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Syrian Chemical Weapons Elimination Project, Mediterranean Sea (Credit: U.S. Navy photo)

Syrian Chemical Weapons Elimination Project

The destruction of Syria's chemical arsenal was undertaken with funding from the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program, which is administered by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and United States Strategic Command Center for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction (DTRA/SCC-WMD). Established in 1991, the CTR Program is congressionally mandated to reduce the world's arsenals of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) as well as the threats they pose to U.S. national security. Parsons was awarded a prime contract under the CTR's Integrating Contract II (CTRIC II) to support the following activities:

MV Cape Ray at its home port, Portsmouth, VA

MV Cape Ray at its home port, Portsmouth, VA

  • Logistics and procurement support for the U.N./Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Joint Mission in Syria during the removal of chemical materials
  • Rapid procurement and installation support in preparing the M/V Cape Ray for the chemical agent destruction mission
  • Staffing aboard the Cape Ray to assist in the destruction of chemical materials removed from Syria
  • Forward logistics support, including commercial helicopter resupply, from the Souda Bay Naval Support Activity to the Cape Ray during destruction operations in the Mediterranean Sea
  • Demobilization support in removing equipment, disposing of wastes, and restoring the Cape Ray to its original condition

Coordinating a Complex Project

The multinational team assembled to eliminate Syria's chemical arsenal faced significant challenges, as the battle lines of the Syrian civil war constantly shifted, creating a hostile security environment. In addition, the team had to contend with an extensive inventory of WMDs—1,000 metric tons of chemical warfare materials, including mustard and methylphosphonic difluoride (DF)—at multiple locations. These stockpiles of Syria's declared chemical agents were collected for elimination at sea, far from communities and cities.

Chemical operator secures a full-size model chemical agent container

Chemical operator secures chemical agent container (Credit: U.S. Navy photo)

The collection of the chemical agents was only half the challenge; the other half involved developing transportable machines that could be used aboard the Cape Ray to neutralize the chemical weapons. The solution was field deployable hydrolysis systems (FDHSs). These innovative machines essentially cook the agent to chemically alter its molecular structure. Parsons augmented the U.S. government operations team from the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center using FDHSs. Parsons also provided air logistics and procurement support and assisted in the demobilization and disposition of the equipment and materials after project completion.

Achieving Project Success

 

On August 18, 2014, the U.S. government announced the successful elimination of a 600‑ton cache of chemical agents aboard the Cape Ray—several weeks ahead of schedule. In a statement issued the same day, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel congratulated the Cape Ray crew for finishing its unprecedented work despite a long deployment and a complex operation that required careful coordination among stakeholders. He commended the crew for performing flawlessly every step of the way, with strict adherence to safety and with no impact on the surrounding environment, and said that they had made an important and enduring contribution to global security.

MV Cape Ray alongside escort ship

MV Cape Ray alongside escort ship (Credit: U.S. Navy photo)

Parsons takes great pride in being a member of the international team responsible for eliminating Syria's chemical arsenal. For 17 years, Parsons has been executing projects under the CTR Programincluding projects in Russia, Armenia, Jordan, and Libya. It is a top priority of Parsons to support the program's mission to make the world a safer place.