However, the subsequent Army report recommended proceeding with incineration at six of the nine stockpile sites. The report did not address the clear and voluminous evidence presented two years earlier by Williams and the coalition that not only were there significant technical and environmental problems and huge cost overruns at the incinerators, but that safer alternative disposal methods were available.
Williams laid out the evidence to Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, who championed Williams’ cause in Congress. It was a major victory for Williams and his allies when the Army announced in 1996 that it would use a safer water-based process to destroy the weapons at the Maryland and Indiana stockpile sites, while suspending funds for incinerators in Colorado and Kentucky. At about the same time, Williams also played a key role in getting citizens unprecedented access to previously closed-door meetings where military, state and federal government officials decided how to destroy chemical weapons.
Even after the Army had officially agreed to alternative weapons disposal at four sites, another agenda was playing out at the Pentagon. Internal documents were leaked to Williams that confirmed the Pentagon was defying Congressional directives and holding up more than $300 million in federal funds for safe weapons disposal. The plan was to redirect those funds to existing incineration sites that had cost overruns, now up to 1,400 percent. In addition, Williams and the coalition brought forward numerous whistleblowers at the incinerators who reported that fires, chemical agent releases and other dangerous conditions accompanied the burning of weapons at those plants.
Williams gave the internal Defense Department memos to Sen. McConnell, who made personal phone calls to senior defense officials and sponsored legislation mandating that the funds be released. Subsequently, the Pentagon released the $300-plus million, money that allowed the Colorado and Kentucky sites to safely destroy more than 880,000 chemical weapons.
Today, Williams continues his important work as director of the chemical weapons program at KEF, where he uses legal challenges, media campaigns, citizen organizing and other means to ensure proper agent monitoring, air quality compliance, protection of workers rights and improved communication with the local communities. He continues to serve as an advisor as the Blue Grass Chemical Agent Disposal Plant’s construction nears completion, and has twice spoken at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)’s Conference of State Parties in the Hague.
Williams, a translator in Vietnam, has remained active in veterans groups. He was one of the original group of veterans who formed the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation in 1980. The Foundation, in turn, was one of six organizations that co-founded the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which was awarded the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize.