Six Unacceptable Costs and Consequences of Unwarranted Government Secrecy-Reasons for Opposing Establishment of a U.S. Navy UARC at the University of Hawaii

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”’Editor’s note: The following article is a modified version of written testimony submitted to the University of Hawaii Board of Regents for its informational hearing held Jan. 20 2006, to discuss the establishment of a U.S. Navy University Affiliated Research Center (UARC) at the University of Hawaii. The author is a professor of journalism who has been awarded the Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Teaching.”’

“Bev Keever 2006 Image”


The Board of Regents should reject the contract with the U.S. Navy that would establish at and embed in the University of Hawaii the University Affiliated Research Center because of the unacceptable costs and consequences of unwarranted secrecy it would entail.

The Board’s insistence made 14 months ago regarding full consultation about UARC helps to solidify for Gov. Linda Lingle a building block to fulfill more visibly her campaign promise to restore the public’s trust in government that has too often engaged in back-door, power-elite decision-making that subverts the public interest.


The 86-page draft UARC contract released by U.H. on Oct. 7 last year is to contain five attachments and exhibits that are part of it. However, the “small business subcontracting plan,” or Attachment 3, is described as “to be completed.” It was unavailable this week on the Manoa Chancellor’s Office Web site.

Therefore, any claims that the UARC will help small businesses in Hawaii are not based on factual information as to how the UARC at U.H. will actually work to their benefit. These claims are at best a pipe dream, perhaps even a fiction.

In fact, as discussed below, Hawaii’s businesses of all sizes may actually be hampered because all of U.H.’s UARC research, unclassified as well as classified, may be withheld from them. All of U.H.’s research may also be withheld from non-UARC U.H.ers, such as those responsible for licensing and patent functions within the Office of Technology Transfer and Economic Development.

Therefore, if the UARC is approved, the BOR may well be limiting, rather than fostering, economic development within the state and lucrative revenue-producing streams within U.H.


Besides Navy censorship, the U.H. administration has failed to discuss openly with the public, including the business community, the U.S. State Department’s export disclosure regulations.

The disclosure of UARC-developed classified research to foreign persons working for the UARC or to foreign visitors must be approved or licensed by the U.S. Department of State to prevent illegal transfer of technical information or services.

Obtained under Hawaii’s Freedom of Information Act, these regulations are spelled out in six pages copyrighted by “University of Hawaii-UARC” but have not been discussed publicly by U.H.’s administrators

Thus, again, if the BOR approves the UARC, the un-discussed export disclosure regulations controlling U.H.’s research will impede, rather than foster, informational exchanges with foreign businesses, visitors and U.H.’s own international faculty members.


The contract makes clear the fate of ALL U.H. research produced under the UARC, both unclassified and classified: it must be sent to Navy censors in Washington, D.C.

The contract states that U.H. shall not release to anyone outside its organization any unclassified information that may be identified by Navy censors “as sensitive and inappropriate for disclosure regardless of medium (e.g. film, tape, document), pertaining to this contract or any program related to this contract” without their prior written approval.

Moreover, there’s no specific criteria included that defines sensitive and inappropriate for disclosure. These terms are so overly broad and vague as to be legally suspect.

If the censors say no to the release of U.H.’s unclassified or classified UARC work product, there’s no appeal process offered to U.H. in the contract. The Navy unilaterally makes decisions. The contract also specifies:

“In cases where the evidence supporting release or retention of unclassified information is inconclusive, the Contracting Officer has the responsibility and retains the authority to make final determinations for such disclosure.”

”Violates Manoa Faculty Senate Resolution”

Such unambiguous censorship violates the Manoa Faculty Senate resolution of March 16, 2005, affirming “that the University of Hawaii at Manoa supports research for which there is a reasonable expectation that timely publication of the results of the research will not be restricted by its sponsor.”

”Violates Board of Regents’ Policy”

This contract language also seemingly violates that Board of Regents Policy stated in part of Section 5-15(3):

“The University must insure, however, that there are no restrictions in making available the scholarly results of inquiry included in any contract or grant to which the University is formally a party, except for matters normally held in confidence such as those between doctor and patient.”

In short, unwarranted secrecy would hide any world-class research that U.H. might produce under UARC at a time when the institution is aiming for world-class standing, better image-making and more fundraising to celebrate its centennial in 2007. Conversely, secrecy would also hid any poor research, thus leading to misleading, potentially disastrous policy decisions, because it is not subjected to peer review and free discussions.


Some UARC research would be classified, resulting in a loss of institutional integrity to decide whom the researchers will be. Those privileged to conduct such research would be decided by the military through its mandatory security classification system.

Denied military security clearances may be U.H.’s prized international faculty, qualified faculty and staff because of sexual orientation, which is outlawed in the armed forces, and local as well as international students.

Thus, secrecy, including security clearance requirements, would lead to abdicating academic and local control over the quality, numbers and selection of UH researchers conducting UARC “task orders.”

Moreover, the Navy’s conflict-of-interest constraints imposed on privileged personnel who have had access to classified and protected information are prohibited from sharing information with others for at least three years after finishing their UARC work. Thus, these constraints impede for many months economic development in Hawaii, the training of future scientists and the sparking of innovation and entrepreneurship.


The most controversial aspect of the Navy UARC at U.H. is the nature of the research to be conducted.

Most controversial is the weapons development work that would be conducted by U.H.’s researchers for the Navy’s war-fighting arm, the Sea Systems Command, as discussed in a UARC memo by a senior military officer.

Some Navy-embedded unclassified research would be conducted in U.H.’s Manoa campus offices and laboratories, which are already in short supply. UARC work would take priority over other kinds of U.H. research. U.H.’s Navy-embedded UARC is unique from the other four sprawling, isolated UARCs of World War II vintage that the Navy has funded and maintained on the mainland.

The Board should reflect upon U.H.’s conducting of Agent Orange experiments under U.S. Army contract at the Kauai Agricultural Research Station in the 1960s and the toll it took on the lives of three U.H. workers.

Only years after this Kauai experiment and the massive spraying in South Vietnam were the disastrous effects visible enough to result in settlement of a $180 million, class-action lawsuit and disability benefits to 10,000-plus U.S. veterans. Early last year, a U.S. court dismissed a class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of 4-million-plus Vietnamese claiming that Agent Orange sprayed there decades earlier had caused their ailments.

This Agent Orange experiment with deadly dioxin on Kauai and its use in Vietnam reminds us that academic freedom for research needs at times to be limited to protect the public and the environment because of unforeseen, negative effects that may appear decades later.

It is the weapons-systems research and secret research, possibly detrimental to marine life, the environment and even humans in later decades, such as the 1960s Agent Orange experiments, that potentially places at great risk the public’s health and the environment of the state and the region, perhaps for generations to come.


At the strategic policy level, secrecy required by UARC regulations at U.H. undermines, rather than helps, national security. This proposition is explained in a report produced by the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on June 12, 2002. The report, titled “In The Public Interest,” reaffirms the mission of this world-class institution for an open intellectual environment, stating:

“National security, the health of our nation, and the strength of our economy depend heavily on the advancement of science and technology and on the education of future generations.”

It warns: “The well-being of our nation will ultimately be damaged if education, science and technology suffer as a result of practices that indiscriminately discourage or limit the open exchange of ideas.”

It continues: “Peer evaluation of research methods and findings, an outcome of open sharing and debate within the scientific community, is a crucial mechanism to insure the continued quality and progress of science.”

In sum, the Board of Regents should reject the UARC and its potentially dangerous and self-defeating research framework with secrecy embedded throughout.

Instead the Board should position U.H. to enter its second century by initiating ways to portray this public institution openly in a more favorable light throughout the Pacific and around the globe.

”’Beverly Keever can be reached via email at:”’

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