NNSA Decision to Renew Jason Science Advisors Contract is the Right Call for National Security, Science Group Says

Statement by David Wright, Global Security Program, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Apr 26, 2019

WASHINGTON (April 26, 2019)—The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has intervened to renew the contract of the expert panel of scientists known as Jason, which has provided critical independent advice to the Pentagon and other federal agencies since 1959, shortly after the launch of Sputnik. 

Below is a statement by David Wright, senior scientist and co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. 

“Should it work out, the NNSA’s decision to step in and keep the Jason group doing its job will be a win for science, a win for sound policy, and a win for national security. These eminent scientists, who have full access to relevant classified information, have been producing invaluable, high-quality analyses for a half a century. They helped develop the warning sensors that can detect a nuclear attack, as well as the technology to communicate with and detect submarines. The Pentagon, Energy Department and other agencies benefit greatly from their technical expertise. 

“Perhaps even more important, Jason’s analyses enable Congress to oversee federal agencies, ensuring that they are not wasting taxpayer dollars or pursuing projects that are not technologically feasible. In that vein, Jason has consulted on various aspects of ballistic missile defense and evaluated the lifetime of nuclear weapon plutonium pits.     

“The group’s analyses have made a huge difference in US history, including helping persuade President Clinton to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. 

“Jason reports also have informed the public debate. While its reports are generally classified, they often include unclassified summaries that allow outside experts—such as my organization—to more effectively critique weapons programs. That kind of public information is vital to a functioning democracy. 

“Given that the NNSA is currently working with Jason scientists on a number of studies, it makes eminent sense for the agency to take on the responsibility of managing this valuable group.”