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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Military research on Hawaii campus opposed

Photo galleryPhoto gallery: UH-Navy contract challenged
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By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Kyle Kajihiro of the American Friends Services Committee could not enter UH's Bachman Hall yesterday to deliver his UARC report.

BRUCE ASATO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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  • Vote on the contract is first item on the agenda for UH Board of Regents meeting at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow in Hilo.

  • If passed, the contract funds creation of a research laboratory that will work mostly on Navy and other military projects.

  • Research could cover areas including astronomy, oceanography, advanced electro-optics systems, lasers, remote sensing detection systems and communications.

  • $10 million per year in research is expected.

  • UH would be the fifth Navy UARC in the nation.

  • UH currently has 1,600 federal military-related projects worth an estimated $400 million.

    Source: UH

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    Opponents of a U.S. Navy-affiliated research center proposed for the University of Hawai'i yesterday decried the center, which would conduct research for the military, as "rotten to the core" ahead of an expected final vote by the Board of Regents tomorrow in Hilo.

    "What is happening is that defense research is being channeled right into the heart of the university," said Noel Kent, an ethnic studies professor at UH. "The whole way in which the university conducts defense and secret research is being changed dramatically, and this is what we oppose."

    About 40 opponents of the University Affiliated Research Center plan, some carrying green "Save UH, Stop UARC" placards, held a news conference at Bachman Hall, the university's administrative office.

    Some alternately shouted "Hewa!" and "Shame!" when the university wouldn't open locked doors to allow opponents to drop off copies of an 84-page report titled "The Dirty Secret About UARC" compiled by Kyle Kajihiro.

    "We want them (the Board of Regents) to know what they are getting into," opponent Ikaika Hussey said.

    Three UH security guards were posted in the Bachman Hall courtyard where the UARC opponents gathered. A university public affairs representative eventually appeared outside to deliver the report.

    Carolyn Tanaka, UH vice president for external affairs and university relations, said the Board of Regents plans to take up the UARC, also called the Applied Research Laboratory, as the first agenda item tomorrow during the 9:30 a.m. meeting at UH-Hilo.

    "Anybody who wants to talk will talk," Tanaka said.

    Critics are concerned about weapons research and a shift away from core values, while proponents argue that a University Affiliated Research Center would bring millions in research money and prestige to the university.

    Johns Hopkins University makes about $300 million a year as one of four Navy UARCs, said Jim Gaines, UH system vice president for research.

    He hopes UH could eventually reach the level of the University of Washington, which does $50 million to $70 million annually in Navy research.

    "It is something that could be a major expansion (at UH) in the future," Gaines said last week, adding that the research would train students to be part of a high-tech workforce.

    The Navy-affiliated research center was provisionally approved by the UH Board of Regents in November 2004, but controversy and negotiations with the Navy over a final contract have kept it off the table.

    Kajihiro, program director for the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker peace and social justice organization, and member of Save UH/Stop UARC, said questionable practices began as early as 2001 with two Navy grants to UH that became embroiled in a Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigation. The results are not known.

    An aborted $50 million Research Corporation of the University of Hawai'i proposal to the Navy called "Project Kai e' e" was intended to become the UARC, Kajihiro said.

    UH newspaper Ka Leo O Hawai'i reported in 2005 that Navy investigators were looking into allegations that UH's research corporation diverted funds from one project to write a proposal for another. Kajihiro said that new project was Kai e' e.

    "What we found is that the UARC is rotten to the core," Kajihiro said. "What's most disconcerting is that the secrecy surrounding those contracts is preventing the public from understanding what went on and how this UARC was created."

    UH's Gaines said Kajihiro "has raised this repeatedly. ... Our position on this is, there's nothing there."

    Gaines said he's aware there was a Navy investigation because the service requested documents on certain research projects, including one managed by UH's research corporation, which facilitates research for the university.

    "They asked for documents and we supplied them everything we were asked for, and that's it," Gaines said.

    The UARC would be funded for three years, with an option for renewal for an additional two years. It's estimated that a maximum of $10 million per year in unclassified "task orders" by the Navy and other federal entities would be funded.

    Gaines said UH already has 1,600 military and federal research projects worth $400 million. Five are classified.

    Gaines estimates the startup costs for the UARC will be about $1 million, and within a year that money will be recovered through fees and charges to the contracts.

    Reach William Cole at wcole@honoluluadvertiser.com.