Chemical Weapons: Lessons Learned Program Generally Effective but Could Be Improved and Expanded: GAO-02-890

September 2002
GAO Reports;9/10/2002, p1
Government Document
The Army has been tasked to destroy 31,500 tons of highly toxic chemical agents by April 2007, the deadline set by an international treaty for the elimination of all chemical weapon stockpiles. To destroy the weapons, the Department of Defense (DOD) established the Army Chemical Demilitarization Program. The Army has destroyed over one-quarter of the U.S. stockpile as of March 2002. Originally, the Chem-Demil Program consisted only of the Chemical Stockpile Disposal Project, which was initiated in 1988 to incinerate chemical weapons at nine storage sites. In response to public concern about incineration, in 1994 Congress established the Alternative Technologies and Approaches Project to investigate alternatives to the baseline incineration process. The Chemical Stockpile Disposal Project operates a Programmatic Lessons Learned Program whose aim is to enhance safety, reduce or avoid unnecessary costs, and maintain the incineration schedule. This program has successfully supported the incineration project's primary goal to safely destroy chemical weapons and has captured and shared many lessons from past experiences and incidents. However, the Lessons Learned Program does not fully apply generally accepted knowledge management principles and lessons sharing best practices, thereby limiting its effectiveness. The program's management plan does not provide policy guidance for senior managers to help them in decision-making or daily operations. In addition, it does not have formal procedures to test or validate whether a corrective action has been effective in resolving its deficiency. Finally, the lessons learned database is difficult to search and does not prioritize lessons. The Lessons Learned Program has been effective in sharing knowledge among the different stakeholders within the Chemical Stockpile Disposal Project. However, as new components were created to destroy the stockpile, the scope of the Lessons Learned Program remained primarily limited to the incineration project. As a result, some components that could greatly benefit from timely and full sharing of lessons learned with the incineration project are not doing so.


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