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Only 33 destruction employees to remain by August

In May 2009, the Pine Bluff Arsenal’s Chemical Activity (PBCA) and Pine Bluff Chemical Agent Disposal Facility (PBCDF) had 1,235 civilian and government employees working to eliminate the chemical weapons stockpile, which the arsenal has maintained since World War II.

The PBCA, established Feb. 6 1995, saw the final stockpile of 1-ton containers of nerve and mustard agents at the arsenal destroyed in the fall of 2010, well ahead of schedule. At one point the arsenal stored 12 percent of the nation’s stockpile of chemical weapons, according to the Pentagon.

With the elimination of that stockpile, some 1,100 contract, civilian and government workers knew they would lose their jobs in a phased reduction in force.

The arsenal’s Chemical Agent Disposal Facility, erected in the early 2000s, has been in the process of being decontaminated and dismantled since that last 1-ton container was destroyed.

From the peak of 1,235 in 2009, the destruction contract is expected to end in August, with 33 employees working – three government and 30 contractor employees – under the closeout, according to data The Progress obtained from the PBCA and PBCDF under a Freedom of Information Act request.

The arsenal will continue to employ about 1,000 civilians who restore Army vehicles and manufacture white phosphorus munitions, the Pentagon said earlier before the congressionally ordered sequestration.

The timeline on reduction in force moves in connection with the destruction of the chemical weapons, according to arsenal and contractor representatives:

n The 1,235 total for May 2009 included 230 security guards;

n Following the elimination of the last chemical weapons, the number of contractor employees dropped to 647 in December 2010;

n The number continued to fall, reaching 553 in January 2012;

n With site closure complete in January, the numbers fell to 91 – nine government and 82 employees for the civilian contractor; and

In August, the projected number is 33 – three government employees and 30 contract workers.