This week on the House floor, Utah's members of Congress plan to defend provisions of the $291 billion defense authorization bill that affect the state.
Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, also won the right last week from the House Rules Committee to get a vote on adding an amendment that would call for an end to all testing of nuclear weapons - including testing at the nearby Nevada Test Site.That comes after a Nobel Peace Prize-winning group of physicians last week predicted that radiation from open-air and underground tests in Nevada would continue to kill hundreds of thousands of people over the coming decades.
Included in the bill is $37 million for military construction in Utah, just $500,000 less than President Bush proposed in his budget. That is down from $104.1 million worth of military construction in the state approved last year.
Bush's recommendations were preserved in the Armed Services Committee by Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, who is a committee member.
And in the bill is another amendment by Owens calling for the Army to limit its germ warfare research to known threats from other countries.
That comes after a recent study by the U.S. General Accounting Office - a research arm of Congress - that said much of the Army's germ warfare defense budget has been wasted on germs that no country is suspected of using in biological weapons.
Owens is not a member of the Armed Services Committee but had a friend, Rep. Ronald Dellums, D-Calif., introduce the amendment for him.
Much of the testing for such germ defense programs is conducted at Utah's Dugway Proving Ground. Also, Brigham Young University and Utah State University have some military biological research contracts.
Owens told the Rules Committee - which decides what amendments may be debated and for how long - that a comprehensive ban on all nuclear testing would help control "the rampant spread of nuclear weapons."
However, the Bush administration has opposed such a ban - saying testing is needed as long as a possible use of such weapons may be needed as a deterrent.
Owens - who as an attorney represented cancer victims of downwind radiation from tests - said, "This view stubbornly ignores an improved ability to simulate nuclear effects, advances in verification technology and a greatly expanded Soviet openness."
The vote on the test ban would come just days after the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War - which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985 - said radiation from open-air nuclear tests worldwide that infects people by the year 2000 will cause 430,000 cancer deaths.
About half of them will come from the Nevada Test Site, the group said. It added that 2.4 million people will die over coming centuries from such testing. The group called for a moratorium on nuclear tests to allow for better environmental study.
The $37 million worth of military construction for Utah in the bill consists of five projects:
- $14.7 million for phase 3 of a chemical-arms destruction facility at Tooele Army Depot.
- $11.6 million for 130 units of family housing at Hill Air Force Base.
- $4 million for a Hill Air Force Base depot production support facility ($500,000 less than President Bush requested).
- $2.7 million for a Hill Air Force Base weapons and release systems shop.
- $4 million for a Dugway Proving Ground physical fitness training center to replace a substandard gym.