Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, wants the military to publish a list each year of all the germs, toxins and other agents used in its Biological Defense Research Program.
That is of special importance to Utahns because defense systems developed through such research are tested at Dugway Proving Ground. Two Utah schools - Utah State University and Brigham Young University - also perform some research in the program."This bill will provide a simple means of further assuring the public that the Army is proceeding in a fashion consistent with national ideals and security needs," Owens said. "It will primarily impact non-classified activities and contains provisions that protect national security."
Documents show that the Army has used some of the most deadly germs known to man in its research. At Dugway, for example, the Army has used germs that cause diseases such as the plague, anthrax, tularemia, Q fever, parrot fever, rift valley fever and botulism.
Dugway says it no longer uses such deadly germs in open-air tests - but did for decades. It says it now uses safer "simulants" in open-air tests but continues to use the deadlier agents in laboratory work.
Some have worried that the Army might also be developing new genetically engineered germs that cause disease without cure. Such concerns fueled public outcry against a proposed lab at Dugway that could have allowed making aerosols out of such exotic germs. The Army last month withdrew that proposal in exchange for a less controversial lab.
Owens said in a speech on the House floor, "Here in the United States, many scientists and concerned citizens have questioned both the objectives and safety of a rapidly growing bio-defense program. Internationally, there is mounting fear that the United States may be moving toward producing biological weapons in violation of the 1972 biological weapons convention.
He said his bill is "an important first step toward encouraging that openness and restoring trust."