Press Availability Aboard the Cape Ray Re: Destruction of Syrian Chemical Weapons, January 2, 2014

Washington, DC—(ENEWSPF)—January 2, 2014.   Presenters: Bryan Whitman, Department of Defense Spokesman; Frank Kendall, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics; Paul Jaenichen, Acting U.S. Maritime Administrator; Captain Rick Jordan; Robert Malone; Adam Baker

BRYAN WHITMAN:  Well, welcome, and thank you for attending today’s media availability aboard Cape Ray.  My name is Bryan Whitman.  I’m the principal deputy for public affairs in the Defense Department.  It is — we appreciate the fact that you had to do some planning over the holidays in order to be here, and we appreciate you taking the time to be out here for what is really an historic and important mission that will be taking place.

We know that there are many aspects to this story.  There are stories of international cooperation, cooperation across the U.S. government, diplomatic issues, and we are prepared to address all of those issues back in Washington and with you as you do other stories.  Today’s focus, though, is on the science of neutralization, the technology of hydrolysis, and the capability that the United States is offering up to destroy chemical weapons.

So as we go through the question and answers today, and as you get an opportunity to photograph some of the equipment aboard the ship, I would just remind you that today’s focus really is on the technology and this capability.

But before we get into the details of that, I would like to introduce a couple of people to you that will have some — some comments to make.  The first, Mr. Frank Kendall, who is the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.  Among his very broad portfolio, he has oversight of the department’s nuclear, chemical and biological programs.  He has more than 40 years of experience in engineering and acquisition and national security. 

He’ll also be joined today by Mr. Paul Jaenichen.  Mr. Jaenichen is the acting U.S. maritime administrator and the president’s nominee to be the administrator.  He has — a naval officer of 30 years with experience on submarines.  We also have — once they finish, going into the more technical aspects for you, we will have, first, the ship’s captain, Captain Rick Jordan, and Robert Malone, who is a subject matter expert and a very impressive career in chemical agent operations.  And joining him, his colleague, Adam Baker.

So without taking up any more time, I’d like to introduce Mr. Frank Kendall and Mr. Paul Jaenichen.

UNDER SECRETARY FRANK KENDALL:  Well, good morning.  Or good afternoon, I guess it is now.  Thank you for being with us today.  I’m just going to take a few minutes and say — touch on a few topics.  I know you’re anxious to see the ship and to see the hydrolysis units that we’ve been assembling here.

But before you do that, I want to mention a few things that I think are important in this effort and worth noting.  The first one is the paramount concern for safety that we have.  I know that’s something that everybody has some obvious concerns about.  We’re going to be handling and dealing with very hazardous materials on this ship.  Safety is our first order of business, and I think as you go through this today, talk to the people directly involved and ask your questions, you’ll find out that an enormous amount of effort’s been put into that aspect of what we’re going to have to do.

We are dealing with hazardous materials.  There’s no question about that.  And there’s risk whenever one does that.  But we’re going to be complying with all the relevant international and EPA standards.  We’re going to give the ship back to the maritime administration as clean as it was when we got it.  And we’re going to make sure that we dispose of the materials that we have to handle in a very safe manner and we take care of both the people that are involved, people that might be affected, and the environment.  We’re as equally concerned about the environment as we are about anything else.  So safety comes first.  

The second thing that I want to hit on is the teamwork that has gone into this effort.  There are a number of organizations — it starts with an international organization, obviously, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, operating under the U.N.  There are Department of State, national security staff, and Department of Defense. 

Our view — our role in this in the Department of Defense is relatively limited, but is crucial.  We’re providing the equipment and the capability to deal with the weapons or the munitions or the chemicals that we’re going to have to destroy, and that’s what you’re going to see today, and that’s what our focus is on today.

And if I — I could take all day to walk through all the individuals that have had major players in this, making all this possible, but I just want to touch on a few of the organizations.  Our partners from the Department of Transportation, the Maritime Administration obviously have been key.  When we set out to do this, putting this system on a ship, these systems on a ship wasn’t the first option that came to mind, but it quickly became the best option for us.  And we’ve had great cooperation from the Department of Transportation and MARAD.

Within the Department of Defense, the Joint Program Office for Chemical and Biological Defense, which has been working, you know, for decades now on our own chemical weapons and destroying them, brings huge expertise to the table to help us with this job.  They’re the source effectively of the hydrolysis units you’re going to see.  This is a proven technology.  It’s been used for a decade now in destroying our own materials, so we’re not doing something new here or novel.  This is something we know how to do, and that team which will be operating the machines essentially knows exactly how to do that, and we’re confident we’ll do a very capable job.

Other players in this, the Edgewood chemical center at Aberdeen Proving Ground has been very important, is part of the effort.  The research and development and engineering command from the Army is very important.  In fact, the Army in general has stepped forward, and I have the undersecretary with me today who’s been a major participant in this.  So I thank all of those people for all that they’ve done.  The Coast Guard, also, has been very involved.

Now, this team’s effort didn’t start today.  It started about a year ago.  There was a recognition that something was going to happen in Syria in all likelihood that would require us to do something with those chemical materials that were known to be there.  We had no idea what scenario it would be that would play out.  There were several options.  I don’t think we would have picked the one that we’re actually implementing now if we’d been asked to guess or even write down several possibilities.

But a year ago, we were not in a position to do this.  A year ago, we did not have the kind of capacity that was needed to go and remotely in some other location destroy chemical materials that are using chemical weapons.

We recognize that — that shortfall.  And we’ve put together a team that I talked about that went out and acquired the systems that you’re seeing.  They’re based on, as I said, existing systems, so that wasn’t a technically difficult thing for us to do, but there is a lead time associated with that.

So the team started working.  It was an interagency team.  DOD had the role that I talked about earlier, acquiring the capacity that we needed no matter what happened that might bring these materials into our hands where they would need to be destroyed.  So now we’re in a position where we can move forward and act.

And as we looked at those scenarios, we had the choice.  We could have waited to see what happened and then react to that or we could have moved out ahead of time and been prepared for what might happen and was likely to happen.  And fortunately, today we took the latter course.  We acquired these machines, we tested them, we know they’re capable of doing the job, and we’re prepared and have the people ready to go operate them, as well.  So we’re in a relatively good position because of that.

One of the things that allowed us to do that was the existence of flexible funding that we could apply to buy these machines.  The hydrolysis — the field-deployable hydrolysis systems cost about $5 million apiece.  And we had money in the — in an account called CTR for cooperative threat reduction.  It’s used around the world to destroy chemical, nuclear and other dangerous materials, and we were able to apply those funds — we had to notify the Congress and then use those funds, but that flexible funding vehicle which worked around our normal two-year process of getting money for something the Department of Defense does was incredibly important to us and allowed us to be in the position that we’re in here today that allowed that team to do what it had to do.

I’m going to say a couple of words about the capacity that exists here.  Again, this is not new technology.  This is not a high-risk thing that hasn’t been done before.  Machines like this, very similar to this have been used for about 10 years now to destroy our own chemical materials.  So we have people who understand them very well and will be able to operate them very safely.

The team that put this together is a government team.  It was an Army team primarily, the Army civilians who worked together.  And if you want to applaud anybody as you go around today and get a chance to talk to any of these people, the Army people that are going to deploy for the next few months to go out and conduct this mission are heroes.  They are people that are really going to go forward and do what needs to be done to get this job done, working essentially seven days a week until it is done and ensuring that it’s done safely and the environment and people are protected while they do it.

So that’s essentially what we’re about.  You’ll hear more from some of the technical experts about exactly how these machine works and what they do.  But I want to bring on now my partner in this, the acting administrator for the Maritime Administration, Paul.  Here you are.

PAUL JAENICHEN:  Thank you, Frank.  Good afternoon.

And glad to see everyone here.  They can see firsthand the capability of the vessel you see behind you, which is the Motor Vessel Cape Ray, before it sails as part of the U.S. contribution to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the U.N. joint mission to eliminate chemical weapons in Syria.

While the primary purpose of our national defense reserve fleet that is operated by the Maritime Administration, the ready reserve force vessel that you see behind me and the two on either side, these vessels support the rapid movement of equipment and supplies to support the Department of Defense normally.  But they’re also used for so much more.  There are a wide variety of roles that we use these federal ships for around the country, whether they’re serving as platforms for training the Department of Defense or Homeland Security personnel, but they also serve as real-world assets to train our federal and local law enforcement officers to gain proficiency in a shipboard environment.

But these vessels are also used to provide rapid humanitarian response in times of emergency and in national disasters.  The Cape Ray and the other 46 ships — and you see three of them here — they have served in recovery efforts around the world.  Internationally, most recently, they served in 2010 in the — in the earthquake in Haiti and locally here in the U.S. in 2005 for Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita and, more recently, in 2012, we had three ships of similar capability that supported the relief workers that were up in the Northeast during Superstorm Sandy.

This ship is now — it’s making it possible, with the technology that you’re going to see here today, to destroy chemical weapons agents at sea and sparing all nations the hazards of neutralizing those agents on their own soil.  This is an effort that the Department of Transportation and the Maritime Administration is certainly honored to be able to support and assist, proving the — essentially the versatile resources that we have available, and that’s the ready reserve force ships and our U.S. merchant marine who are readily able and, when called, serve our nation so capably.

In closing, I’d like to make a couple of thanks to the hardworking U.S. mariners from our maritime labor unions, specifically the marine engineer benevolent association and the Seafarers International Union, also the ship manager, Keystone, and all the shipyard workers, like — (inaudible) — industries and here at General Dynamics NASSCO-Earl Industries that have maintained the readiness of our ready reserve force ships.

It’s no small task to keep a 30-year-old vessel like these ready to serve with little to no advanced warning.  And I just wanted to say that we understand and we appreciate their efforts, because without them and without this ship, this mission is not possible.  Thank you.

MR. WHITMAN:  I know you’re anxious to talk to the ship’s captain and our subject matter experts, but Undersecretary Kendall and the administrator have (off mic) take a couple of questions (off mic) 

Q:  When do you expect sea trials to begin?

UNDER SEC. KENDALL:  There have been some trials already.  There will be additional sea trials before the ship departs.

Q:  And when — when is the departure?

UNDER SEC. KENDALL:  The departure will depend upon a number of factors, but we expect within about two weeks the ship to depart.

Q:  How long do you expect this — this mission to take?  How — how much chemicals can it handle?  Can it handle 100 metric tons?

UNDER SEC. KENDALL:  It can handle quite a bit more than that.  We expect to deal with about 700 tons on the ship.  And we have the capacity to deal with that.  The total amount of time we’re allowing for the actual destruction operations is about 90 days.  That’s a factor of 50 percent, allowing for sea states where we can’t operate.  So the actual time we’ll have to operate the systems is about 45 days, but we’re allowing 90 days of time, because we may not be able to operate all the time.

Q:  What’s your understanding of the progress they’re making in getting the weapons out of Syria in order to get them to the ship in time?

UNDER SEC. KENDALL:  That’s a Syrian responsibility.  That’s their obligation under the agreement we have with them.  And we expect them to fulfill that obligation.

Q:  Mr. Secretary (off mic)

Q:  What’s the biggest difference between (off mic)

Q:  (off mic) three scenarios that you had considered and that you — that eventually you guys thought that this was the best scenario.  What makes this scenario — and I guess when you say that, you mean by using a ship to do this — what makes this the best way to do this operation?

UNDER SEC. KENDALL:  It’s the factor that Paul mentioned, okay?  This avoids having to put these materials on somebody’s territory, where you have to deal with all the political and environmental conditions associated with doing that under local law.  When I talked about scenarios earlier, I was talking about all the many things that could have happened in Syria, okay?  There are any number of things that could have happened as the conflict there plays out, and, you know, some of them worse than others, but in many of them, some opportunity possibly presenting itself to destroy these dangerous materials.

So we didn’t know what — which of those scenarios might happen.  We certainly would not have predicted the one that did happen that resulted in the agreement, you know, a few months ago, but we’re prepared to deal with that now because of that.

Once that agreement was signed, then the question was, which scenario for the actual destruction to follow?  So it’s a separate subject.  But to deal with the materials themselves, we looked at a number of options and at — at all times, I think there was some consideration being given to the possibility of operation on a ship or perhaps a barge, and that became — as we sorted through the various different options — the best way to do this.

Q:  Will the chemical substances be loaded directly from the Norwegian and Danish ships onto Cape Ray?  Or will it be unloaded in land first?

UNDER SEC. KENDALL:  They’re going to have to be transshipped.  They’re going to have to be moved from the Danish and Norwegian ships that picked up them onto the Cape Ray.  And exactly where and how that process will take place hasn’t been finalized yet. 

We think that’s a fairly short two-day operation maybe.  And we’re prepared to do it with a variety of ways that will depend upon agreement about a port and the facilities that are there and what the best — best mechanism is to do that.  The containers that are being used are — I want to point out — these are ISO, international standards organization, containers, so it’ll be a reasonably safe process, we think, to do that.

Q:  Mr. Secretary, how confident are you that Syria will, in fact, give up the weapons.  They’re — there are news reports out today and yesterday that the initial ships were actually turned away from — from receiving it.  How confident —

UNDER SEC. KENDALL:  As — as my public affairs person pointed out, this is about the technical aspects of things today.  And as I mentioned, that’s a Syrian obligation.  We expect them to fulfill their obligation.

Q:  Will the Navy be providing assets to protect the ship while this operation is going on?

UNDER SEC. KENDALL:  Yes, it will.  There will be naval assets that will be providing security for the ship while it’s conducting operations.  And the exact details of that have not been worked out yet.

MR. WHITMAN:  Let’s go right over here (off mic) 

Q:  What is the — what is the most challenging thing in destroying these chemical weapons on the ship?

(UNKNOWN):  Most — most challenging thing in destroying the chemical weapons. 

(UNKNOWN):  The most challenging thing with regard to —

Q:  On the ship, to destroying these chemical weapons?

UNDER SEC. KENDALL:  I’ll let you save that question for the people actually doing the work, okay?  I think the pressures of time is probably — which is what I would say.  There’s a lot of work that has had to be done fairly short, and it’s been really remarkable to me how people have come together, industry, DOD, the MARAD, and others to make all that work happen.

Q:  Can you tell us, what — what is the difference — the biggest difference between the way that the system has been used before versus how it’s going to be used now?

UNDER SEC. KENDALL:  There’s no fundamental difference, okay?  We have — we have basically — and I’ll let you ask that question again when the technical people come up, but this is essentially the same chemical process that we have used to destroy some of our own materials.  So there’s no mystery about the process.  It’s a slightly different scale that we’re doing it at here.

What we did not — we had — we had fixed installations that have hydrolysis units that could do this job.  But what we did not have was the transportable field-deployables — (inaudible) — using for these systems, you know, that could be moved somewhere else.  And the scenarios that I talked about, we could have been doing destruction at the locations in Syria.  We could have been doing them at another location in Syria.  We could have been doing them in an adjacent country or out of one of our allies.  So we didn’t know when, where and how we would do the destruction.  We just thought there was a high probability we might have to do it.

Q:  What security presence will you have onboard?  What security presence will you have onboard to protect the destruction of the chemical weapons?

UNDER SEC. KENDALL:  There will be security provided, but I don’t — I’m not going to be able to go into the details of that.

Q:  What happens if there’s rough weather?

MR. WHITMAN:  All right, ladies and gentlemen, we are going to have to wrap it up.  We’ll take one more question right here.  You’ve been trying to get one in.

Q:  So once you — Al Jazeera from the Middle East — once you destroy whatever has to be destroyed, where is it going to be physically deposited, that safe, new water?  If you could be specific geographically (off mic)

UNDER SEC. KENDALL:  Yeah, what we’ll do is convert materials that are chemical weapons themselves or precursors for chemical weapons.  We’ll change them chemically into compounds that are no longer usable for that.  They’re still hazardous materials in some cases, and they’ll have to be destroyed and dealt with, but there are numbers of installations in many countries around the world who deal with hazardous chemicals, industrial chemicals, if you will, like that all the time.  And we’re working to finalize who’s going to actually take the chemicals that result from the process you’re going to see.


MR. WHITMAN:  With that, I’d like to ask (off mic) 

(UNKNOWN):  Thank you.

MR. WHITMAN:  (off mic) come on up to take all your really difficult questions.  

CAPTAIN RICK JORDAN:  How you doing?  My name is Rick Jordan.  I’m the captain of the Cape Ray.  I want to let you guys know, I’m really happy to have you here.  We have a lot to show you, a lot of things we’re real proud of.  A little background on me, I’m from New Orleans.  That’s where I call home.  I’ve been going to sea for about 40 years now, since I was 17, and I’ve been sailing master for about 20 years.

I work for a company, Keystone Shipping Company, and we are contracted with the Maritime Administration to operate this ship for them.  And that’s what we do.  I’ll introduce you to the two technical guys here.  This is Rob and Adam, and then we’ll take your questions, okay?

ROB MALONE:  So hi, I’m Rob Malone.  I’m with the joint project manager for elimination, stationed out at Edgewood, Maryland.  I’ve been working for the last 20 years on destruction of the U.S. stockpile of chemical weapons, now taking that — those lessons and transferring them over to this operation.

ADAM BAKER:  I’m Adam Baker.  I’m with the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, ECBC, co-located with these guys in Edgewood, Maryland.  ECBC has a number of research engineering and operational capabilities that we apply to projects like these.  The people you’ll see here are part of the operational team and the people that’ll actually be on the boat performing destruction operations.

MR. JORDAN:  Yes, sir?

Q:  So how confident are you that this hydrolysis system will work?  And then what are your contingency plans?  What’s your plan B if something goes wrong at sea?

MR. BAKER:  The technology — yeah, I’m sorry.

MODERATOR:  Before we answer that question — I’m sorry to — we’re going to have them give an overview of the technology that’ll be used to sort of lay a ground understanding of the technology that is involved in the field-deployable hydrolysis systems, and then we’ll take a few more questions and we’ll also answer your question, Justin.  So if you gentlemen want to just give an overview of a little bit of the technology here, that would be great.

MR. BAKER:  Okay.  As Secretary Kendall mentioned, this process actually began last year.  Last February, we were given funding and direction to start designing, assembling, testing these systems.  We started February 4th.  And on June 27th, we demonstrated the first FDHS system up at Edgewood, Maryland.  

As he mentioned, there were a number of possible applications and scenarios where this would be used, and so we had to design this with a couple factors in mind.  One, for the short timeline, we had to ensure that we used existing technology.  We used the technology that’s been used to neutralize some of these chemicals in various spots here in the U.S.  And we actually used the process from the Aberdeen demilitarization facility for mustard.  We used a process from the — from the facility at Pine Bluff Arsenal for — for the DF compound.  And based on the short timeline, we had to use this established chemistry and copy those systems as much as possible and just scale them down into a transportable form.

So using established technologies, given that this might be operated in a remote site, we had to be prepared to make the system transportable, to make sure it was self-sufficient as much as possible, to make sure that it — that it had a high availability, that if it — it doesn’t break down much, and when it does break down, that you have the means to fix that and get it running again.

So we designed the system with all those factors in mind.  And we — as I said, we demonstrated the first system June 27th.  We continued and produced two more systems later in the last year and began with this scenario actually installing them on the ship here in late November.

And I’ll turn it over to Rob to talk a little more.

MR. MALONE:  So what you’ll see on the — the main trailer deck here, the Cape Ray, is two of the three systems that Adam’s talking about.  So as we go through them, you’ll see two parallel operations going on, on both sides.

The main trailer deck itself — or let me start with our systems — our systems are basically inside an environmental enclosure.  We’ll have folks entering from a personal access area.  On the other side of the system, we’ll actually be bringing in the chemical material and accessing the tent that way.

That enclosure is underneath engineering controls.  It’s ventilated through carbon filtration systems similar to the systems we’ve used here in the United States for our operations.  And then the entire trailer deck itself is captured through environmental enclosure, basically, and that all feeds through carbon before it’s ventilated out of the system.  So we’ve kind of got an enclosure inside of an enclosure when we do our operation.

One of the major challenges we’ve dealt with — as Adam said, we were kind of flexible in our operation — we really had to figure out on the Cape Ray how we are going to operate in three dimensions, because obviously when you’re operating in the field, you’re working out in two dimensions.  Here we’ve got material that’s going to be going both on decks above us and decks below us, and so that’s been the significant challenge and things that we’ve had to overcome to get the Cape Ray ready for deployment.

MODERATOR:  So, Justin, we’ll take your question again.

Q:  Right, so what are the contingency plans?  What’s your plan B if something goes wrong at sea? 

MR. MALONE:  So the technology itself, the chemical neutralization, as Adam mentioned, has been proven here in the United States.  Both the mustard and the other compound, DF, we’ve done it extensively here.  The mustard, for instance, we destroyed 1,800-ton containers of mustard up at the Aberdeen facility.

The reactors on the vessel are actually two spare units from our Aberdeen facility.  And the static mixers that we’re using to actually bring the compounds together are another technology that we’ve proved out here in the United States.  The rest of it is — is basic chemistry.

So very high reliability.  The system itself also has redundancy built throughout it, so when you get up and see the units, you’ll see two pumps or two process lines everywhere.  And those are basically — they’re redundant systems.  So if — if something breaks or a line gets clogged, we can isolate it, operate through the other process line, and then basically do the repairs while underway.

Q:  Can you tell me about the — the ship’s crew?  Who’s going to be manning this vessel?  How many people?  Where are they from?  And also, who will be operating the system itself?  Are we talking about seasoned mariners or will this be their first trip to sea?

MR. JORDAN:  That’s a good question.  I’m glad you ask it.  Where are the crew from, what size crew and that sort of thing?  The crew — my crew — I have a crew of 35.  The normal crew complement on this ship is 29, but we’ve ramped up an additional six folks so that we can support the hotel services, for lack of better words, more.  The crew — it’s a normal merchant mariner crew.  I have — I will say that the unions have been very good at letting me handpick and cherry pick some of the best guys I’ve ever sailed with before, and they’ve handpicked and cherry-picked the guys that’ll be working for them.

We’ve got some really good folks on here that know how to train, and we’ve been training them.  They’ve got all kinds of shipboard damage control training and that sort of thing.  As far as these — for spill response down below on the main trailer deck, ECBC, CBARR has some great — great folks, and our training will be involved with supporting them for a spill down below.  If there becomes a damage control situation or a fire control — fire control situation, then the — my crew will step in, and we can handle those sorts of things.  

The whole key here is teamwork.  And there’s been an unbelievable amount of teamwork in this — in this whole process from the Maritime Administration, Military Sealift Command, my company, Keystone Shipping Company, and — and I’m humbled by what’s been going on here.  We’ve had about three or four days of hard training together, where we’ve been — where we’re making mariners out of them.  They’ve been making chemical construction — destruction folks out of us.  And we’re going to continue to train.  The whole trip will be a combination of — (inaudible) — production, training and being ready for the worst-case scenario.

Q:  How many people beyond the ship’s crew are a part of this mission?

MR. JORDAN:  Yes, sir, the ships — there will be 35 crew members onboard the ship, right, that will be assigned to the ship.  Is that — that’s your question?  And then — and then ECBC has 63 folks, and then there’s — then we’ll have a security team, and then EUCOM will have some folks onboard, as well.

Q:  How long will it take from your sail from Portsmouth until you arrive in Italy?

MR. JORDAN:  I — we have not been given orders on exactly where we’re going, but the center of the Med will be about 10 days, okay?

Q:  You don’t know which port in Italy yet?

MR. JORDAN:  I have not been given that information, no, ma’am.

Q:  Has a deployment date been established yet?

MR. JORDAN:  No, sir.  I’ve not got my sail orders yet, no, sir.

Q:  (off mic) 

Q:  Hey, Rob, if there’s rough weather when the chemicals are onboard —

(UNKNOWN):  Well, all right.  Hang on one second.  We’re going to take one from CBS.

Q:  Yeah, what happens if there’s rough weather when the chemicals are onboard?

MR. JORDAN:  Okay.  Well, obviously, weather is the single most important factor for — as a mariner that I’ve got to consider.  The good news on the — for the Cape Ray is that we have lots of things to mitigate weather onboard.  This ship has Gyrofin stabilizers which we can rig out, so when — if it’s rolling quite a bit, that’ll dampen the roll.  Also, the — the nice news about — the other good thing about this trip is I’m not — I don’t have a destination.  We’re just — we’re just providing a platform at sea.

So I can use the weather in my — in my favor, putting the seas on the hip or — or — and that’s — and those kind of things, if the — if the seas become unmanageable, then we have to shut down production.  Does that answer your question?  Okay, thanks.

Q:  (off mic) Mediterranean?  Sorry, do you expect —

MR. JORDAN:  Yes, ma’am, I’m sorry?

Q:  Do you expect (off mic) Mediterranean or pull out to the ocean?

MR. JORDAN:  I have not been given those kind of orders yet.  Okay?

Q:  How many hours does it take to reach the shores of Syria with the speed?

MR. JORDAN:  How many hours?

Q:  (off mic) many hours it takes, the trip to Syria shores?

MR. JORDAN:  Sir, I’ve not been given orders to go to Syria.  This — that’s — just off the top of my head, I would say it’d be another — another three days from the center of the Med, so about two weeks.

Q:  (off mic) what this can handle, how much — how many chemical weapons?

(UNKNOWN):  Yeah.  The batch size for mustard is 130 gallons in a batch.  And that takes probably about two hours.  You’re going to have two systems operating concurrently so it can increase throughput a little bit.  The — the other chemicals are a bit higher throughputs.  You heard some of the estimates of time —

Q:  (off mic)

(UNKNOWN):  Yeah, 700 metric tons is the amount that he said.  And so we’re — you know, he gave you some of the figures of durations we’re thinking of.  Does that answer your question?

Q:  (off mic) 

(UNKNOWN):  Yeah, we intend — obviously, there’s going to be a ramp-up period, because this is, you know, the first time on the ship.  It’s going to be a slow start.  We’re going to start one system at a time.  We’re going to go very deliberately and very safely.  But — yeah, those are the throughputs we’re looking at.

Q:  (off mic) mustard gas, what other types of agents will you be dealing with?  You mentioned mustard.  What other — can you list some of the other types of agents you’ll be talking about?

(UNKNOWN):  Yeah.  Mustard gas and — and DF is the other compound that’s the most hazardous.  That’s the sarin precursor.  Those — those —

Q:  (off mic) sarin precursor being —

(UNKNOWN):  Nerve gas precursor, meaning it’s one of the ingredients to go into sarin production.

Q:  And has this — are they in missiles?  Are they weaponized?  Will you be getting them in containers?

(UNKNOWN):  No, this system is designed specifically for bulk liquid chemical agent, just in storage containers, no munitions, no explosives, nothing like that.

(UNKNOWN):  (off mic) in the back.

Q:  Just to clarify that, that 700 metric tons, can you break that down?  How — is that 700 metric tons of chemical weapons component?  And then how much hazardous material does that produce?

(UNKNOWN):  (off mic) break down of the compounds (off mic)

(UNKNOWN):  I think he’s asking how much (off mic) how much (off mic) 

(UNKNOWN):  All right.  Okay.  Well, I’ll answer the second —

Q:  (off mic) how much hazardous material does it produce (off mic)

(UNKNOWN):  Right.  The — the liquid effluent that comes out of this is about 1.5 million gallons.  As the — as Secretary Kendall talked about, they’re looking — they are — we are looking into the — or the OPCW is looking into where that would be disposed of safely at a — at a treatment storage and disposal facility that deals with these kind of chemicals regularly.

Q:  What’s the — how many chemical weapons are you taking on?  What’s the weight volume of that?

(UNKNOWN):  That’s the 700 metric tons, yeah.

Q:  What — you say the technologies — (inaudible) — I mean, has it been — has this been done at sea before, though?

(UNKNOWN):  No.  No, this — this has not been done on this particular platform.  It has not been done at sea.  But it is — it is taking the established operations that we’ve done at several land sites domestically and internationally and applying them here. 

MODERATOR:  We have time for two more.

Q:  You mentioned the dimensional aspects.  What other challenges involve, you know, being on the seas, when you’re trying to do this?  I mean, are there — are there other challenges that you’re concerned about in terms of processing this?

(UNKNOWN):  As — as the captain mentioned —

Q:  (off mic)

(UNKNOWN):  Yeah, as — as the captain mentioned, the primary concern is whether — that’s the — that’s the biggest hurdle we have to deal with, with being on a ship.  Anything else?

MR. JORDAN:  Well, that’s — far and away, weather would — far and away, weather would be the single — is our single biggest obstacle on — on this trip.  Okay, does that make sense?

Q:  As I understand the process, for each single unit of a chemical weapon that you neutralize, you can create anywhere from 5 to 14 times as much hazardous waste.  What is the nature of that hazardous waste?  And I realize it depends on the chemical agent that you’re destroying, but can you tell me a little bit about that?

(UNKNOWN):  Yeah, when — I think the secretary mentioned earlier, when they go through — when we go through the process, we’ll create a material that’s basically very acidic.  We’ll do a pH adjustment to that material, bringing it up to above neutral, so it’ll be slightly caustic, so it’s basically a caustic liquid waste at that point in time.  We typically equate that to Drano or, you know, other caustics, household cleaners, that type of material.

Q:  Any chance that it could be coming back to the United States?

(UNKNOWN):  Yeah, that’s all part of the OPCW solicitation for the — the commercial disposal facility, and we’re not really privy to that information.

Q:  Is the tender open for that?  Is the — has the tender for the disposal — the final disposal open up?  Is it going on?

(UNKNOWN):  That’s the OPCW.  You’d have to ask the OPCW about that.  We’ll take one more — one more question.

Q:  (off mic) this is a three-month mission.  And most of the — the function will be occurring in — you know, in the waters off the coast of Syria.  I mean, can you — can you speak a little to geography and just the length, duration?

MR. JORDAN:  It’s my — or as I said, we have not gotten sail orders yet.  But it’s my understanding that we are — our mission is to go load the stuff in a port yet to be determined and then to go offshore in international waters and process all of this stuff until it’s safe to be discharged to a reception facility.  Is that fair?  Okay.

Q:  Will the security people onboard the ship be U.S. military or private contractors?

(UNKNOWN):  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Thank you all very much.  We’re going to wrap the press conference portion.  If you want to prepare yourselves for the tour group one, if you could please move toward the ramp, not on the ramp, but right near it here, near the Porta Potty, we will get ready to go onto the ship tour.  Group two, you’ll be out here with your public affairs folks, and they’ll help you with any external shots of the ship that you want to gather, and then we’ll switch.