When the Pentagon cancelled its contract with JASON, a group of top scientists that has advised the government on a variety of critical issues for six decades, national security experts expressed dismay. But news of a reprieve on Thursday has given them reason to hope.
According to reports by Defense News and NPR, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has proposed a short-term extension of JASON’s contract, which is managed by the non-profit MITRE Corporation. NNSA spokesman Gregory Wolf told Defense News the team of scientists were actively preparing three studies for the agency on “cyber security of operating equipment, nuclear detonation detection, and plutonium aging.” Part of the ongoing modernization of the US nuclear weapons stockpile involves long-term resumption of plutonium pit production, which was halted in 1989.
If the agency’s bid goes through, JASON will have until January 21, 2020 to figure out what its own long-term options are.
“The group’s analyses have made a huge difference in US history,” David Wright, senior scientist and co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement, calling the NNSA decision “a win for science, a win for sound policy, and a win for national security.”
It remains to be seen what will happen to the 10 other studies Science previously reported were already on JASON’s agenda for this year, including three for the Office of the Secretary of Defense and one for the National Science Foundation—on how threats to national security might impinge on its grantmaking process.