|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:||Contact: Jennifer Frost/Christopher Moody|
October 19, 1999 |
HARKIN CALLS ON PRESIDENT TO
Iowa Senator Secures Language In Defense Appropriations Bill
October 19, 1999
The Honorable William J. Clinton
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Clinton:
A surprising and frustrating Department of Defense policy has recently become known to me. I strongly urge that you quickly end an outdated national secrecy policy regarding the nuclear weapons history of the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant (IAAP).
As you are aware, the making and maintenance of nuclear weapons can be a very dangerous process. Workers at these facilities are often exposed to dangerous chemicals and radioactive substances. Your Administration has taken great strides in addressing the very real safety and health problems of nuclear weapons workers, as well as improving the clean up of the facilities and surrounding areas.
From 1947 - 1975, the IAAP performed major nuclear weapons work under the authority of the Atomic Energy Commission. Located in south-eastern Iowa, the facility returned to full Army authority and continues to manufacture conventional munitions. However, the IAAP was largely forgotten by officials in charge of overseeing nuclear weapons worker contamination and related facility clean up. Only recently has the Department of Energy recognized that the IAAP’s nuclear weapons history must receive the same level of attention and protection afforded other nuclear weapons facilities.
Unfortunately, an outdated Department of Defense policy is seriously impeding the ongoing efforts to correct any problems with worker safety and health, as well as facility clean up. It is DOD’s policy – which the Army is obliged to follow – to “neither confirm nor deny the presence or absence of nuclear weapons at any general or specific location.” According to DOD, whether the site is active or closed is irrelevant. Apparently, the DOD policy applies the IAAP’s past nuclear weapons work. Even mentioning that nuclear weapons once existed at the facility is considered a national security secret. In a recent letter to me from the Army on the subject, nuclear weapons were not even acknowledged to have been assembled at IAAP. Instead, “AEC operations” seems to be the current nomenclenture to avoid stating what is in reality not a secret.
Strangely, the DOE has made the nuclear weapons history an open and now disclosed fact. Open literature showing nuclear weapons facilities locations and histories are published, and available to the public. In fact, DOE has started a process to declassify and analyze much of the IAAP nuclear weapons history in order to more fully address potential health safety and environmental contamination. It is my hope that DOE will also soon establish a health monitoring program.
The DOE disclosure underscores the nonsensibility of the DOD secrecy policy.
More importantly, the DOD’s outdated secrecy policy is harming efforts to address the very real issues facing the community and former IAAP nuclear workers. Key to any research of the nuclear history of the facility is information from former workers. Interviews with former workers is typically an important part of analysis by the DOE when examining past operations that my impact health, safety or environmental contamination. However, the outdated policy indicates to these workers that there oath of secrecy still prohibits any discussion of nuclear weapons, even mentioning that work took place decades ago. Further, workers need to understand that they can approach their health care professionals and discuss possible problems from their work at IAAP.
Changing this outdated secrecy policy is both necessary and logical. Continuing this policy smacks of government at its worst where one agency publishes public information while an other agency tries to maintain a facade of secrecy. This will only result in an unnecessary and dangerous burying of important history. I urge you to overrule the Pentagon policy, establish a sensible and responsible policy that balances national security with the reality of today’s world, and clearly publicize the new policy for former IAAP nuclear weapons workers and other affected communities.
Thank you for your attention to this very important matter. I look forward to your response.
United States Senator