a group of scientists who advise the U.S. government,
have developed technologies such as a laser
that can help reduce atmospheric distortion.
The Air Force uses it
better photograph passing spy satellites.
The Pentagon says that
the group's advice is no longer needed, but independent experts say
it has never been more relevant and worry the department is throwing
away a valuable resource.
That could happen in a
matter of months, and it is unclear how the
Mitre Corp., which manages the
Jasons, would fund the group in the interim.
The group's name, like the group itself, is shrouded in mystery, though it's believed to be a reference to Jason, the Greek mythological prince who leads the Argonauts in looking for the Golden Fleece.
Hemley is one of the few members who publicly identify themselves as part of the group.
He says the Jasons are
unlike anything else out there - academics at the top of their
individual fields, with security clearances that let them work on
It began when a group of physicists won funding from the Pentagon to spend the summer learning about the problems facing the Defense Department in its fight against the Soviet Union.
These stubborn researchers were determined to advise the government.
They went on to study
everything from anti-submarine warfare to missile defense.
is the chair of the Jasons.
He says several government agencies
interested in contracting with the group.
The problem was that North Vietnamese troops and supplies were hard to find beneath the dense jungle canopy.
The Jasons' solution was to develop a system of remote sensors that could be airdropped into the jungle and provide intelligence on the enemy. The program, like much to do with Vietnam, was controversial and didn't work perfectly.
But it laid the
groundwork for modern electronic warfare, in which sensors provide
troops with detailed battlefield information, Finkbeiner says.
And they advised the
Census Bureau on how to streamline its operations.
The contract, run through the Mitre Corp., is the vehicle that allows the Jasons to do work with other parts of the government as well.
Without it, the group has no way of getting the several million dollars in funding it needs to operate annually.
But Aftergood sees
another reason for the end of the relationship. He says that the
Jasons are a blunt bunch. If they think an idea is dumb or won't
work, they aren't afraid to say so.
The Jasons have expertise
on these topics and will likely be useful.
The National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees the nation's nuclear weapons, would be a natural fit for the group.
Over the years, it has
solicited numerous studies from the Jasons on the nuclear stockpile.