A group based in Washington, D.C., that forced the Army to do an environmental impact statement on its biological defense research program says it's going to take the Army back to court because the statement is "wholly inadequate."
Among other things, the impact statement addresses the research performed at Dugway Proving Ground, one of three primary Army sites for biological research. In addition to its in-house labs, the Army also contracts research work out to approximately 100 sites in the United States and abroad, including Brigham Young University and Utah State University.Andrew Kimbrell, policy director and attorney for the Foundation on Economic Trends, said the non-profit watchdog organization is "going to try to close down about the top 25 to 27 facilities" nationwide involved in the Army's biological warfare research.
He said these include a research project at BYU, where scientists are using genetic engineering to try to improve vaccines against anthrax.
Kimbrell said the public comment period on the impact study ends May 4, after which the Army will file what's called a "record of decision," announcing how it intends to proceed.
Once that's done, the foundation will return to court, he said.
Chuck Dasey, public affairs officer for the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command, said he's not surprised at the foundation's plans, because the group criticized the draft impact statement when it came out a year ago.
"We've been expecting all along that they would sue again."
He called the planned suit "a whole new episode," saying the rec-ord of decision, which will probably be out late next week, will complete the Army's end of the agreement that settled the foundation's 1986 suit.
"I believe the Army will accept the environmental impact statement," which calls for continuing the research program in its current form, Dasey said.
Kimbrell said much of the military's biological warfare research is done on contract - "the most dangerous pathogens known to man, in campuses, in corporations across America" - with what his group considers inadequate safety precautions.
Few people realize how the biological warfare research and development budget ballooned under President Reagan, Kimbrell said. It went from $16 million in fiscal year 1980 to $90.5 million by fiscal 1986. "It's close to $100 million now," he said.