WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., has asked the Secretary of Defense to reexamine the risk assessment for the nation's chemical weapons stockpile facilities and the demilitarization schedules associated with those risks.

"Sept. 11 awakened us to threats that we as a nation considered to be scarcely possible," Smith said in a letter to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. "While a lot of attention has been paid to the possibility of accidents at the depot, I want to be sure that the stockpile is also safe from any possible terrorist attacks."

In the United States, eight storage facilities contain nearly 30,000 tons of chemical agents, which the Army intends to destroy by 2007. The Umatilla Chemical Depot west of Hermiston houses more than 3,700 tons of chemical agents, including VX, GB, and mustard gas.

"My fellow Oregonians have been good neighbors to the Army, and many of them have devoted their careers to support the emergency preparedness efforts in case of catastrophic incident," Smith wrote. "I am confident that the local emergency responders in Morrow and Umatilla counties are among America's best trained, but I want to help ensure that they will never have to use their skills.

"Please help me assure my fellow Oregonians that the Department of Defense is giving the Umatilla Chemical Depot appropriate attention to ensure the integrity of the facility and safety of the community," Smith added.

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