Special Report: Inside a Trump-era purge of military scientists at a legendary think tank

U.S. | 10/10/2018 | Charles Levinson
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NEW YORK (Reuters) - They’re members of a prestigious academic panel with top-secret clearances who’ve advised the Pentagon on some of America’s most vexing national security issues since the Cold War. Over 60 years, they’ve won 11 Nobel prizes and conducted hundreds of government studies.

The advisory group, known as Jason, is a team of some 60 of America’s top physicists and scientists who spend each summer in La Jolla, California, conducting studies commissioned by the Pentagon and other U.S. government agencies.

March - Trump - Appointee - Michael - Griffin

On March 28, Trump appointee Michael Griffin – the Pentagon’s chief technology officer – unexpectedly moved to terminate the group.

Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, the head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, objected, telling Griffin’s office the scientists were crucial for keeping America’s nuclear stockpile secure, according to an NNSA official and others affiliated with the Jason program. Gordon-Hagerty’s agency offered to take responsibility for the program. She only needed Griffin’s signature to make it happen.

Griffin

Griffin refused.

He declined comment, but a Defense Department spokeswoman said the Pentagon decided it had less need for the studies than previously thought. “The department remains committed to seeking independent technical advice and review. This change is in keeping with this commitment, while making the most economic sense,” said spokeswoman Heather Babb.

Jason - Supporters - Corner - Group - Months

Jason’s supporters, backed into a corner, managed to keep the group alive, temporarily for now, for eight more months. Democrats in Congress are trying to get Jason funded through a different Pentagon office not run by Griffin, but it’s unclear whether the Republican-controlled Senate will go along.

A day after Griffin moved to axe Jason, a 35-word blurb in the Federal Register announced the end of two other independent scientific boards, including the Navy Research Advisory Committee, which had advised the Navy and Marine Corps for 73 years.

Efforts - Panels - Trump

The efforts to kill the scientific panels show how the Trump...
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