by NORMAN BLACK
Dec. 14, 1988
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WASHINGTON (AP) _ A Washington environmental group on Wednesday charged that the Pentagon is considering the use of long-range cruise missiles to deliver chemical warheads and demanded a full accounting of the program's possible impact on arms control.
The group, the Foundation on Economic Trends, said the ''Deep Fire'' program ''represents a unique threat to international peace.''
Citing a little known provision of federal law, the foundation filed a petition with Defense Secretary Frank C. Carlucci, requesting ''the preparation of a full, complete, detailed and public Arms Control Impact Statement for the chemical warfare program called 'Deep Fire.'''
''This program is designed to examine deep-strike delivery of chemical weapons, including cruise-missile delivery of chemical warfare agents. The program represents a dangerous escalation of the chemical warfare arms race.''
The petition was filed by Jeremy Rifkin, the foundation's president, who added: ''If the incoming administration truly wishes to stop the proliferation of chemical weapons, as was pledged during the campaign, it should immediately eliminate this program.''
According to Rifkin, recently declassified House Appropriations Committee transcripts of a March 11, 1987, hearing contain the following from the Pentagon:
''Alternative long-range standoff chemical weapons being considered are the Army Tactical Missile System; powered GBU-15 glide weapon; air-launched cruise missile; ground-launched cruise missile; sea-launched cruise missile; Tomahawk, Harpoon and Advanced Interdiction Weapon System.''
According to the group, the federal Arms Control and Disarmament Act requires the Pentagon to prepare an impact statement whenever it begins work on a ''program involving technology with potential military application or weapons systems which ... may have significant impact on arms control and disarmament policy or negotiations.''
The foundation asserted no such impact statement had been prepared for the ''Deep Fire'' program.
''Clearly, research into deep-strike delivery systems for chemical warfare agents could dramatically alter strategic options for chemical warfare use. 'Deep Fire's' impacts on disarmament policy and negotiations must be fully assessed.''
The Pentagon said Wednesday it did not know of any program code-named ''Deep Fire,'' but acknowledged it had been conducting ''low-level studies of standoff chemical weapons since being directed by Congress to do so in 1985.''
''There is no program to put chemical weapons on cruise missiles,'' said Lt. Col. Rick Oborn, a Pentagon spokesman. ''And we're not sure where this 'Deep Fire' name comes from.
''We have been told by Congress to continue low-level studies of what chemical weapons might follow (the current generation), and that's what we're doing.''
Given the nature of the work, Oborn said it was not clear the law requiring an impact analysis should apply in this situation.
The United States, citing production by the Soviet Union, recently began making a new generation of toxic chemical weapons. The weapons being made under that program, however, are either short-range artillery rounds or a bomb for delivery by an airplane.
Putting a chemical warhead on a cruise missile would make it possible to deliver such a weapon more than 1,000 miles into enemy territory and to launch it either from the air, sea or ground.
The Foundation on Economic Trends is an environmental group that long has focused its attention on the dangers of biological research and genetic engineering.
The group has enjoyed legal success against the Pentagon in the past, succeeding in recent years in blocking construction of a new aerosol biological warfare laboratory in Utah and forcing preparation of an environmental impact study covering various biological research programs.