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HANSEN HELPS SHOOT DOWN OWENS’ EFFORT TO KILL C-17

SHARE HANSEN HELPS SHOOT DOWN OWENS’ EFFORT TO KILL C-17

Reps. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, and Jim Hansen, R-Utah, waged a dogfight on the House floor Thursday on whether to study killing the new C-17 cargo plane, which would be partially built in Utah.

Hansen's side won, killing Owens' amendment to study costs of killing the C-17 on a voice vote. But Hansen said Owens' fight hurts Utah's chance to land huge new civilian aircraft facilities from McDonnell Douglas - the prime contractor on the C-17.That was only some of the action affecting Utah Thursday in long debate on the defense bill. The House also called for a ban on nuclear tests in Nevada (upwind from Utah), and for a new independent commission to study alternative ways to destroy chemical arms.

Nearly half of the military's chemical arms are stored at Tooele Army Depot. A plant is under construction there now to destroy them, but the planned procedure has been beset by safety problems and huge cost overruns in tests.

The fight over the C-17 on Thursday was just the latest round in a years-long dispute between Owens - one of the plane's most ardent opponents - and Hansen, one of its strongest supporters.

Owens' fight has been tough because the C-17 has contracts in more than 100 House districts in 28 states.

Hansen aides said about $6 million worth of work on the C-17 is performed a year in Utah at Flameco and CCI Mechanical Services, but much more work is likely when the C-17 goes into full production beyond the early testing now in progess.

Hansen also said Thursday that McDonnell Douglas officials told him this week that Owens' C-17 fight is discouraging them from building huge civilian aircraft production facilities in Utah, which is said to be a finalist.

Still, Owens told the House, "Cracks developed on some of the jet's parts after just a few minutes of testing. And other parts used in C-17 tests buckled, collapsed or melted during heat tests. . . . Since its inception, the C-17 has been a failure. It is years behind schedule and . . . $1.3 billion over the fixed-price development contract."

He said the military should study restarting the production line of the C-5 cargo plane instead, and predicted it would find "a wealth of new information that will demonstrate the costly folly of continuing the C-17."

However, Hansen - a member of the House Armed Services Committee - said, "The C-17 is one of the few things I've seen all the joint chiefs of staff agree they need."

Hansen said the C-17 can land on shorter runways, uses less fuel and is easier to unload than the C-5. He said in a press release, "For my friend Wayne to blindly offer yet another C-17 amendment this year really demonstrates a lack of concern for modernizing our airlift capability and deliberately ignores previous studies."

In other action, the House voted 237-167 to impose a one-year moratorium on nuclear testing as long as the former Soviet republics continue their current unilateral ban.

The House passed similar provisions in 1982 and 1988, but the Senate refused to pass them. This year, Sen. Mark Hatfield, R-Ore., said he has signed up 45 supporters of a moratorium bill so far.

The House also approved on voice vote an amendment by Rep. Tom McMillen, D-Md., to create an independent commission to study more closely alternative methods of destroying its chemical arms. McMillen's district includes Aberdeen Proving Ground, where many arms are stored.

The Army's preferred method of drilling arms to drain them, then burn different parts of the arms in different furnaces has had numerous accidents, delays and gigantic cost overruns.

Critics say the Army should more closely look at a method now being tested in part at Tooele and Dugway Proving Ground to freeze arms in liquid nitrogen, crush them and burn them.