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House OKs $800 Million Increase in Military Building

October 16, 1985

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The House gave overwhelming approval Wednesday to a bill authorizing an $800 million increase for military construction for the current fiscal year.

The measure, approved 354-38, will allow the Defense Department to spend $9.2 billion for hundreds of construction projects this year, compared to $8.4 billion for fiscal 1985. The Reagan administration had asked for $10.3 billion.

One major project in the bill is $86.2 million for construction of a Navy base on Staten Island, N.Y., to house the renovated battleship Iowa.

That proposal was criticized Wednesday by Rep. Ted Weiss, D-N.Y., who questioned why ″we are putting nuclear silos in the middle of the nation’s most populated area.″

The Iowa is one of four World War II battleships to be brought out of mothballs and overhauled. Although the Navy won’t say if nuclear weapons will be aboard the Iowa, plans call for the four ships to be outfitted with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles.

The Navy plans to build a $300 million base for the Iowa and six support ships, including a cruiser, guided-missile destroyer, two other destroyers, and two frigates.

New York officials lobbied intensely for the base, arguing that it would bring jobs to the area. New York was picked two years ago over Boston and Newport, R.I.

Anti-nuclear groups have organized a petition opposing the basing plan and a referendum on the Nov. 5 ballot in New York City would bar the city from leasing or selling city land or spending money to facilitate the development of any facility designed to carry or store nuclear weapons.

Weiss criticized the Navy on Wednesday, saying the service had not done any emergency planning to deal with accidents involving nuclear weapons.

But that is up to local communities, not the Navy, said Rep. Guy Molinari, R-N.Y.

Molinari argued that the chances of an accidental atomic explosion are so small as to be incalculable and noted that there has never been such a blast.

Weiss admitted it was ″very unlikely″ that an accidental explosion could occur, but argued that danger also exists of an accidental release of radiation due to fire, sabotage, or accidents involving the handling of atomic warheads.

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