Forwarded from: William Knowles <wkat_private> http://www.siliconvalley.com/mld/siliconvalley/3252347.htm By Jim Puzzanghera Mercury News Washington Bureau May 13, 2002 WASHINGTON - For more than 40 years, an elite group of academic scientists has provided the federal government with largely classified advice on the most vital issues of national security. Every summer they have met behind closed doors for almost two months near San Diego, emerging with judgments that have helped shape the nation's policies -- from ending nuclear testing to preparing for the danger of bioterrorism. But when the Pentagon tried to redirect the group, known simply as ``Jason,'' toward information technology and force it to accept Silicon Valley executives in its ranks, the scientists balked. And now this highly secret group of advisers and the independent science-based analysis it provides may be in jeopardy. Many in the scientific community say the federal government still desperately needs such unbiased assessments, especially in a time of war. Some have criticized the Bush administration for endangering this unique source of analysis for classified national security projects. Some of the group's findings are at odds with the administration on two key issues: the feasibility of a national missile-defense system and the potential need to resume nuclear testing to ensure the weapons stockpile remains usable. ``The Jasons are a national resource. Republican and Democratic presidents have found their advice invaluable. It's a real shame,'' said Joseph Cirincione, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington think tank. ``These are not defense critics, these are technical experts who are providing their technical assessment of things ranging from `star wars' weaponry to designs for defensive armor.'' Source of dispute The dispute, according to members of Jason, stems from an attempt by the director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, known as DARPA, to force the traditionally self-selecting group to accept three members. Among the three are two executives from Silicon Valley, one from an Internet-related company and another from a computer firm, said one member of the group, who, like other Jason members, declined to name the individuals. The third person is an engineer from the Washington, D.C., area. The Jasons, named after the mythical Jason and the Argonauts, said the three did not meet the group's rigid standards, which include having significant research accomplishments, being a tenured professor at a research university and being willing to commit to a lengthy annual summer research session. When the group refused to accept the three earlier this year, DARPA revoked its $1.5 million annual funding, Jason members said. The loss of the main source of money for Jason has put the group's future in jeopardy. Members say they are close to securing a new main sponsor at the Pentagon, but no agreement has been reached. Even if a deal can be worked out, the funding problems already have delayed important research, according to Jason. ``The Jasons are a very active and patriotic lot and would like to continue their work,'' said Steven Block, a member of Jason and a professor of applied physics and biological sciences at Stanford University. ``It's really quite a pity that what I believe is political influence is having such a deleterious effect at a time when our nation should be pulling together, and not apart, to deal with issues of international terrorism.'' DARPA Director Tony Tether declined to comment on the dispute. Agency media officer Jan Walker also would not comment on the accusations that Tether tried to force members into Jason. She said the reason DARPA ended its financial support for the group was because Jason failed to adapt to the times. ``The Jasons were very valuable during the Cold War. They looked at things such as submarine detection, things that were highly physics-oriented,'' Walker said. ``After the Cold War ended, a lot of the technology development moved toward information technology, and the Jasons chose not to lose their physics orientation to focus on DARPA's current needs.'' Jason members say that assertion is wrong, noting that nearly 40 percent of its scientists have doctoral degrees from fields other than physics. Among those fields are computer science, biology and chemical engineering, Block said. Jason produced 10 reports on biological issues alone between 1997 and 2001. ``To suggest that somehow Jason is a group of aging Cold Warriors that are increasingly irrelevant flies in the face of the known expertise of Jason, the known makeup of Jason and the recent product of the group,'' Block said. DARPA, the Pentagon's risk-taking research arm that created the Internet, for decades has been the main sponsor of Jason, which was founded in 1959. The ad hoc group's roughly 40 members work part time for the government, taking leaves from their universities to work on projects, mostly during a six- to eight-week session each summer in La Jolla, the beach community north of San Diego. Jason keeps an intentionally low profile, largely because of its classified work. There is no comprehensive list of members, and professors who are Jasons rarely mention the job on their résumés. Started by midcareer scientists who felt it was time for a new generation to become involved in national security issues, Jason tries to remain young. New scientists are routinely rotated in and older members become less-active senior advisers when they turn 65. Originally all male because of the era in which it was formed and the heavy emphasis on the male-dominated field of physics, Jason has branched out into other fields, and about 10 percent of its members are women. The vast majority of Jason's 20 to 30 annual studies remain classified, making its impact hard to gauge. But shortly after the group's partially declassified 1995 report that low-yield nuclear tests were not necessary to maintain the nation's weapons stockpile, former President Bill Clinton declared his support for a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty. After a 1997 Jason report that questioned whether the government would be able to map the human genome by its 2005 deadline, the pace of the program greatly accelerated. Jason has been scrambling to replace DARPA's sponsorship in time to save this summer's session, set to begin in mid-June. The chair of the group's steering committee, Steven Koonin, said Jason is close to an agreement with the Defense Research and Engineering agency, the arm of the Pentagon that, ironically, oversees DARPA. Delay on key projects As it is, the funding problems have already delayed work on projects important to national security, said Koonin, a professor of theoretical physics at the California Institute of Technology who also is the Pasadena college's provost. ``Some are relevant to counterterrorism,'' Koonin said. ``They're important in both short and long term, and we are frankly pretty frustrated.'' Among those preaching the value of the group's continued existence is John Marburger, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. ``This is a group of scientists who are among the most talented and experienced in the nation, and the scientific standards that they maintain are very high. And you would always want to have a group like that available to advise the government on issues that may arise that require that type of analysis,'' Marburger said. Koonin said the group does not take policy positions in its research but simply makes scientific assessments of government projects. ``We still write reports that have equations in them. I don't think there's any other group that does that,'' said Koonin, who has been a Jason for about 15 years. ``Our job is to provide honest, technical advice, and we're not going to shrink from doing that.'' *==============================================================* "Communications without intelligence is noise; Intelligence without communications is irrelevant." Gen Alfred. M. Gray, USMC ================================================================ C4I.org - Computer Security, & Intelligence - http://www.c4i.org *==============================================================* - ISN is currently hosted by Attrition.org To unsubscribe email majordomoat_private with 'unsubscribe isn' in the BODY of the mail.
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