Dugway Proving Ground - Utah
The U.S. Army's Dugway Proving Ground (DPG) is a multipurpose facility with a full range of capabilities for testing the performance of chemical and biological material. Located 80 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah, Dugway encompasses 840,000 acres of land free from encroachment. DPG supports all branches of the DOD and shares the surrounding restricted airspace with the AF's Utah Test and Training Range. A recently completed $300 million modernization program has made Dugway an efficient, state of the art technical facility.
DPG is the DOD's principal proving ground for chemical and biological defense material, protective items, and soldier compatibility with protective clothing/equipment. In addition to this primary mission, Dugway has been designated a Center of Excellence for military smoke/obscurant and illumination systems testing and performs artillery, mortar, mines, and a wide variety of special purpose equipment testing and evaluation. Another major responsibility is the Joint Chemical/Biological Contact Point and Test Project which was assigned directly by the Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In connection with this task, DPG serves as the central source for information on chemical and biological material issues for all Commanders-in-Chief and Services.
Facilities / Resources
DPG has numerous instrumented test grids and a variety of artillery and mortar ranges, capabilities for characterizing smokes/obscurants and relevant systems, and a manned airfield with a 13,125-foot runway, supporting all types of aircraft and aviation activities. Specific facilities/resources are:
* Articulated robotic mannequin
* Aerosol test facility
* Automated data collection/processing
* Ballistic ranges
* Biological test facility
* Combined chemical test facility
* Containment chambers for chemical testing
* Cryofracture facility
* Electronics maintenance facility
* Electronic trajectory measurement
* Environmental testing
* Hazardous waste management facility
* Materiel test facility
* Meteorological measurement/modeling
* Optical maintenance facility
* Optical tracking capability
* Photographic laboratory
* Physical test facility
* Real-time x-ray facility
* Smoke/obscurant characterization
* Software development laboratory
* Telemetry capability
* Tropic test facility (Panama)
Areas of Expertise
* Chemical/biological containment
* Data acquisition software
* Laser/lidar technology
* Meteorological measurement/modeling
* Real-time chemical sensors
* Robotic applications
Although few people outside of Dugway, Utah, are aware of it,
the US Army has brought biological warfare back to a site it declared
unsafe a decade earlier.
Ten years ago, residents of western Utah breathed a healthy sigh of relief
when the Army discontinued testing biological warfare agents at its Dugway
Proving Ground. The reason given was that the Army's testing facility was
getting old, and its safety--its ability to prevent potentially deadly
diseases from escaping into the air outside the facility and thence to the
rest of the world--could no longer be guaranteed. Now the deadly bugs are
Military scientists are testing a device called the Biological Integrated
Detection System (BIDS) at the renovated Dugway facility. BIDS is
described as a defensive weapon, designed to detect the presence of
biological agents in time to allow soldiers to put on protective clothing.
A Dugway representative said the tests, which include organisms such as
anthrax, botulism, and the plague, would initially be liquid, not aerosol,
tests. Aerosol tests are the most hazardous form of testing because they
involve spraying biologicl agents into the air inside a sealed chamber.
One tiny air leak could result in a catastrophic release of deadly
diseases. It wsas precisely this hazard that led to the closing of the
Dugway facility in 1983. The biowarfare lab has been renovated since then
and Army experts claim their elaborate safety precautions will prevent such
Nonetheless, new safety concerns were raised in September 1993, when the
Dugway Proving Ground was cited for 22 violations of state hazardous-waste
regulations, ranging from inadequate record-keeping to improper dumping of
poisonous chemicals. Notices of violations and orders for compliance were
issued to the Army base by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.
Critics also point out that it was the Army that denied for a year that it
was responsible for the 1968 accidental release of nerve gas from Dugway
that killed some 6,000 sheepin the area.
Finally, public information about what was happening at Dugway suffered a
serious setback in September 1993, when the biowarfare oversight committee
that advises the governor of Utah on biological defense testing matters at
Dugway voted to make itself off-limits to the public. Reasoning that they
could obtan more information from the Army if confidentiality could be
assured, the oversight group also voted to disengage from its parent
organization, the State Advocacy Council on Science and Technology. The
committee had been frustrated by its inability to get timely information
Critics doubt the committee will have access to any more information than
it has received in the past and that the net result only further distances
the Army from accountability and the public from the truth.
[By] SSU Censored Researcher:
COMMENTS: Jim Woolf, environmental writer for The Salt Lake Tribune, said
he was surprised by the lack of attention this story generated. "It was
treated as a local story that had little significance to the general
public.," Woolf said, adding, "I disagree."
Woolf felt the general public should know more about this story for at
least three reasons:
"1. This is an important local story. Military scientists near my home
are conducting tests with some of the most deadly disease causing organisms
and natural toxins ever identified. What if some of these 'bugs' escape
into the environment or are carried by workers into my community? Are
local doctors trained to recognize and deal with this threat? Has the Army
taken all prudent steps to reduce the risk? Has the public been told the
full scope of testing being carried out by the Army?
"2. Biological and chemical weapons have been described as the 'poor man's
atomic bomb.' They are relatively easy to produce and could have
devastating consequences in battle. Several of our enemies are known or
suspected t ohave these weapons. All announced testing at Dugway focuses
on developing systems to protect America troops from these weapons. (The
development or testing of OFFENSIVE biological or chemical systems is
prohoboted under international treaties.) Work in this field would be of
general interest to military families and others who may feel threatened by
this category of weapon.
"3. The resumption of testing and plans to build an upgraded research
laboratory at Dugway could have important consequences for America's
international relations. Critics claim there is no clear line dividing
defensive from offensive testing--the scientific knowledge gained at Dugway
can be used for either good or bad. Does the resumption of this testing
send a message to other ocuntries that the United States is interested in
bio-chem warfare? Will it prompt other countries to upgrade their test
facilities and lead to an escalation in the race to produce
Woolf felt the interests of several groups were served by thelimited
coverage given the resumption of biowarfare testing.
"The Army was pleased. Military scientists wnat freedom to study whatever
they want, no matter how dangerous or far-fetched the potantial threat may
be. The last thing they want are questions from the public or elected
"Congress was served because members were not required to confront another
potentially controversial issue. A handful of members interested in
military issues are responsible for most of the funding decisions in this
area. If there is no controversy, no one else has to confront the
difficult questions surrounding this topic.
"Certain economic interests in Utah and elsewhere were served. Dugway
provides jobs in a remote area of the state. If biological testing were
eliminated or scaled back, the Army would have fewer reasons to maintain
the base. Also, a handful of comapanies are developing products and
services related to biological-defense. None would like to see their
income potential reduced."
Woolf notesthat the resumption of biological testing has been a difficult
issue in Utah and concludes with a chilling questoin.
"The presence of these deadly agents so close to our community is a source
or concern, but we watched on CNN the terror in Israel during the Iraq war
when no one knew whether the bombs that were falling contained chemical or
biological weapons. We understand the need to improve our defenses, but
wonder why it has to be done in our backyard, whether there are safer
alternatives, and whether all safety precautions have been taken.
"We're also frightened that the Army may not be telling the whole truth--
that in times of emergency they will cover their operations with the
national security veil and do whatever they think is right, regardless of
the threat to their neighbors. Utahns learned this lesson living downwind
from the nuclear-weapons tests at the Nevada Test Site.
"Will the clouds of radioactive material be followed by the plague?"
Jon Christensen, Great Basin Regional Editor for the High Country News,
areed that there hadn't been sufficient coverage of this issue. "The only
papers to cover the story adequately were The Salt Lake tribune and the
High Desert Advocate, in Wendover, Nevada." Without their coverage,
Christensen felt that we all might have missed this story about the
resumption of biowarfare testing at Dugway, Utah. He feels it is important
for people to know about this issue since they "might better understand the
domestic costs and risks of preparing for war, many of which are borne by
remote, rural Western communities (among others). Also, our stockpile of
dangerous chemical weapons and biological agents must be stored and
destroyed safely. The public needs to know how." Christensen emphasized
that "The regional media deserve credit for following this story. Without
them, we would all be in the dark about this?"