Now that the US Department of Defence has cut one of its long-standing assets loose, the Department of Energy, which oversees US nuclear weapons, has expressed interest in taking the secretive group onto its payroll.
The Department of Defence has decided to end its contract with a mysterious group of scientists who had worked with the DoD since early Cold War, Gizmodo reports. With their funding cut abruptly, the group will now scramble to find a new government sponsor, according to National Public Radio.
Known only as JASON or The Jasons, the group enjoyed the highest level of security clearance and had worked on top secret projects since 1960, the report says.
“By day, they’re normal academics, working at colleges and universities and in private industry. But each summer, they come together to study tough problems for the military, intelligence agencies and other parts of the government,” NPR reports.
There are approximately 30 to 60 members in the group, but their exact number remains a mystery, and their annual summits cost the DoD several million dollars every year, according to NPR.
“The department has determined that the requirements previously supported through JASON National Security Research Studies have changed and that the Office of the Undersecretary of Defence, Research and Engineering will require only one study, rather than multiple studies, as projected under the previous solicitation,” Pentagon spokeswoman Heather Babb told Gizmodo. “Because our requirements have changed, the DoD does not anticipate issuing a follow-on Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ).”
The group is managed by the US non-profit MITRE Corporation, which manages federally funded research and development centers for several US government agencies. After the Pentagon cut the contract, the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration reportedly posted a solicitation, saying it wishes to take the Jasons group under its aegis. The transition will take months, however, and it’s unclear whether MITRE will pay the scientists in the interim.
Over the years, the Jasons invented technologies for communication with submerged submarines using ultra-long radio waves, a technique to overcome atmospheric distortion for astronomical purposes and nuclear test ban treaty compliance test technologies, as well as a system of electronic sensors that was used during the Vietnam War in order to provide intelligence regarding Vietnamese movements, according to NPR. In 1979, the group also issued a report describing carbon dioxide-driven global warming effects and possible solutions to mitigate them.
Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists lamented the Pentagon’s decision to cut the group loose.
“The idea that they’re going to cut back on the kind of advice that the Jasons provide is not good for the Department of Defence,” he said in an interview. “It’s not good for the nation.” He explained that the Pentagon is embarking on ambitious research into artificial intelligence, quantum computing and advanced hypersonic missiles, and the group has expertise on these topics that would likely be useful, NPR reports.