REPORT ON OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE ON CLASSIFIED RESEARCH
Presented to the Mānoa Faculty Senate on February 16, 2005
To: The Faculty Senate of the University of Hawaii
From: Bart Abbott
Political Science Undergraduate Student, University of Hawaii-Manoa
1346 B 10th Ave. Honolulu, Hi 96816
If the Board of Regents, and the Faculty Senate policy is going to allow classified research to be conducted by the University of Hawaii in any form, then an Oversight Committee on Classified Research consisting of Faculty members and students should be created.
The Oversight Committee on Classified Research will serve three purposes:
- Safeguard against any potential contracts which could be detrimental to the reputation of the University of Hawaii, or its employees.
- Maintain an environment which demands maximum possible disclosure concerning the nature of the classified research being conducted.
- Monitor the influence of outside entities, such as high technology development corporations, on the decisions of classified research by or in affiliation with the university.
The Board of Regents should mandate the existence of an Oversight Committee on Classified Research in a new amendment of their policy, section 5-15 on Research. This amendment should outline the responsibilities of the Oversight Committee on Classified Research including:
- Maintain a list of all classified contracts that are currently being conducted by, or in affiliation with the university. This list shall include each principle investigator, a brief description of the nature of the research, the amount of money designated under the contract, and the governmental department or corporation with whom the contract was agreed.
- Notify the Faculty Senate, The Board of Regents, and Ka Leo O Hawaii, when the Oversight Committeedeems unacceptable the rate at which classified contracts are being acquired, or when one contract in particular has become harmful to the academic environment of the University of Hawaii.
- Take necessary measures to protest, and prevent any decisions regarding classified research, or new facilities where classified research could be done, that have been compromised by the influence of outside entities who have a stake in the outcome of the University's decision.
The new amendment by the Board of Regents will give the Oversight Committee three powers. These include:
- Members of the "managerial group" designated by the Department of Defense form DD 254 to be in charge of the approval of all classified contracts, must accommodate and facilitate the oversight committee by submitting its requests for the release of information to the necessary government officials.
- Members of the "managerial group" are required to notify the Oversight Committee when any formerly unclassified project at the university is newly designated "sensitive" or "classified" by the U.S. government.
- The Oversight Committee on Classified Research has the right to access all unclassified information regarding classified research affiliated with the University of Hawaii.
An Oversight Committee on Classified Research consisting of Faculty and Students, given the above powers and responsibilities by the Board of Regents, will:
- Promote maximum openness and accountability within the university, and create a higher level of general knowledge surrounding the issue of classified research.
- Act as a community archive where community members can access unclassified information about classified research being conducted at the university and any of its affiliated facilities, or corporations.
- Prevent outside entities, be they private corporations, government departments, or former employees of the University from unjustly influencing the decisions of the university.
My Recent Findings
I started my investigation on classified research at the University of Hawaii in the Fall of 2002. I had obtained a list of the classified contracts at UH as of May 23, 2001. My original mission was to get an updated version of this list. For reasons that I have not yet ascertained, since 2001 this has become a very difficult request.
I learned from a series of interviews with Jim Gaines, Vice President for Research, in the fall of 2004 that virtually any information pertaining to a classified contract was now considered "sensitive" information and permission to release this information had to be requested, then granted by the federal government before the University released any thing about what they were doing at their own facilities.
For instance, if I wanted to find out the principal investigator and what part of the Department of Defense was funding a particular classified contract on campus, I would have to submit a written request to Jim Gaines stating what I wanted to know and why I wanted to know it. Dr. Gaines would then have to ask the necessary government officials for permission to release this information to me. If they said no, then I was simply out of luck.
I also had to ask for specific information, and write out individual requests for each one. My chance at finding all the classified contracts affiliated with the university, filling out written requests for all the information, getting Dr. Gaines to submit them, and then finally getting the government to consent became a very cumbersome, next to impossible task.
The system is set up so that no single individual can gain a great deal of information on the research objectives of the military at our university. This could be considered a necessary security precaution; however, this system has caused a larger systemic problem. Practically no one, save for the members of the "managerial group" and the researchers themselves is aware of the classified research being done by the University of Hawaii.
Over the course of my investigation, I have been the one to inform numerous faculty and administrators that there is classified research being done at UH. In one case several faculty members did not know that a close colleague was doing classified work for the military.
This was the case with the Airborne Hyperspectral Imagery (AHI) project. The principal investigator is Paul Lucey. I have spoken to several tenured professors of the Physics department, and one researcher in the Geophysics department who have worked with Paul Lucey and are familiar with his work, yet they were not aware that AHI technology has been rented by the Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), and used to do classified research for the United States Military. I learned this because the AHI project was on the list of contracts released on May 23, 2001. I verified it in an interview with Paul Lucey.
The fact that classified research for the military has gone on, for at least four years without the majority of the University knowing about it, illuminates a very real danger of doing classified research at the University of Hawaii.
Classified Research and the funding it brings in can cause hidden agendas, and motivations in faculty and upper level administration. This can affect the direction of a university without the knowledge or consent of its majority.
We, at the University of Hawaii must be particularly careful of this happening. I do not believe all the motivations, reasons, and agendas for or against classified research are currently visible.
The majority of this University's constituency does not even know general information about the type of classified research being done.
There is not a current list where someone could find out this information.
The current Board of Regents' and the Faculty Senate's policies on classified research are not even in line with the current practice.
And yet, as of this moment, the University of Hawaii is looking into accepting 50 million dollars from the Navy over the next five years to create a University Affiliated Research Center (UARC), where classified and unclassified military research could be conducted.
I am not arguing for or against a UARC. I am saying we, as a university, currently do not have the capability of making a major decision on this issue. There are a number of things that must be brought out into the open, discussed, debated, and agreed upon before conversations about a UH-UARC take on any degree of seriousness.
First, the Faculty Senate and the Board of Regents need to adopt the same policy on classified research. This policy should establish the existence of an Oversight Committee on Classified Research. The Oversight Committee should be made a standing committee as long as classified research continues to exist at the University of Hawaii.
Once the Oversight Committee is established, it can go about compiling a list of all the classified contracts at our University. Written requests should be typed up for the necessary information and given to members of the "managerial group". The "managerial group" will submit the requests to the federal government.
With a university mandate, the Oversight Committee will have more resources with which to write out the requests, and better "reasons" than I did in my attempts to get a list released. If the Federal Government refuses to let our University release unclassified information about itself to a committee that was formed out of concern for the affects of classified research on its campuses, then we seriously need to consider having classified research at UH at all.
If the University still refuses to release a list then I feel it is a definite indicator of something that is being hidden. Be it agendas, motivations, or lawsuits.
The Faculty, the Students, and the Community have a right to know a certain degree of unclassified information about the classified military research that is being conducted at the University of Hawaii.
Maintaining the current degree of ignorance surrounding the subject creates shadows that former high level University employees, and former employees of the Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii (RCUH) can move behind while they create private, university affiliated corporations, and facilities like the Hawaii Technology Development Venture (HTDV), the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research (PICHTR), The Maui High Performance Computing Center (MHPCC), and even RCUH itself.
There was a distinct pattern in the establishment of all these entities. I want to know if this same pattern can be found in the current push for the establishment of a University Affiliated Research Center. If it is, then I seriously worry about the intentions behind increasing the amount of military research at our university, be it unclassified or classified.
There are a number of private corporations, and state entities revolving around the University of Hawaii. Their Boards of Directors are populated with the Former presidents of the University of Hawaii, Vice Presidents for Academic Affairs, and Executive Vice Presidents of RCUH. As Mike Hamnet, the current Executive Vice President said to me, "it's a common career path?Most people who hold my position retire afterwards, and go work for these companies."
These high technology research entities are doing a large amount of military research. HTDV is a project of the Office of Naval Research and PICHTR.
If these high technology firms are full of former UH and RCUH employees, who still have a working network of contacts within the administration, how much influence do they have over UH research? How much influence do they have over administrative appointments and promotions? How much do they steer funding and the focus of the administration away from the Arts and Humanities, and other non-high tech fields? What affiliation do these companies have with classified research at the University of Hawaii?
The real reasons for why there is so much military research at our university, how we got the vague wording on the Board of Regents policy allowing the university to manage facilities where classified contracts are held, how we came to have classified research at the University. These are all questions that the Faculty, the students, and the entire population of Hawaii must know the answers to if we are to make an educated decision, and truly determine, through the force of a majority consensus what we want done at our institutes of higher learning.
No matter what our ideological leanings are on the military, on classified research, or on a UH-UARC. We are all united in the right to have all the reasons, actions, and decisions of our University out on the table so that we can make an educated decision about our future.
As the Faculty Senate, and Student Body we are the legal constituency of the University. Our voice has the power to mold the actions of the University. We need to create a system that protects us, and the community from having this power taken from us.
The first step to accomplishing this is to push for maximum disclosure. An Oversight Committee on Classified Research is the most effective step in this direction that I can think of. If the Faculty Senate raises a unified voice, then we can demand the mandated formation of this committee from the Board of Regents.
An Oversight Committee on Classified Research will be an archive for any person who wants to know general information about what the University is doing for the military. It will be an indicator of just when classified research is starting to affect our university adversely, and it will be our first line of defense against a small group of people gaining the ability to control the direction of UH research, the priorities of our administration, and the opportunities of our own lives. Because in the end, I believe what matters is not which side of the firing lines we chose to stand on. It is that we were given all the relevant information, and we were free to make our own decision.