Modified UH-Navy contract should satisfy objections
The University of Hawaii regents are considering a revised proposal for a five-year Navy research contract.
THE University of Hawaii's president has presented a modified proposal to add a five-year Navy research contract
to the university's defense grants. A proposal that drew opposition from antimilitary activists two years ago has been altered to place the research facility off campus and eliminate classified research during its first three years of operation. The changes should satisfy the opposition.
The UH Board of Regents gave its preliminary approval three years ago to establish a University-Affiliated Research Center, or UARC, for the Navy. The center could generate up to $10 million annually and put UH in company with other universities with such centers -- Johns Hopkins University, Stanford, Penn State, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Washington.
Contrary to turning UH into a weapons laboratory, the contract would utilize the university's strength, with research focusing on ocean sciences, astronomy, optics and communication technology.
The initial proposal would have woven the center into other research facilities on the Manoa campus, but David McClain, the university's president, agreed to place it off campus and under the UH system after objections by former interim UH-Manoa chancellor Denise Konan. All the UARCs at the other universities are located off campus.
Under the original proposal, about 15 percent of the UARC research at UH would have been classified. Under the revised version, Hawaii's UARC would perform no classified research during its first three years of operation, and the research could be terminated if it becomes classified after it has begun, similar to a Navy contract with Stanford.
McClain told the Star-Bulletin's Mary Adamski that the "most salient" difference in the new contract was deletion of a section that provided for setting up an "intelligence network. There would be an intelligence network if they were planning for classified research. That's gone."
After three years, McClain said the university would "see if it has been more trouble than it's worth" or decide to exercise the option to renew the contract for an additional two years.
McClain is treading on known territory, as UH has attracted defense contracts for decades. In recent years, the Pentagon has accounted for $54 million of the $330 million yearly in outside research and training grants at UH-Manoa.
The suggestion that McClain is trying to pull a fast one by presenting the proposed contract at a Board of Regents meeting Sept. 27 at the UH-Hilo campus is absurd. McClain made the case for an unclassified UARC in an op-ed column in the Star-Bulletin in February 2006 and has made no attempt to hide the activity.
"This highly visible proposal is neither as flawed as its opponents assert, nor is it as promising as its supporters claim," McClain wrote.