Friday, 18 June 1999 Washington, DC
1. DOE: "SCIENCE AT ITS BEST--SECURITY AT ITS WORST."
The title of the Rudman report pretty much says it all.
Undertaken at the President's request to examine the
security threat at DOE weapons labs, the bluntly-worded
report describes DOE as a "dysfunctional bureaucracy,"
and concludes that, "faced with a profound public
responsibility, [DOE] has failed." Two alternatives
were offered: a new semi-autonomous weapons agency
within DOE, or a wholly independent agency such as
NASA. The report acknowledged disagreement over these
alternatives, but the four-member panel was unanimous
that the labs should never be subordinated to the
Defense Department. The nuclear weapons functions need
"more autonomy, a clearer mission, a streamlined
bureaucracy, and increased accountability," but contact
with nonclassified research must be maintained:
"Nations that honor and advance freedom of inquiry have
fared better than those who have sought to arbitrarily
suppress and control the community of science."
2. MORE DOE: WHITE HOUSE WILL NOT ENDORSE A SEPARATE AGENCY.
In a statement on Tuesday, President Clinton said the
proposals of the Rudman panel would be carefully
reviewed. There is concern in the White House,
however, that top weapons scientists would be unwilling
to isolate themselves from unclassified basic research
in a wholly independent agency. A semi-autonomous
agency within DOE, however, might solve that problem
and could still be seen as consistent with Secretary
Richardson's reforms. Senator Rudman himself is said
to be leaning toward the semi-autonomous option.
3. STILL MORE DOE: NBC NIGHTLY NEWS GLEEFULLY PILES ON.
It's an old Washington sport. "Some critics say that
your department has done about as well managing
taxpayer dollars as it has protecting the nation's
nuclear secrets," sneered reporter Lisa Myers to a DOE
official. In its regular feature "The Fleecing of
America," NBC news last night focused on a Vancouver
accelerator conference attended by 525 government
scientists. "That's right, 525 government scientists
discussing particle acceleration...Wouldn't 200 or 300
have been enough?" Myers sniffed.
4. INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION: EVOKING MEMORIES OF MIR.
One of the problems with "exploring" low-Earth orbit is
that we've been there before--lots of times--and so
have the Russians. The result is that the ISS must be
able to maneuver out of the way of pieces of space
junk, of which there are thousands. One rather large
piece, a dead Russian rocket, was on an uncomfortably
close trajectory last week. Instructions were sent to
the Russian built Zarya module, which is supposed to
supply the thrust to get out of the way. Alas, the ISS
stubbornly refused to budge. Rep. Sensenbrenner, who
is not happy about relying on Russia anyway, wants to
know why. He also wants to know why NASA failed to
tell Congress or the public about until it leaked out a