As the House passed a $291 billion military budget blueprint Wednesday for next year, Utah's members added some key nuclear and chemical arms amendments and preserved $37 million worth of military construction for the state.
Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, persuaded the House to add wording to the annual defense authorization bill encouraging a ban of all nuclear bomb tests - which some scientists say are producing radioactive particles that could kill thousands of people downwind for decades to come.Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, persuaded the House to pass an amendment to allow the Army to provide more funding and technical help to states and local governments to speed approval of permits for construction of chemical arms destruction facilities, like one under construction at Tooele Army Depot. Key funding for that chemical arms facility was preserved, as was other money for projects at Hill Air Force Base and Dugway Proving Ground.
Despite such gains, Hansen - a member of the House Armed Services - blasted the final product saying it ignored lessons learned in the Persian Gulf war and key requests from President Bush.
Owens told the House, "No single measure will be more effective in controlling the rampant spread of nuclear weapons than a comprehensive test ban" - which his amendment encourages the president to reconsider.
Owens has long involvement in such issues. He was an attorney for downwind cancer victims of fallout from atmospheric testing at the Nevada Test Site.
Owens noted his amendment also expressed the sense of Congress "that the United States should focus its efforts on improving the safety and reliability of our existing stockpile of nuclear weapons. We should not be developing a new generation of nuclear weapons, such as earth-penetrating warheads," which would produce more fallout.
Hansen said his amendment was needed because environmental and other local building permits needed for chemical arms destruction facilities are extremely complex and take years to complete.
He said scarce state resources will not allow timely completion to allow the facilities to meet tight destruction schedules set by Congress and by treaty. So his amendment makes more funding and technical help available from the Army.
"Delays of up to six years could result otherwise," he told the Deseret News.
Almost all the military construction funding President Bush proposed for Utah survived in the House bill. It includes: - $14.7 million for phase III construction of the chemical arms destruction facility at Tooele Army Depot.
- $11.6 million for 130 units of family housing at Hill Air Force Base. Other projects at the base include $4 million for a depot production support facility ($500,000 less than Bush requested) and $2.7 million for a weapons and release systems shop.
- $4 million for a physical fitness training center at Dugway Proving Ground.
Hansen said, "We came out very well." While the bill outlines what projects are eligible for funding, later appropriations bill will actually decide how much money is spent on them.
Hansen - who as a member of the House Armed Services Committee managed the Republican side of some of the debate on the bill - was still upset at the final package approved.
"We ignored what we learned in the Persian Gulf war," he said.
"One thing we learned is that we need stealth technology, but we zeroed out funding for the B-2 (stealth) bomber. We learned we need to stop incoming missiles, but we zeroed out funding for important parts of SDI (the Strategic Defense Initiative)" for space-based anti-missile systems, he said.
"We learned how important it is to have a night-fighting capability - but we didn't support that well. I feel that for the same money, we could have provided and excellent package - but we didn't."
He said, "About the only thing we lived up to was the C-17 (a new cargo plane)." He said the gulf war demonstrated how long it takes for a military buildup and how improved planes are needed.