UH to sign off on Navy center
Research center critics vow to hold officials to promises to keep studies transparent
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» What: Applied Research Laboratory.
» When: University of Hawaii and Navy expected to sign contract today that would allow the Navy to contract directly with the UH to do research without going through a competitive bidding process.
» Why: UH-Manoa has expertise in four areas of interest to the Navy — oceanography; astronomical research; the development of optics, sensors and instruments; and electrical engineering.
» Positive: Proponents say the Navy research center could bring the university up to $10 million a year in research contracts, but the amount is not guaranteed.
» Negative: Opponents fear the deal could lead to secret weapons research.
The University of Hawaii is sealing a deal to create a controversial Navy research center four years after it was first proposed, a university official said yesterday.
The project, previously called a University Affiliated Research Center or UARC, could bring in up to $10 million a year in funding. Opponents occupied UH President David McClain's office for a week in May 2005 to protest the research center, objecting to what they call the militarization of the university.
But supporters, including McClain, say UH already performs research for the Defense Department and that the
university still has the right to reject any contracts.
UH Vice President for Research Jim Gaines said the first "task orders" for Navy research will be made public by July 1.
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University of Hawaii and Navy officials are expected to sign a contract by today to create a controversial Navy research center, according to UH Vice President for Research Jim Gaines.
The action comes after several contentious public hearings on the University Affiliated Research Center and more than three years after opponents, including faculty, students and native Hawaiian groups, occupied UH President David McClain's office for a week to protest the UARC.
The Board of Regents approved the contract for what was renamed an Applied Research Laboratory by a 7-1 vote nine months ago at a meeting in Hilo, following hours of often emotional public testimony.
DEVELOPMENT OF RESEARCH LABORATORY
July 2004: The Navy recommends creating a University Affiliated Research Center at the University of Hawaii.
Nov. 18, 2004: The UH Board of Regents gives preliminary approval to former Chancellor Peter Englert to negotiate a UARC contract.
April 28-May 4, 2005: Members of the Save UH/Stop UARC Coalition occupy UH President David McClain's office seeking an end to the UARC.
Nov. 16, 2005: UH Manoa Faculty Senate votes 31-18 to ask the administration to reject the UARC.
Dec. 5, 2005: Interim UH-Manoa Chancellor Denise Konan announces her opposition to the UARC.
Jan. 20, 2006: Regents hold a six-hour public hearing on the UARC. McClain promises to make a decision on the research center by next month's regents' meeting.
Feb. 16, 2006: McClain proposes establishing the UARC at the system level, rather than on the UH-Manoa campus. McClain said the UARC would not conduct classified research for the first three years of the agreement.
Sept. 14, 2007: UH administrators post a 90-page proposed contract with the Navy online for what is now called an Applied Research Laboratory.
Sept. 26, 2007: The Save UH/Stop UARC coalition protests at Bachman Hall. UH officials lock the doors to the administration building.
Sept. 27, 2007: Regents vote 7-1, with one abstention, to approve the Navy research center contract.
June 2008: UH and Navy officials sign a contract to establish the project, now called an Applied Research Laboratory.
June-July 2008: UH Vice President for Research Jim Gaines plans to announce the first task orders for Navy-sponsored research.
The agreement could bring in up to $10 million a year to UH researchers over five years. The contract will be re-evaluated after three years for a possible extension and the inclusion of classified research.
Gaines said he hopes to announce the first "task orders" for Navy-sponsored research by July 1.
All of the research through the Navy center, at least through the first three years, will be made public, Gaines said.
"We'll publicize all the task orders because there's so much suspicion on what we're going to be doing," Gaines said.
Opponents of the Navy research center say they will follow the process closely to make sure it remains out in the open.
"That will be helpful, if we can actually see the terms of the contracts," said Kyle
Kajihiro, a member of the Save UH/Stop UARC coalition. "That will be another test of the transparency."
Kajihiro said the openness would be an improvement over some of the current military research at the university, but he is still opposed to the Navy center.
"We still have a problem with the very nature of this arrangement, which makes the university into an agent of the Navy and its mission. We don't think that's the job of a public university," he said.
The agreement allows the Navy to contract directly with university researchers for expertise in astronomy, oceanography, advanced electro-optical systems and communications systems through what are known as task orders.
Other agencies, such as the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and private industry would also be able to use the task order system, university officials have said.
Supporters of the contract note that the university already conducts military-funded research. In 2006, UH accepted 142 contracts from the Department of Defense worth $65 million.
Opponents say the Navy center could lead to secret weapons research at the university and goes against the wishes of the majority of faculty and students.
The Navy has research centers at the University of Washington, Pennsylvania State University, John Hopkins University and the University of Texas at Austin. The Hawaii lab is the first new Navy research center at a university in 50 years.
Gaines said the university is looking to hire a director and staff for the Navy lab and is renting office space off campus for the administration of the facility. Research could still be done on campus. Gaines said he will be interim director until a director is found.