The Army and the Air Force plan to make major new investments in Utah in the next two fiscal years, according to figures in the new federal budget President Reagan sent to Congress Monday.
The Air Force, if Congress approves, will begin work on the Electronic Combat Test Range, which would have headquarters at Hill Air Force Base. While the initial investment would be small - $2.5 million in 1990 to build "threat" sites on the West Desert - Air Force Maj. Gen. George Larson told the Deseret News the work is just the beginning of a potentially vast range that reportedly would involve all three military services.In the past the range has been estimated to cost $1 billion or more to build and equip with instruments. Construction would be only a small part of that figure, with most of the expense going for sophisticated radar, communications and computer equipment. The range would employ as many as 300 military and civilian workers after construction is complete.
In 1991, the Air Force has budgeted $10 million at HAFB for a mission control center, but briefing officers were unable to define the center's role.
The range, as it has been described, would allow the Army, Navy and Air Force to exercise their high-technology aircraft, tanks and other weapons with tactics, control and scoring handled by radar and other electronic systems. So important is the range that the Base Closing Commission recommended last month that a tactical fighter wing be moved from Mather AFB, Calif., to Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, to be nearer the Utah range for training. Mather, if the move is carried out, would be closed.
Spending by other services on the range was not defined, but the Army listed as a new project start in the budget an Electronic Warfare Ground Control Station on which it plans to spend $16.5 million in 1990 and 1991.
The range was a point of contention a year ago when Utah was in the running for the $4 billion superconducting supercollider, and the Air Force let it be known the supercollider could interfere with its plans. Now, with the supercollider going to Texas, the state stands to obtain the range.
The Army asked Congress for $2.4 million next year and $22.6 million in 1991 to improve its chemical and biological warfare defense research at Dugway Proving Ground.
The 1990 figure would fund a vehicle shop, while the 1991 budget would build the controversial biological aerosol test facility, $2 million; a life sciences laboratory facility, $13.6 million; a simulant mixing facility, $440,000; a physical fitness training center, $2.8 million; and modernize officers' housing for $3.7 million.
The aerosol test facility became controversial because it was originally proposed in 1984 with a "biosafety level 4" rating, which could have potentially allowed it to make aerosols out of genetically engineered germs that could cause disease without cure.
Critics forced the Army to write an environmental impact statement about the BL4 facility, which was released last year. It created such a furor among Utah politicians that the Army announced it would build a lab with a lower BL3 rating instead, which would not allow testing with genetically engineered germs.
Even with proposed funding for the controversial aerosol facility, Dugway spokeswoman Kathleen Whitaker said Monday that the Army still has not decided exactly when or where to build it.