Poker Flat Rocket Research Range official website: http://www.pfrr.alaska.eduTed DeLaca, Vice-provost for Sponsored Program, on the subject of classified research.
DeLaca's memorandum on the subject of research university positions on acceptance of classified research within the academic environment is available.
"Poker Flat to add classified rocket launches." Fairbanks writer Dan O'Neill broke the story about the plans for the University's rocket research range in October, 2001, in the Fairbanks Daily News Miner.
"Army scrubs secret testing: Poker Flat: 20 missile launches canceled; Alaska logistics blamed." Thursday, January 24, 2002: The Anchorage Daily News was ready to run the whole story on O'Neill's discoveries when the project was canceled.
"Little doubt: UA planned Scud launches." Dan O'Neill's column from the Fairbanks Daily News Miner, January 26, 2002.
"Navy scientist to head UA research." Fairbanks Daily News Miner, January 26, 2002.
"Home on the range." Dan O'Neill's follow-up column on the Poker Flat Rocket Research Range. Submitted to the Fairbanks Daily News Miner on Jan. 23, 2002.
"Poker Flat Rocket Range: the basics." UAF Geophysical director Roger Smith's February 16, 2002 guest opinion column in the Fairbanks Daily News Miner on the history and safety record of Poker Flat.
"Confidential Research splits University." March 1, 2002. The Fairbanks Daily News Miner runs a front-page article on the classified research controversy.
"Secret Research not UA's mission." March 1, 2002. Columnist Dan O'Neill reports on the ogoing debate among faculty at the University.
"Banning classified research limits scientific research." March 2, 2002. Fairbanks columnist Dermot Cole weighs in on the debate, largely by reprinting excerpts from the email message exchange that has been occuring on the University faculty list.
Letters to the editor:
"Biblical truth" Jan. 16 A Fort Yukon resident expresses his concerns about the Arctic Dispersal Program planned for Poker Flat.
"Military Testing" Feb. 3 AKPirg director Steve Conn ties the Poker Flat story into the larger history of military testing in Alaska.
"I was outraged..." Letter to the editor about the university's plans for Poker Flat by Jennifer Allsion-Keim, which ran in the Fairbanks Daily News Miner on February 20, 2002.
"For Just Results: Questioning NMD Research in Alaska." UAF Philosophy Professor and Senate Faculty President Norm Swazo discusses the ethical and legal implications of the university's involvement in classified missile defense research. Copyright reserved by N. Swazo.
UAF Senate Faculty President Norm Swazo's comments to the senate on the question of classified research.
An Open Letter to UAF Faculty, from Professor Norman K. Swazo, President, UAF Faculty Senate, 14 Feb. 2002.
Some definitions of "classified research":
* At Indiana University at Bloomington: "activity that restricts the free and open communication of its intent and results."
* At University of Texas at Austin: "any classified contract which restricts freedom to acknowledge the existence of the contract, to identify the sponsor, and to disclose the general purpose and scope of the proposed research in sufficient detail to permit informed discussion regarding its appropriateness within The University"
* At University of Colorado: "research that has a security classification established by a federal agency"; "industrially sponsored proprietary research for which the sponsor requires a delay in publication in excess of six months"
* At University of California: "federal extramural awards that are intended to make a contribution to the defense of the Untied States but whose purposes might be impeded if the research results were publicly available"
* Department of Defense security definitions:
* Classified agreement: "An agreement that requires access to classified information by the contractor or designated employess in the performance of tasks or services in the agreement."
* Classified document: "A document containing information, the disclosure of which could damage the national security of the United States."
* Confidential: "The lowest DOD classified level applied to information whose unauthorized disclosure could be expected to cause damage to national security."
* Secret "The DOD classification level between Confidential and Top Secret that is applied to information whose unauthorized disclosure could be expected to cause serious damage to national security."
* Need-to-know: "A determination made by the possessor of classified information that a prospective recipient, in the interest of national security, has a requirement for access to, knowledge of, or possession of classified information in order to perform tasks or services essential to the fulfillment of a classified contract or program."
(definitions courtesy of Prof. Norm Swazo)
This letter to the editor from a Fort Yukon resident ran in the Fairbanks Daily News Miner on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2002:
Jan. 16, 2002
To the editor:
The University of Alaska Fairbanks appears to be riding the rubber stamp straight
through ethical and academic standards in regards to its relationship with the
military. I don't support the hijacking of institutions of higher learning for military
purposes. The military has enough resources to do its own work. The university
is creating a dangerous precedent and smoothing an already slippery slope in its
actions with the military.
The university has helped or is helping to develop the High Altitude Auroral
Research Project, which is now a classified Navy project, the nanosensor
technology with the company Alien Technology, which will be researching ways
to utilize microscopic tracking technology for "military applications" and now
there are plans to launch rockets that will explode on the Yukon Flats National
Wildlife Refuge and the homeland of the Gwich'in people.
This so-called study is hardly for the edification of mankind, or for the tutelage of
students. It is almost certain the information gleaned from blowing up rockets on
a "wildlife refuge" to study "dispersion" will be classified as well as polluting and
dangerous, and all of this for a National Missile Defense that is as laughable as it
is implausible. And it's not even necessary, were it functional! Excuse me, I
digress into pork-barrel politics.
Again, the ethical complications are hard to ignore: is the university utilizing its
resources and supporters, i.e. students and faculty, for the merely commercial
function of generating dollars into its system and the community or is it striving
for the edification and education of Alaskans, young and old, by conducting a
valuable research and shedding the ignorance that is vital to a healthy humankind
I think the former, the university is selling its academic and ethical credibility to
the highest bidder. Let the university consider its purpose, is it commercial or
academic? There is no easier way for an educational institution to fall from the
"Summum" than by the "Nauseum" of sold out ethical greed, on with the bucks
for the hometown!
Military testing Jan. 28, 2002 To the editor:
February 03, 2002
The proposed secret launch of 20 Scud-like missiles over private and public lands from a university site, (one used previously for research purposes like studies of the aurora borealis), was not scrapped because university personnel refused to keep the launch secret. It ended as private citizens pressed for a public review. Two conclusions emerge:
First, the military continues to treat Alaska as a military proving ground akin to the depopulated White Sands Missile Range, desert expropriated from ranchers decades ago to test the atomic bomb and other weapons. Its historical indifference to damage mirrors the old Atomic Energy Commission at the Amchitka blast site. If and when damage is discovered, it will first deny and then drag its heels until sufficient political pressure is applied. That was the pattern at Amchitka and when radioactive material was discovered on hunting grounds near Point Hope.
Second, our state university (where I served with pride for many years) has no determined policy regarding its participation in secret military experiments that could harm Alaska resources or populations. This must change.
Revelation of the secret missile launch makes it all the more important to press for full public disclosure of possible damage from missile defense experiments at Fort Greely and on Kodiak Island. Until the military revises its assumptions about Alaska, we have to look out for ourselves. That's exactly why we formed Citizens Against Defense Experiments. See Alaskacode.org for more information.
Alaska Public Interest
Fairbanks Daily News Miner, Saturday, Jan. 26th, 2002
Navy scientist to head UA research
By MARMIAN L. GRIMES
The University of Alaska has hired a top Navy scientist
as vice president for research for the statewide university
Craig Dorman, currently a scientist at the Pennsylvania
State University and the chief scientist of the Office of
Naval Research, will start work in March.
The position isn't new, according to UA chief of staff Jim
"The university used to have this position years ago, but
in the budget-cutting times of the early- to mid-90s the
position was eliminated," he said.
Lawmakers last year approved the position in the current year's operating budget.
Johnsen said Dorman will focus on boosting research within the UA system.
"He is going to investigate new fields for research, some of which may have
commercial potential," he said. "He is going to help coordinate and develop
research priorities and help us present those research priorities to funding
agencies and industry.
"He is going to try to interact more with those outside the university so we can
do more of what we call applied research."
It's a task Dorman is well qualified to do, Johnsen said. "He is an internationally
recognized expert in this area of taking research into practical, useful
Dorman has a doctorate in oceanography. He is a former Navy SEAL who retired
as a rear admiral in 1989. He was the director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic
Institution in Massachusetts and has held several positions within the Office of
Naval Research. In 2000, he was one of six finalists for the director's position at
the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
The job ultimately went to Syun-Ichi Akasofu.
In a letter to the UA screening committee, Dorman writes that seeking that
position and visiting Fairbanks then "whetted my appetite for the job at hand."
Geophysical Institute director Roger Smith, who also served on the screening
committee for the position, said panel members were impressed with Dorman's
resume and his familiarity with Washington, D.C. funding agencies.
Dorman has strong leadership qualities, Smith said, which will help him increase
research collaboration at the university, which in turn should increase funding and
"This is actually what I believe needs to be done to enhance the research output
of the university," Smith said.
Dorman was offered the $149,000 per-year position in mid-November, Johnsen
In October, the UAF faculty senate passed a resolution objecting to part of the
hiring process. Norm Swazo, faculty senate president, said at issue was the fact
that Dorman did not visit the campus.
"Generally the idea is that a senior officer of the university comes to campus for
appropriate interviews so all the various faculty, staff and students have a chance
to meet with the candidate," Swazo said.
Dorman did not.
"He was on his way on that international tour so we couldn't bring him up,"
Johnsen said, adding that Dorman had been to UAF in 2000 when he applied for
the position at the arctic research center. "When he came up on a house-hunting
trip with his wife, he met with a large number of the faculty."
Swazo said he had a chance to meet with Dorman and that he is "quite satisfied"
with his hiring. The resolution, he said, was simply a reminder to the university
administration of the appropriate process.
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Feb. 12, 2002
To the editor:
I was outraged to read that the University of Alaska
Fairbanks, agreed to work with the military on
dangerous missile projects, such as the one
mentioned by Dan O'Neill in the Daily News-Miner.
This time the project didn't succeed, but the
possibility of it happening again is still there unless
the public is ever watchful.
Is the university so starved for money that the only
route to solvency is secret military research? Doesn't
the military have enough already contaminated areas
elsewhere in the United States that have been set
aside for their experiments? How dare the military
think they can fire rockets wildly at the Brooks Range
without considering all the ramifications of such
Why take the Poker Flat Research Range, which was
originally set up for respectable university studies of
the aurora, and turn it over to the military for their
covert operations just to pay the bills? If the Poker
Flat facility is not paying for itself, the university
should simply shut it down until it is needed or find
more legitimate academic uses for it.
Since the university was willing to accept funding for
this dangerous military project, I wonder how many
other questionable money sources it has? Is our
university becoming such a federal money pit that
traditional academia is being pushed out the door?
Whatever happened to the concept of a dignified,
well-managed university that focuses on its true
mission of educating students in a moral and open
UAF FACULTY SENATE #106
FEBRUARY 4, 2002
DATE : 3 February 2001
TO : Paul Reichardt, Provost
Frank Williams, VCAS
FROM : Ted DeLaca, Director, Office of Sponsored Programs
RE : Research university positions on acceptance of classified research
within the academic environment
In reference to our earlier discussions, I have undertaken a survey of
changes in attitude toward the desirability of accepting government
classified research onto academic campuses. My interest in this matter
was aroused during a set of presentations (at the last NCURA meeting)
regarding the potential impacts of recent changes to modifications and
interpretations of the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR).
At that meeting, a review of the relevant issues was presented (I have
since distributed those materials to Parrish, Neumayr, Akasofu, Smith, and
Williams) that discusses the history of changes to the regulations related
to the Cox Report and the Los Alamos spying allegations. Two issues
should be considered: 1) whether universities and their faculties are
appropriate environments for classified or proprietary research; and, 2)
with the stiffening of regulations, rigid oversight and interpretations of
the ITAR and EAR has it become too risky for universities to be engaged
classified research? Through heavily 'borrowing' from the presentations
of Erica Kropp, Univ. of Maryland College Park and Barbara Yoder, Univ.
California, I will make the following arguments about these two related
The 'high road' taken by the universities represented maintained that;
basic and applied research in science and engineering conducted by
scientists, engineers, or students at a university normally will be
considered fundamental research, and not subject to Export Regulations
(EAR). At those universities the resulting information is ordinarily
published and shared broadly within the scientific community. Those
universities felt that research is not considered fundamental, and is
therefore subject to the EAR, if publication of the results is;
i) subject to restrictions imposed by a sponsor,
ii) subject to substantial pre-publication review by a sponsor, or
iii) subject to the sponsor's withholding results from publication.
These universities have reaffirmed that they will only accept contracts or
other awards containing those restrictions after careful pre-submission
institutional review. Other language in RRPs, AOs, agency solicitations,
and contracts that require significant review include:
* Restrictions on the participation of non-US entities is required;
* Access by non-US citizens to the project information is restricted
* Hiring of non-US persons is restricted or disallowed;
* Pre-approval rights over research publications is stipulated;
* Requirements for pre-publication review for matters other than the
inclusion of patent and/or propriety sponsor information are stipulated;
* Sponsors claim resulting research information as proprietary or
trade secret; or,
* If security concerns are addressed.
In short, they have adopted policies stating that classified work may not
be conducted on campus. Fundamental to those decisions is that
universities and their faculties are not suited for that kind of work in
that there are few, if any, ways to control access and dispersal of
information on a typical university campus. They likened the introduction
of classified information into the campus environment to contagion where,
once it is introduced it spreads and morphs in unpredictable ways and
results in significant institutional liability.
The University of California has further stated that it will not accept
restrictions based upon citizenship status. It educates and discourages
its investigators from signing Militarily Critical Technical Data
Agreements (DD2345), Air Force Acquisition Clause 5353.227-9000, titled
Export-Control Data Restrictions, or DoD requirements for project
personnel to complete the Questionnaire for Public Trust Positions.
Again, the rationale for this is that they feel protection of the openness
and international participation in science is as much a national service
and in the national interest as is the conduct of classified research. I
do not know what educational efforts or university policies related to our
employees signing such statements presently exists for UA but think that
there is nothing.
I surveyed 21 universities, quasi-randomly, for their policies related to
acceptance of classified research projects on campus and found that 5
universities allowed classified research apparently without restriction;
11 universities allowed classified research under some circumstances; and,
5 universities would not allow classified research to be conducted on
their campuses (see the following table). Erica Kropp (U. Maryland)
expressed concern that because of increasing awareness of these issues,
the web pages that I surveyed may not be up to date.
Open to Classified research
Ohio State U.
U. Miami Med.
U. Colorado, Boulder
U. Colorado, Colorado Spr.
Classified allowed with reservations
U. New Mexico
U. No. Carolina Chapel Hill
Classified research NOT allowed
Illinois State U
North Dakota State Univ.
Oregon State U.
Models to consider
North Dakota State Univ.
U. No. Carolina Chapel Hill
As a result of the Cox Report, Congress reiterated the importance of the
Missile Technology Control Regimes and stated that ".due to the
sensitivity of technologies involved, it is in the national security
interests of the United States that United States satellites and related
items be subject to the same export controls that apply. to munitions."
That congressional action resulted in the transfer of jurisdiction of the
ITAR from the Commerce Department to the Department of State.
The following citations seem relevant:
ITAR 120.1 the purpose of ITAR is to control export/import of defense
articles and services;
ITAR 120.3 defines "defense articles" and defense services" as items
designed or intended for military use and activities that support that
military use and not having a preponderant civilian use, and it points to
items listed at ITAR 121.1 (the Munitions List);
ITAR 121.1 (Munitions List - Spacecraft Systems and Associated
Equipment), subparagraph a) provides that scientific, research, and
experimental satellites are to be deemed Significant Military Equipment
only if intended for use by foreign armed services. (SME is a designation
that may make anything subject to ITAR 120.7 based on "substantial
military utility" or capability)
ITAR 121.1(f).[last sentence of the first paragraph) "Further, technical
data directly related to the manufacture or production of all spacecraft,
notwithstanding the nature of the intended end use (e.g., even where the
hardware is not SME), is designated SME."
With the transfer of jurisdiction of ITAR to the Department of State has
come a great deal of uncertainty regarding the involvement of universities
and their faculty in satellite sensors, retrieved data and the research
related to data processing, algorithm development, and related issues.
While there is the potential (even encouragement from some industrial
collaborators and funding agencies) for involved universities to apply for
export licenses to attract contracts or somehow avoid penalties, we were
discouraged from doing so. Universities presently enjoy an exemption from
some of the policies and regulations of ITAR by virtue the general
recognition of their openness policies regarding research and publication
of data and information. The general consensus at the NCURA meeting was
that universities do not have the wherewithal (policies, staffing,
physical plant security..) to avoid the many pitfalls of playing in this
NASA HAS POSTED THE FOLLOWING NOTE RELATED TO FINES AND PENALTIES RELATED
TO ITAR AND EAR INFRACTIONS:
- Export Laws & Regulations are binding
- Penalties for violations will be assessed to the person
responsible and not to NASA
- International Traffic In Arms (ITAR) penalties
- Fine of $1 million per violation
- Imprisonment - 10 years per violation
- Export Administration penalties (EAR
- Fine of up to $10K+
- Imprisonment for up to 10 years
The statement that followed that note: Violations of Export Control
Regulations jeopardize NASA's export privileges, and that new legislation
has increased the cost of the fines.
Summary and personal recommendations:
I have personally been involved in classified research since I was a first
year graduate student (AEC), and have continued my involvement throughout
my research career. I know that it is possible to manage classified
research programs on university campuses but it does take a significant
commitment on the part of the university to establish and actively
maintain such programs (including security administration and oversights).
While we could develop a more rigorous program for classified research,
UAF needs to undertake a benefit/cost evaluation to consider whether we
should do so. These are changing and troubled times for academia (e.g.,
Los Alamos) and I think it is important to vigorously consider all of our
options on these matters. Isolating Poker Flat (and possibly ARSC) as
secured facilities is considered to be a possible solution. While that
may prove to be a partial solution, those faculty and students will not be
restricted to Poker Flat but will also be spending considerable time on
the UAF campus. Whether UA does or does not participated in classified
research, we should develop a required educational program that provides
adequate information on University and federal policies, rules and
regulations related to these issues as part of the larger educational
program on research compliance.
[*National Security Decision Directive 189 resulted from Executive Order
12356 issued by President Regan in 1989. It was subsequently modified
because of the Cox Report and the Los Alamos spying allegations in 1998]
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Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
Poker Flat Rocket Range: the basics
February 16, 2002
By ROGER SMITH
Poker Flat Research Range is the largest land-based rocket range in the world. It has launched more than 1,850 rockets in its
34-year history and also is the only university-owned range in the world.
Operations at Poker Flat are supported by a NASA contract that maintains range facilities and provides employment for
range staff. The Geophysical Institute also contributes to the operation of the range and uses it for scientific investigations of
the atmosphere and the aurora.
Flying rockets requires careful attention to the safety of people, property and the environment. Current FAA records show
that there is one fatal accident per 5 million commercial airline flights. Our safety standard doubles that benchmark with a
chance of less than one in 10 million that a fatal accident could occur. This is 10 times safer for the general public than any
other NASA-operated range. At Poker Flat, this very high level of safety is provided by NASA through expert flight safety
calculations and planning. Thanks to these high standards, there have been no fatal accidents in the history of the range.
Several factors are considered together in evaluating flight safety. First, the flight history of a specific rocket configuration is
compiled and its statistical performance determined. Using data from all past flights, an assessment is done to find how closely
a specific rocket configuration performs according to the ideal flight plan. From this, the most probable impact points of each
booster stage of the propulsion system and the payload are found. A safety zone is drawn around each impact point in the
form of a circle containing 95 percent impact probability. No inhabited buildings, homes or property can be within this circle.
The remaining 5 percent represents the possibility of an impact outside the circle. If this were to occur, the chances of an
accident depend on the density of dwellings in the vicinity. However, because there are very few occupied dwellings in Poker
Flat's flight zones, the calculated accident rate is extremely low.
Second, any possible damage to the environment or people is investigated. The rocket consists of one or more motor stages
and a payload stage. Any environmental risk factors arising from exposure of the propellant, spent motors or the payload is
investigated. A satisfactory result is required before any given flight is permitted. Most rocket missions at Poker Flat use solid
fuel rocket boosters originally produced for the military and surplused for use by NASA. The environmental risks of using
them are small and the range has had approval from responsible state and federal agencies for many years. Other types of
rocket motors require special consideration outside this general permission.
Because the range is part of the Geophysical Institute, each rocket mission must have a scientific basis for it to be an
appropriate part of geophysical or other university research.
Normally, missions mounted by NASA arise from a peer-reviewed competition for funds where a major part of the evaluation
concerns the scientific nature of the project. Hence, when NASA is the sponsor, the scientific content of the mission is rarely
called into question. From time to time, other sponsors want to use the range facilities. The Department of Defense has
sponsored approximately one third of the most recent 300 rockets launched from Poker Flat. Defense sponsors place all flight
responsibilities in NASA's hands. Additional work needed to support the payload or any downrange requirements are
provided directly by the Defense sponsor. Defense experiments are directed to Poker Flat because of the high-latitude
context of their investigation. This naturally leads to the involvement of GI faculty to provide measurements and expertise
supporting the Defense's investigation.
A good case illustrating how this happens was the successful SPIRIT II mission flown in 1992. This rocket experiment was
designed to find out how much auroral heating of the atmosphere would confuse optical sensors looking for distant spacecraft
approaching across the polar cap. A very large payload with an infrared telescope was constructed by Utah State University
for the Air Force. This was mated to an Aries rocket to be launched from Poker Flat. The Geophysical Institute faculty and
the range personnel provided extensive ground-based diagnostics in support of this mission. These essential diagnostics
determined the existence of the required atmospheric and auroral conditions for launch.
Scientific investigations are planned to continue at the newly refurbished and rebuilt Poker Flat. Many of these research
missions will include the use of rockets to carry instruments for measurements at high altitude. We will continue our high
standards of operation, adhering to the three major considerations of scientific relevance, flight safety and environmental
Roger Smith is the director of the Geophysical Institute on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus.
An Open Letter to UAF Faculty, from Professor Norman K. Swazo, President, UAF Faculty Senate, 14 February 2002
At the February 04 meeting of the UAF Faculty Senate, Dr. William Bristow, assistant professor of electrical engineering with appointment to the UAF Geophysical Institute and faculty senator representing the faculty of the College of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics (CSEM), provided comments on the draft motion that would establish an interim procedure governing classified research at UAF. Citing a section of the Senate's "Faculty Statement of Professional Ethics", Professor Bristow concluded: "The draft motion before us would place significant constraints on the conduct of classified research. So much so that it would essentially forbid it. This does not constitute respect and defense of the free inquiry of our colleagues. It constitutes an attack on their academic freedom; an attack on our academic freedom." To support this conclusion, Professor Bristow argued: "If the university chose to forbid classified research, or to put in place constraints that made it impossible to pursue, it would severely infringe on the academic freedom of the faculty. Faculty should be free to choose their areas of inquiry so long as they are consistent with the mission of the university, will not endanger the health or safety of the public, and will comply with pertinent regulations. In other words, classified research should be subject to the same constraints as any other research program. And, while it may not be possible for all university personnel to have direct knowledge that a specific program does meet these standards, we must place trust in our faculty, Deans, and Directors, who do have direct knowledge, to insure that the standards are met."
Clearly, Professor Bristow engages a pertinent issue in seeking to assure the academic freedom of the faculty here at UAF. However, it is incumbent upon me, in my capacity as President of the UAF Faculty Senate and author of the draft motion, to respond to Professor Bristow's charge that the draft motion constitutes an attack on the academic freedom of UAF faculty, with the implication that those who would affirm this motion thereby violate the senate's own Statement of Professional Ethics. I respectfully disagree with Professor Bristow and lay out my reasoning in what follows.
Some in the academic community, appealing to the principle of academic freedom, do not sanction any proscription of, or limitation upon, scientific research. Academic freedom, they argue, entails the free pursuit of scientific research irrespective of "political" influences, e.g., such as the debate over national missile defense (NMD). In present case the claim is that whereas NMD is a political issue outside the concern of the university as such, proposed Geophysical Institute projects such as the Arctic Dispersion/Debris Experiment (ADE) and the Arctic Missile Signature Program (AMSP) are scientific research projects. As such, faculty engagement in them is protected in the academy by the principle of academic freedom. An institution of higher education violates this principle if it proscribes or limits any scientific research, including ADE and AMSP. Because a research university in particular ought not violate the academic freedom of its research faculty, therefore the University of Alaska administration ought not proscribe or limit any scientific research, including ADE and AMSP.
The foregoing argument seems convincing. But, examined more critically, it manifests a degree of naïveté about government-sponsored research, neglecting to take into account two undeniable facts: (1) all government-sponsored research is itself an outcome of a political process of appropriation and allocation of resources among competing interests; (2) ADE and AMSP are projects linked to a politically driven interest in theater and/or national missile defense, especially given those interests in NMD expressed by Alaska's representatives to the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives and the R&D arm of Lockheed-Martin and Boeing corporations. It is, quite simply, false to assert that ADE and AMSP are purely scientific projects. They are examples of applied research motivated by a political agenda which the Department of Defense's Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) is charged to implement in the research, development, and deployment of the relevant weapons technologies.
As for the argument from academic freedom as such, without doubt academic freedom has been and remains a cornerstone of the American academy's self-concept. As is well known, this principle has been championed in the United States chiefly by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). A faculty formally affiliated with AAUP through collective bargaining (such as at UAF) will, of course, seek to preserve the AAUP standard in practice even as the UA Board of Regents policy sustains the principle. I, too, as a faculty member, act on behalf of academic freedom even as I sponsor the draft motion at issue. I do so, however, insofar as I concur with Robert S. Cohen, Professor Emeritus of the Departments of Physics and Philosophy at Boston University, that "If we know what we want, then knowledge of facts will help us, either to achieve our goal or to tell us that it cannot be achieved. So science, if conceived as knowledge of the relevant facts, will inform us about the means to our ends, but it does not thereby shed light on the wisdom of those ends." (Robert S. Cohen, "Ethics and Science", in Alfred I. Tauber, ed., Science and the Quest for Reality (New York: NYU Press, 1997, pp. 347-362, at pp. 350 & 351)
With this in mind, we can appreciate that the AAUP "Statement of Principles" on academic freedom recognizes that "Freedom of research is fundamental to the advancement of truth," and I surely concur. However, the Statement also recognizes that "Institutions of higher education are conducted for the common good and not to further the interest of either the individual teacher or the institution as a whole." (American Association of University Professors, Policy Documents & Reports, 1995 Edition) Further, the AAUP Statement construes academic freedom to carry with it "duties correlative to rights." Here duty includes responsibility that unavoidably falls upon faculty "when undertaking government-sponsored research," and especially when undertaking classified research that does not have the normal process of public dissemination or public peer review of research results. The AAUP Statement is silent on the question of whether there are circumstances in which an institutional limitation or denial of participation in government-sponsored research may be consistent with academic freedom. Yet, there are some distinguished research universities that prohibit classified research (e.g., Indiana University at Bloomington, Stanford University, State University of New York), not a one of which is censured by AAUP for violation of the academic freedom of the faculty at these institutions.
An argument may be adduced that an institutional limitation or denial of participation in government-sponsored classified research is consistent with academic freedom, and I do so in what follows. This argument takes as its major premise the AAUP Statement's acknowledgment that institutions of higher education are conducted for the common good, this common good to be distinguished from (though it may surely incorporate) the interest of the individual faculty member and the interest of the institution. This premise implies that in a conflict between the common good and such interests, it is the common good that is to be privileged. In the present case the common good is equivalent to the national security broadly construed. Professor Bristow asserts, "The implication of the current debate [about classified research at UAF] is that there is something wrong with doing research that will benefit national defense." He then claims, "Nothing could be further from the truth. The defense of our nation is a good and honorable cause. Research that contributes to national security is good and honorable. It is entirely consistent of the mission of a university to serve the needs of the public."
It is not my purpose to obstruct or detract from the national security by arguing in favor of an interim procedure governing classified research at UAF. It is my purpose, however, to engender a sufficiently critical capacity among UAF faculty when applied research in practice restricts reasonable public disclosure while purporting to serve the public interest. Professor Bristow fails to consider that the issue is not national security per se but rather the means by which national security is to be assured. Professor Bristow fails to account for those well-defended and well-documented technical studies, carried out, e.g., by faculty at MIT's Security Studies Program, that conclude the national security is not effectively served by NMD systems - and this cannot but include NMD R&D of the sort involved in the proposed ADE and AMSP projects. Professor Bristow and other UAF research scientists keen on soliciting or accepting classified research contracts related to NMD R&D fail to account for the fact that distinguished Nobel Prize scientists, writing as recently as 12 November 2001 on behalf of the Federation of American Scientists - including, e.g., 1967 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics Dr. Hans Bethe of Cornell University, 1979 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics Dr. Steven Weinberg of University of Texas at Austin, 1977 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics Dr. Philip Anderson of Princeton University, 1981 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics Dr. Nicolaas Bloembergen of Harvard University, 1980 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics Dr. Val Fitch of Princeton University, 1960 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics Dr. Donald Glaser of the University of California, 1990 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics Dr. Jerome Friedman of MIT, 2000 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics Dr. Herbert Kroemer of University of California, 1996 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics Dr. Douglas Osherhoff of Stanford University, etc., etc. - all, among 51 Nobel laureates, urged the leadership of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives to rethink "a technically improbable defense against a strategically improbable Third World ballistic missile attack." They argued, "Devoting massive effort and expense to countering the least probable and least effective threat would be unwise Previous attempts at a national missile defense have collapsed as it became evident that performance was much lower and cost much higher than advertised. We see no evidence systems currently being put forward will meet or merit a different fate." In a subsequent statement issued on 13 December 2001, the Federation of American Scientists declared, "Scientists are nearly unanimous in calling national missile defense unworkable. It is distressing that President Bush has chosen to listen to the demagoguery of missile-defense enthusiasts instead of to the wisdom of America's brightest scientists." (Source: Federation of American Scientists, www.fas.org)
In citing the foregoing statements, I give scientists their due authority, and it is this scientific authority that guides my considered judgment in putting forward an interim procedure governing classified research at UAF. I, as a practicing philosopher, concur with Alfred Tauber, Director of the Center for Philosophy and History of Science at Boston University, that "science is essentially pluralistic, accepting detracting, as well as integrating criticism as part of its very code In this regard science is a bulwark of liberal, democratic society In respecting that science does indeed seek truth by such principles, we must we wary of confusing its ostensible, and in my opinion largely attained, moral goals from the exceptional cases of dogmatic attitudes or fraudulent practices that threaten to subvert the ideal." (Tauber, op. cit., p. 5) Note here that in its ideal practice science is accepting of detracting criticism, and that detracting criticism is especially necessary in the face of fraudulent practices that occur in the context of classified research. For those who are uninformed of a major issue of scientific fraud in NMD testing, I offer the following relevant datum for your consideration.
Dr. Theodore Postol, Professor of Science, Technology, and National Security Policy in the Security Studies Program at MIT, recently peer reviewed published data available from the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization's "Integrated Flight Test-1A". In a statement with supporting technical documentation transmitted to the White House in May 2000, Professor Postol reports that he "discovered that the BMDO's own data shows that the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) [the anti-ballistic missile interceptor] will be defeated by the simplest of balloon decoys." Worse for proponents of NMD, Professor Postol examined documentation "that shows that the BMDO in coordination with its contractors attempted to hide this fact by tampering with both the data and the analysis from the IFT-1A experiment. In addition," Dr. Postol wrote, "it appears that the BMDO modified the configuration of the IFT-2, 3, and 4 follow-on flight tests to hide the program-stopping facts revealed in the IFT-1A." (Source: Dr. Theodore A. Postol; personal communication and transmittal of the said documents) Professor Postol's documentation included Department of Defense Inspector General Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) documents. In these documents the DCIS investigative team reported, "We conclude that there is absolute irrefutable proof that TRW's [a leading defense contractor] discrimination technology does not work. We know that this is the strongest statement that can be made regarding our position relative to TRW's discrimination technology. We invite POET [BMDO's internal analysis team, Phase One Engineering Team] to thoroughly review this report, make their own calculations, and ask them to either validate our findings or refute them scientifically Our report clearly demonstrates and scientifically proves the inadequacies and misrepresentations by TRW concerning their discrimination technology."
These evaluations cited above raise serious question about research integrity in NMD R&D sponsored by the BMDO. It is eminently reasonable, and acting in defense of academic freedom, to be concerned about prospective involvement in classified research by UAF faculty when research integrity can be compromised as a result of a sponsoring agency tampering with data and analysis and then being fraudulent in the public representation of that data and analysis. Professor Postol, a scientist having both Department of Defense and Department of Energy security clearances, is one example of a faculty member who has not been well defended by his university's administration when confronted by Defense Department officials because of his "whistleblowing" on behalf of scientific integrity. Surely we can be agreed that scientific fraud is never in the interest of academic freedom, and surely not in the service of the common good, hence our need to be quite clear in advance of how we here at UAF understand our institution's role in applied research that entails significant sponsoring agency control of research results.
In light of the above notices, I submit, contrary to Professor Bristow, that indeed there is something wrong with doing research that is represented as benefiting national defense when the technical evidence offered by authorities in security studies is more than sufficiently compelling to challenge NMD as a viable means of assuring national security. NMD R&D does not effectively serve the common good when that common good as measured by the dismal performance potential of tested NMD systems, instead actually threatens our national security with significant opportunity costs involved. Faculty research interests in NMD R&D (including here ADE and AMSP) conflict with the institution's responsibility to conduct itself in the reasonable pursuit of the common good. This conflict is properly to be resolved by privileging the common good over the NMD research interests of the faculty when those research interests, as applied research interests, are pursued without adequate attention to factors such as those I have engaged above. My intent is to promote a responsible engagement of academic freedom, not to attack it. The draft motion establishing an interim procedure on classified research is responsive to the obligations all faculty at UAF have to meet if they are to be assured of their research integrity.
Therefore, I conclude that an institution of higher education such as UAF ought to proscribe faculty participation in classified research involving NMD R&D. In doing so, our institution of higher education balances duty with right, gives duty its place, and so acts on behalf of academic freedom and its legitimate construal. Contrary to Professor Bristow, I hold that academic freedom is never absolute but is instead relational, having meaning in the context of some assessment of the common good. Thus, the mission of an institution of higher education, especially of a research university such as UAF concerned with the advancement of scientific knowledge, has integrity relative to that common good. Institutional integrity measured by the degree to which the common good is pursued and achieved, consequent to applied research, entails reasonable limits upon scientific research. Accordingly, I urge that the UAF Faculty Senate adopt an interim procedure governing classified research, even as the current draft may be reasonably amended.
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
Confidential research splits UAF
March 01, 2002
By MARMIAN L. GRIMES
A motion introduced in early February in the University of Alaska Fairbanks Faculty Senate has spurred an impassioned
debate on campus about whether faculty should be allowed to engage in confidential research.
Norman Swazo, president of the Faculty Senate, has proposed a plan that would require all classified research proposals pass
through a faculty committee, the chancellor and the university president before being submitted to the granting agency.
"The impetus for this is the Geophysical Institute projects proposed to be funded by the ballistic missile defense organization,"
Swazo said. "The point is to put in place restrictions on what kinds of classified research is carried out by university faculty."
The university is not doing classified research now, according to Ted DeLaca, vice provost for research at UAF. The
mothballed Arctic Dispersion Project, which involved use of liquid-fueled rockets launched from Poker Flat Research Range,
was an exception, he said.
That project did not involve university researchers, DeLaca said. Department of Defense researchers would have used
university facilities in exchange for some equipment improvements.
An April 2001 memo signed by Provost Paul Reichardt approved the project on a "one-time, trial basis."
In the letter, Reichardt urges deans and directors at the university to begin a discussion of how the university should handle
classified research in the future.
The University of Alaska system has no regulations on classified research beyond a general statement from the Board of
Regents, Swazo said. The regents' policy says only that the chancellor or his designee may approve classified or proprietary
His proposal would specifically prohibit weapons development or testing research.
The intent of the motion before the Faculty Senate is not to ban all classified research, Swazo said. "The purpose of having the
procedure is so that we can review ... and decide whether this is the kind of research we would like to have occurring on this
But some university scientists don't agree that Swazo's proposal would be that permissive.
"I guess the overall result is it essentially would have stopped all classified research on campus," said Bill Bristow, a Faculty
Senate member representing the College of Science, Engineering and Mathematics.
"The committee that was to be set up would have had oversight of all proposals going out," he said. "They would have had 30
days to review a (research) proposal. Often times the turnaround time for a proposal is less than 30 days."
Classified research isn't for everyone, Bristow said. He would not likely choose to do a lot of classified research, because of
the limitations on publishing the results.
"If your main source of funding is NASA and NSF ... you want your research to be published. If it is not published it is
difficult to secure grants through those agencies," Bristow said. "Those limitations are going to keep most people from doing
the work, but it should be a personal decision by the researcher. I should be able to choose my area of inquiry so long as it is
consistent with the mission of the university."
Swazo said classified research is in direct conflict with the basic tenets of a university, namely the free exchange of information
"The other part of this is that I think it is problematic for an institution's faculty to be conducting classified research without
appropriate public review," he said. "The point is to have a reasonable amount of public disclosure and the draft motion makes
mention of that."
Swazo said the faculty committee he proposes would make sure that any classified projects would adhere to environmental,
ethical and public interest guidelines.
Richard Seifert, a professor with the Cooperative Extension Service, said classified research erodes the academic freedom
enjoyed by faculty at a university.
"If our goal is really scientific free inquiry in an open environment ... that is impossible with classified research," he said. "If we
are not open, we don't deserve the freedom of the academy. You can't have it both ways."
However, Bristow argues that classified research could benefit UAF in several ways.
"The budgets that are available for Department of Defense programs are often larger than budgets available through the
National Science Foundation and NASA," he said.
And each of those research grants include money for equipment and overhead.
"That overhead money pays a lot of the bills around here," Bristow said. "It benefits the entire campus by bringing money into
Doing classified research can also open doors to other nonclassified projects that might otherwise be closed.
The Department of Defense doesn't always post research opportunities, and grants are often awarded based on the
department's familiarity with a scientist's work, he said.
"They are not necessarily going to know who you are through American Geophysical Union meetings or your publications,"
Bristow said. "You need to make contact in other ways."
And Bristow disagrees that classified research doesn't mesh with a university's public service mission.
"There are other ways of serving that mission," he said. "There are times when doing the classified research serves the mission
of the university and the public perfectly well, but it can't be published in the open literature."
Swazo's proposal is being reviewed by the senate's Faculty Affairs Committee. Committee members are already discussing
ways to make the oversight process quicker and less restrictive.
"We have to operate in an expeditious manner," DeLaca said. "It isn't at all my concern that there be oversight, I think there is
a need for it."
However, that oversight should not deny scientists and students access to research opportunities that may have nothing to do
with "war-related activities," he said.
"The way I imagine this going, and what is being proposed to do is when proposals are submitted or in the process of being
submitted, the proposal needs to be looked at by a committee of people to advise the chancellor," DeLaca said. "If it is not in
the university's best interest then it (would) not be submitted to the funding agency."
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Secret research not UA's mission
By DAN O'NEILL
Friday, March 01, 2002 - Every once in a while a thinker
ventures an idea and reaps the whirlwind. So it is with a
philosophy professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks,
who's seeing his colleagues from the scientific schools
circle and snipe. What is Norman Swazo's offensive idea?
Well, he thinks the university should "leave to weapons
laboratories classified research having to do with weapons."
It all started once it became known that UAF's Geophysical
Institute proposed to do to classified, weapons-related
research at its Poker Flat Research Range. First there were
to be secret launches of up to 20 foreign-built and
notoriously erratic Scud missiles into the Brooks Range.
Later, university professors would get clearances and gather
and interpret classified data concerning the "signature" of
incoming missiles. And although this level of involvement
with classified work had never been done at UA before, the
shift was going to take place without any discussion on
Swazo, who is president of the faculty senate at UAF, questioned whether this
sort of work fit very well with the university's mission. So he had a look at the
board of regents' policy. It said that "universities function on the principle of free
inquiry and open expression," and that they "broadly disseminate research
The policy recognizes that a university isn't some rent-a-researcher enterprise,
where customers control research results to further their own narrow interests.
Scientists favoring that sort of work can hire on at industry or government
laboratories. Rather, the university occupies a different place in society. Its
mission, as the regents' policy states, is "to foster international understanding
and mutual cooperation in scientific discovery that benefits humanity at large."
To support these values, Swazo thought that some safeguards were necessary.
He proposed that the university shouldn't normally work on weaponry, but that
classified research might be allowed under certain circumstances, including
approval by a faculty oversight committee.
Now several scientists and engineers with a stake in classified research are
voicing displeasure in "open letter" e-mails circulating throughout the university
system. One called Swazo's initiative "an attack on our academic freedom."
Frankly, the arguments seem little more than a collection of aphorisms,
adolescent conceits that prove nothing so well as the need for more humanities
courses in the training of our math and science people.
Consider some of the arguments:
"Many of our most well-respected universities conduct classified research." If you
have kids, you've heard this argument: "But the other guys get to!" And, of
course, you respond: "We make our rules according to our values." Yes, many
universities do classified research, and many do not. Stanford, for example, and
the State University of New York do not. Aren't the more pertinent questions
these: considering what other universities have decided, have we construed our
mission reasonably? and if so, shouldn't our policies support that mission?
Classified work "puts UAF in a position of high visibility." The old
it'll-put-us-on-the-map argument. It's used by every promoter looking to sell a
piece of our heritage for money. It makes you wonder, is our sense of inferiority
so great that we would abandon our values for notoriety? It would seem that if the
university sticks to its business and does its work well, it will be sufficiently
This from a department chairman: "Let's not overreact because you don't like
missiles." It takes one back to the fourth grade. At no point in his several written
arguments had Swazo indicated whether he "liked" missiles. He said that national
missile defense research presented problems of a moral nature, which he was at
pains to explicate. Certainly one may disagree, but a thoughtful reply would have
acknowledged Swazo's arguments and addressed them.
From the same fellow: "I don't like cutting open sea otters to see if the Exxon
Valdez oil is impacting their reproduction. I'm not the one to argue that my
squeamish stomach should dictate what is valid science or important to
academic research." Actually, he is the one. Consider, instead of otters, human
subjects. During the Cold War, several universities participated in classified
research where people were injected with plutonium without their knowledge or
consent. Of course faculty can and should provide oversight of
experimentation--especially secret experimentation--at universities.
The oversight committee that Professor Swazo calls for should be established.
And besides people who know how to compute, it should include people who
know how to think.
Dan O'Neill, author of "The Firecracker Boys," is an independent writer
whose columns appear regularly on the Opinion page.
Banning classified research limits scientific opportunity
By Dermot Cole
Saturday, March 02, 2002 - IN THE FINAL DRAMA of the
annual Bard-a-thon, starting tonight at the Masonic Temple
at 8 p.m., Hamlet offers this comment: "There are more
things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in
The line, penned in about 1600, applies to life today, even to
the debate at the University of Alaska Fairbanks over the
plan to limit classified research.
I don't agree with the philosophy that classified research is
evil, opposition to classified research is virtuous and
therefore the university should impose new restrictions on
this type of inquiry.
Norm Swazo, a philosophy professor and the president of
the UAF Faculty Senate, does not like the proposed
national missile defense system and doesn't want people at
UAF to participate in research on the matter.
Swazo writes that "there is something wrong with doing
research that is represented as benefiting national defense
when the technical evidence offered by authorities in
security studies is more than sufficiently compelling to
challenge NMD as a viable means of assuring national
Swazo said UAF "ought to proscribe faculty participation in
classified research involving NMD R&D."
He said that missile defense research "does not effectively
serve the common good" and it "actually threatens our
national security with significant opportunity costs involved."
I think there are serious questions about whether National
Missile Defense will ever work and at what cost, but there is no reason to hamper
research that could lead to greater knowledge of the systems involved and a
better understanding of the underlying science.
Researchers and the agencies sponsoring them are often seeking different goals
from the same project. A study that represents an opportunity to a researcher to
delve into the laws of physics may be looked at by a sponsoring agency as a way
to learn more for a specific application, military or otherwise.
I agree with Bill Bristow, an assistant professor in the College of Science,
Engineering and Mathematics, who said that "faculty should be free to choose
their areas of inquiry so long as they are consistent with the mission of the
university, will not endanger the health or safety of the public, and will comply with
"In other words, classified research should be subject to the same constraints as
any other research program. And, while it may not be possible for all university
personnel to have direct knowledge that a specific program does meet these
standards, we must place trust in our faculty, deans and directors, who do have
direct knowledge, to insure that the standards are met," he wrote.
This is not just a matter of academic freedom. At times, classified work may be of
incalculable service to our nation.
In response to Swazo's proposal, Charles Mayer, the chairman of the electrical
and computer engineering department at UAF, wrote a concise and convincing
letter about why the options should be left open:
"So you don't like the NMD (National Missile Defense). Fine. But does that justify
throwing away all Classified Research (CR)? What if I want to work on algorithms
to make communications more secure? Whoops, some of that is classified work
so I can't do it here? What about the people that developed the ARPANET (the
predecessor of the Internet and a classified military computer network)?
"I bet we're all glad that you didn't speak for their universities or we would all be
still licking envelopes. There is a lot of classified research that I personally don't
like. But then I don't like cutting open sea otters to see if the Exxon Valdez oil is
impacting their reproduction.
"I'm not the one to argue that my squeamish stomach should dictate what is valid
science or important to academic research. Let's not overreact because you don't
like missiles. Much of classified research later leads to things that greatly benefit
society. I support a UAF policy that permits safe classified research."
As the faculty senate debates this issue, it should be wary of allowing political
opposition to hinder scientific inquiry.
Hamlet was right. We need to expand our horizons, not limit them.
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