WASHINGTON -- Utah's Dugway Proving Ground has been chosen as a site to test military vaccines against germ warfare agents.

That worries a watchdog group representing people who say they are victims of past weapons experiments.Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said the Army told him Tuesday that Dugway was chosen for the 10-year project to be managed by DynPort of Reston, Va.

Hatch said Dugway's West Desert Test Center will provide containment facilities and staff scientists for the studies, which he said will be conducted in accordance with Food and Drug Administration rules governing the safe use of human vaccines.

Hatch said, "This expands Dugway's potential value to our nation's civilians as well as military in combatting any terrorist use of chemical and biological warfare agents."

But Steve Erickson, spokesman for the watchdog group Downwinders, said the news is worrisome because of military deception during the Cold War about decades of germ, chemical and radiation tests in Utah that were later shown to have threatened some residents without their knowledge.

"We want to see our (military) personnel protected from any exposures too," Erickson said. "However, the concern remains that the military in the past exposed our troops and our population with rather cavalier and ill-thought-through experiments."

He said the group is concerned, for example, that the military reportedly did not fully inform soldiers fighting in the Persian Gulf War about what vaccines and other medicines they were given -- which is a suspected cause of Gulf War Syndrome. And courts ruled that better disclosure was not required for soldiers.

"It raises the Buckenwald specter again with human experimentation. There are protocols there, but informed consent is not always practiced," Erickson said.

Meanwhile, Hatch said he is concerned about another matter: The Justice Department is considering the use of facilities other than Dugway to test and certify other protective gas masks, clothing and equipment to protect civilian "first-responders" to chemical and biological attacks.

Hatch said Dugway is already the Army's "center of reliance" for such testing of military equipment and that it should also be used for the civilian equipment.

"Only Dugway has the location, special facilities, scientific staffs, experience and certifications in place from the National Environmental Protection Act," Hatch said.

He added, "I will consider legislation requiring Dugway's use to test first-responder CBW (chemical-biological warfare) protective equipment if attempts are made to foolishly waste the taxpayers' monies to duplicate Dugway's capabilities elsewhere."

Erickson said he also worries that such moves could greatly expand what he fears is dangerous testing in Utah.