The future of Dugway Proving Ground is closely guarded, as are many of the base's top-secret missions.

But one secret is out — big things are in the works for the isolated Army facility in Utah's western desert.

"If this were the business world, I'd buy stock in Dugway if I could," said Jim Hansen, the former Utah congressman who sits on the Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

Dugway's wide open spaces enticed the Army to develop a plan to re-station troops returning from closed military bases overseas. However, Army officials shelved the plan due to costs. A recent report issued by the Government Accountability Office said facilities like Dugway lack the infrastructure to immediately house 3,000 to 5,000 troops. Nearly 70,000 troops will return to the states in the next decade to make it easier for U.S. forces to deploy anywhere in the world.

Although that mission fell through, Utah leaders are optimistic about Dugway's future, believing its mission will gain funding through the Department of Homeland Security.

Although Dugway's primary purpose is to test chemical and biological defense systems, the secretive base is in expansion mode. The Army wants to annex the nearby Dugway mountains to the south, in part to block the "prying eye" of UFO hunters, said Steve Petersen, counsel to Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah.

E-mail: [email protected]