UH regents vote 7-1 to permit Navy effort
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HILO » After hours of emotional testimony in opposition, University of Hawaii regents approved a Navy-affiliated Applied Research Laboratory yesterday, allowing up to $10 million per year in unclassified military and nonmilitary research contracts.
The contract with the Navy will be re-evaluated at the end of three years for possible extension for two more years and the inclusion of classified research.
The vote was 7-1, with one abstention. Regent Jim Haynes voted against the contract, saying he had visited Kahoolawe and saw damage done by years of Navy artillery fire, never completely cleaned up.
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HILO » Regent Jim Haynes opposed a Navy research center at the University of Hawaii because the Navy never completely cleaned up Kahoolawe after using it for decades for target practice.
But regent Al Landon said current military leaders are sensitive to local culture and the environment, and he would vote for a Navy-linked Applied Research Laboratory.
In the end the vote was 7-1 in favor of the facility. Haynes' was the only vote against it.
The action capped five hours of emotional testimony, mostly against the facility once called a University Associated Research Center, and three years of preparation by the university administration.
University President David McClain said the facility, attached to the university system rather than the Manoa campus, will be operational by early next year.
The facility will bring in up to $10 million per year, roughly 1 percent of the university's annual budget of about $900 million.
In public testimony, business leader Nimr Tamimi praised the economic contribution, but critic Herbert Poepoe said, "Money is the driving force. That is not the Hawaiian way."
Hawaiian-language students against the facility punctuated the meeting with periodic chants.
McClain indicated a deciding factor for him was faculty freedom.
"Humanity's best friend is freedom of inquiry," he said.
All military services will be able to use the facility, as well as the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and private industry. Letters of support came from defense contractors Raytheon and Lockheed Martin.
McClain said the university already does similar research. Last year the university accepted 142 contracts from the Department of Defense worth $65 million, he said.
The secrecy, even with unclassified projects, was a sticking point for some. UH associate physicist Michael Jones wrote that the contract will allow the Navy to keep "sensitive" material secret.
University Vice President Jim Gaines, who will oversee the facility, said restrictions on "sensitive" information are already included in half of university research contracts.
Jones noted that nothing in the contract prohibits classified research, but McClain said a provision for Navy intelligence and science officers has been removed, making classified work impossible.
If classified work is later allowed, it could not be evaluated by other faculty and could not be used to help the researcher gain promotions and tenure, said faculty union representative J.N. Musto.
McClain said faculty members must make that choice themselves.