weapons” as Syria waged a civil war using chemical weapons.
The Nobel Committee said, “The conventions and the work of the OPCW have defined the use of chemical weapons as a taboo under international law.”
The OPCW has made routine regulatory visits to the Colorado and Kentucky sites. Even throughout the pandemic, the OPCW monitored activities round the clock.
Initially, the United States agreed to the treaty terms to remove nine chemical weapons stockpiles by April 2007 with a possible extension until 2012. However, both deadlines proved to be unfeasible, and the OPCW provided additional time for the safe destruction of the chemical weapons.
Now, the United States is on track to destroy its entire chemical weapons stockpile by September 2023.
As of December 16, 2022, significant milestones have been reached at the two facilities, specifically at
- 6 tons (63.16%) of the chemical weapons have been destroyed since June 2019
- Originally, the site stored more than 523 tons of mustard and nerve agent in rockets and projectiles
- 2,391.6 tons (91.52%) of chemical agents have been destroyed since March 2015
- Originally, the site stored 2,613.2 tons of chemical agents
Each site is currently in the “Operations” phase and nearing the final “Closure” phase.
Since 1990, seven of the nine stockpiles have been safely destroyed forever ridding the world of these terrible WMDs.
The seven other nations that have reported stockpiles to the OPCW have completed their chemical weapon destruction obligations. Additionally, recently finished its annual chemical emergency preparedness training, which was held in Pakistan, for its Member States to prepare first responders for incidents involving toxic chemicals and chemical weapons.
IEM values this opportunity to support safeguarding the world from chemical warfare and eradicating this specific threat for future generations.
We are available to assist with WMD demilitarization, preparedness, analysis, and other related projects for clients who also are committed to joining the efforts to safeguard the nation and create a safe, secure and resilient world.
U.S. Chemical Weapons Stockpile Destruction Progress
PCAPP Chemical Agent Tonnage
BGCAPP Chemical Agent Tonnage
OPCW What is a Chemical Weapon?
An effective killer: Five things you need to know about chemical weapons
Colorado Chemical Weapon Stockpile Site on Target to Meet Destruction Deadline
United States Chemical Weapons Stockpile Destruction
IEM Wins Gold in International Competition for Creative Professionals
BGCAPP: Sept. 2023 completion eyed for destruction of U.S. chemical weapons stockpile
OPCW History Looking back helps us look forward
OPCW finishes 2022 chemical emergency preparedness training cycles