Republicans say America faces more risks from germ warfare by terrorists because the Clinton administration never followed through with powers Congress provided in 1996.
That included authorization to establish a national center to train military and civilian officials how to handle such attacks - which was once proposed for Utah's Dugway Proving Ground.Launching that attack Wednesday was Sen. John Kyl, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism in a joint hearing with the Senate Intelligence Committee.
"Congress directed the president to assess the feasibility of establishing a national training center for government personnel who are responding to the use of chemical and biological weapons," Kyl said.
"To date, the administration has failed to identify a site, or constellation of sites, to provide critical testing, training and evaluation," he said.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, included authorization for that study in a 1996 anti-terrorism bill, and said he hoped such a center would eventually be located at Dugway.
Hatch said he envisioned construction of a "mock city" with homes, office buildings and even a working subway system he says would allow better research and training with chemical and germ defenses.
It was opposed by the Downwinders watchdog group, which said Dugway has a history of having dangerous chemicals escape it boundaries - and the mock city could put Utahns downwind at risk.
However, after the study was authorized on whether such a center is needed, it was never funded or completed.
Kyl said the administration also failed to follow up adequately on another provision of the anti-terrorism law designed to prevent diversion of lethal agents to terrorists.
Witnesses at the hearing also said the threat of biological attack by terrorists is real and potentially more dangerous than even nuclear weapons.
W. Seth Carus with the Center for Naval Analyses noted that a Dugway test in the 1950s - Operation Large Area Coverage, which was publicly revealed and detailed by the Deseret News in 1991 - managed to spread toxic cadmium sulfide throughout the nation east of the Rockies.
He said that proved "biological agents could be disseminated as an aerosol cloud and infect a large area with potentially lethal infective doses."
He added that the United States already had one terrorist attack with, luckily, not-too-harmful biological agents in 1984.
The Rajneshees religious cult spread salmonella germs on restaurant salad bars in the small town of The Dalles, Ore., hoping "that would make the local inhabitants too sick to vote" and help the group "seize political control of the county."