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Plans Finalized for Germ Lab Expansion at Dugway

Plans Finalized for Germ Lab Expansion at Dugway

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A mock city built to test chemical and biological terrorism is among the components of an expansion planned for a top-secret Army facility in Utah's remote west desert, according to a final military plan.

Dugway Proving Ground was already the nation's leading bioweapon and defense test military zone. But the proposal would double testing on the base -- a Rhode Island-size patch of desert 60 miles southwest of Salt Lake City -- and increase counterterrorism training "from a minimal activity to a substantial mission component."

The report released Friday calls for a permanent annex to the Lothar Salomon Life Sciences Test Facility, a 32,000 square-foot building used to conduct biological defense trials.

A command and control facility for testing activities and a building to test protective equipment also would be constructed.

Dugway is the only Army installation large and remote enough to conduct "comprehensive and realistic" testing of biological and chemical systems, munitions, smoke and obscurants without posing a risk to public safety, according to the three-volume proposal.

The facility's mission expanded after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 and the United States found Iraq capable of germ warfare. In 1991, Dugway began anthrax testing, eventually testing several deadly germs in order to find a way to detect bioattacks in times of war. Dugway now stores the pathogens in a secure laboratory.

The environmental impacts of proposed expansion has concerned some Utah residents, who say the military is trying to hide the expansion by taking care of public disclosure requirements with small-print declarations in the legal notices section on the backs of newspapers.

Utah Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, is sponsoring a bill to resurrect the Utah Federal Research Committee that would monitor the Army's expansion on behalf of the state.

An earlier incarnation of that body first heard in 1979 about the infamous MX mobile nuclear missile program planned to crisscross the desert in tunnels between Salt Lake City and Reno.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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