A Senate committee openly worried Tuesday that unless quick action is taken against the proliferation of chemical and biological arms the weapons could fall into the wrong hands.
That could have major implications in Utah - where new binary chemical weapons are being tested at Dugway Proving Ground and stored at Tooele Army Depot; where germ warfare defense is being researched at Dugway, Brigham Young University and Utah State University; and where Tooele is developing ways to safely destroy aging chemical arms.Members of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee said that recent use of chemical arms in Iran, Iraq and last month in Tblisi, Soviet Union cause fear of proliferation and dwindling resolve of civilized nations against their use.
And that fear is escalated by reports of recently foiled plots of some U.S. businessmen to ship to terrorist countries chemicals that could be made into chemical arms. One New Jersey businessman is accused of trying to ship nerve gas and missiles to the Middle East.
Committee member John Heinz, R-Pa., called for responsible countries to form an alliance to adopt strict, binding export guidelines to help keep such chemicals and germs from getting into the wrong hands. A group of Western countries has tried to informally follow such guidelines since 1984.
Committee Chairman John Glenn, D-Ohio, said controlling export of such substances is difficult because they are abundant, cheap, easy to make and can be used for many legitimate purposes.
But he said, "The goals of our chemical-biologic related export controls must remain firm, to deny supplies to illicit end-users, to raise costs of illegal acquisitions and to deter violations by education and the prospect of tough penalties."
But chemical manufacturers and commerce officials asked the committee at hearings Tuesday to not punish U.S. chemical manufacturers by placing export controls on them unless other countries also agree to similar standards.
James Lemunyon, deputy assistant secretary of commerce, said, "There are countless legitimate commercial applications for these chemicals as well as widespread foreign availability. Hence, it is critical that export controls also be applied by other nations that have indigenous sources of the same products."