Friday, 20 July 1990 Washington, DC
1. SDI HAS EATEN UP $20B SINCE 1985--AND THE END IS NOT IN SIGHT.
The Senate Armed Services Committee voted last week to cut $1B
from the President's $4.6B request for SDI in FY 91, which it
does every year. But it's not the old Star Wars. No one talks
about "impenetrable shields" these days and such fearful weapons
as x-ray lasers are long forgotten. A GAO report says the switch
to Brilliant Pebbles will delay the deployment decision beyond
the 1993 deadline set by President Bush. And for the first time,
a civilian has been named to head the program: Henry F. Cooper,
former Air Force deputy assistant director for research, replaces
Gen. George Monahan, who left at the end of June. The chief
scientist, Dean Judd, also left to return to Los Alamos, and the
positions of deputy director and chief of staff are vacant. But
the money still gets spent at a rate of around $4B per year.
2. THE "PEACE DIVIDEND" MAY LOOK MORE LIKE A PINK SLIP
to many in
the defense industry. The Economic Stabilization, Adjustment and
Defense Industry Conversion Act (H.R.3999) is aimed at reducing
the impact of spending cuts on workers in the defense industry
and facilitating conversion to civilian needs. Testifying in
favor of the bill, Edward Bertolli of the IEEE predicted that
unemployment of engineers could reach the proportions of the
early 70's, when 80,000 were out of work. One witness predicted
that without a program to cushion the shock, Congress will never
be able to bring itself to cut out major defense systems.
3. ARE NUCLEAR ENERGY INVESTMENTS "SOCIALLY IRRESPONSIBLE"?
faculty participate in the College Retirement Equities Fund. CREF
has begun offering a "Social Choice" account that will invest
only in companies that "follow commonly accepted standards for
social responsibility." Specifically excluded are companies that
produce nuclear energy. No mention is made of power companies
that belch acid rain and greenhouse gases; in fact, CREF has 4.5%
of its portfolio in electric utilities. A letter from APS
President Eugen Merzbacher expressed the APS Council's dismay.
CREF has promised to "clarify its position" in future printings.
4. THEY CAN'T BE KEPT OUT OF THE PORK BARREL IN AN ELECTION YEAR.
With both the Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman, Bennett
Johnston (D-LA), and Ranking Minority Member, Mark Hatfield (R-
OR), up for re-election, it's not surprising that the energy bill
is piled high with research pork for Louisiana and Oregon. But
pork lust seems to be out of control; if the bill passes in its
present form, dozens of places such as the University of Northern
Iowa and Fort Hays State University in Kansas will get tens of
millions of dollars without ever writing a proposal, while many
of the best researchers in the nation are being turned down. And
when the budget summit decrees across-the-board cuts, all this
crap will help pull down legitimate science projects. Otherwise,
the science parts of the bill seem to mimic the House version.