Rep. Wayne Owens vowed on Monday to continue his fight to eliminate funding for the nation's new, binary chemical weapons program.
Owens, D-Utah, says he succeeded in getting the $50 million 1989 appropriation for the program cut from the federal defense budget in the U.S. House, but a conference committee combining House and Senate funding wishes kept the money in."It makes absolutely no sense to me that we begin chemical weapons production when we're talking about a chemical weapons treaty banning the weapons, when we haven't made these weapons of 18 years and the Russians have banned their production since 1987," Owens told students at the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics.
Owens said he'll continue his efforts to stop funding for the new binary artillery shells - shells that carry two chemical agents that alone aren't harmful, but which are mixed after firing to created a deadly gas.
Almost half of the United States' aging chemical weapons are stored in Tooele County - "enough nerve gas to kill the world's population a dozen times over if it could be effectively deployed."
He said to his knowledge, no one has ever been harmed from a leaking gas bomb in Tooele.
"A new binary system would be safer, but of no military use at all." Owens says America's allies - especially in NATO - refuse to let the new chemical weapon shells be stored on their soil.
"The only military use of such artillery shells would be in the European theater - as a possible deterrent to the Russians - but our allies won't let us deploy them there. What good are they?"
While the $50 million in this year's budget and the $150 million in unspent appropriation for the new binary weapons is small potatoes in the multi-billion dollar defense budget, Owens says building the new weapons now is a dangerous risk we don't need to take - an act that sends exactly the wrong message to governments throughout the world.
Madmen in Libya, Syria and Iran may have or be building chemical weapons - "the poor man's nuclear bomb." How can the United States move to prevent such outlaw countries from obtaining these weapons is we ourselves are building them, he asked.
Owens believes now is a perfect time to move for a world ban on chemical weapons, with the recent atrocities of nerve gas deaths in Iraq and other places still fresh on peoples' minds.