The General Accounting Office, in a stinging report that opponents of resuming nerve-gas production are using to reopen the issue, said yesterday that the Bigeye chemical bomb is so flawed that the Defense Department should not be allowed to produce it.
One of many problems, the report said, is that pilots would have to expose themselves to enemy ground fire to drop Bigeye in a way that would compensate for its technical shortcomings. The Pentagon's test program has been inconsistent and provides no sound basis for producing Bigeye as planned, the GAO said.
"This bomb is a turkey to end all turkeys," said Sen. David H. Pryor (D-Ark.) who has unsuccessfully fought Reagan administration plans to resume production of nerve-gas weapons on the grounds that chemical stocks are adequate. "It's a gobbler turkey which will gobble up $1.5 billion."
Rep. Dante P. Fascell (D-Fla.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he will cite the Bigeye's record as he urges his colleagues to cut its funds from the defense budget and reconsider their approval last year of nerve-gas weapons production.
The Pentagon is requesting $56.9 million for Bigeye in its 1987 budget.
"The Bigeye bomb is a persistent failure," Fascell said. "The only reliable bombshell we have today is this report by the GAO."
Rep. John Edward Porter (R-Ill.), who joined Pryor and Fascell at a news conference, said the United States is more likely to provoke a nerve-gas war by deploying Bigeye and other binary weapons -- so named because the two chemical agents are kept separate and mixed after launch en route to the target -- than by relying on existing stocks based in West Germany.
Under the current deployment plan, existing chemical weapons would be removed from West Germany and detoxified, along with U.S. stockpiles, as binary weapons were produced.
The binary weapons would be stored in the United States, Porter said, and would have to be flown to West Germany in a crisis or war, perhaps provoking the Soviets to launch a preemptive chemical attack. The new plan "is the exact opposite of a deterrent," he said.
John Krings, Pentagon director of operational test and evaluation, said he agreed with the GAO's contention that the testing program "has not been able to demonstrate the feasibility and effectiveness of Bigeye," which "is not ready for production."
But Krings said more tests are planned before full-scale production begins, and he added that they will be "more rigorous" than previous tests.
Krings said he was bothered by pilots' vulnerability during a lofting maneuver that would give the chemicals in Bigeye time to heat on the way to the target. He said those operational problems will be addressed by early 1987, when the Pentagon is to decide whether to proceed with volume production.
Other Pentagon officials agreed with Porter that chemical weapons in West Germany serve as a deterrent. But they added that binary munitions in the United States would provide a much more lethal arsenal that could be deployed anywhere easily, unlike today's cumbersome chemical munitions. The Air Force would drop Bigeye from A7 attack planes; the Navy would use A6E bombers launched from carriers.