DoD Renounces Security Restrictions on Unclassified Research

Department of Defense agencies have been directed not to impose any security-related access restrictions on unclassified fundamental research.

“The products of fundamental research are to remain unrestricted to the maximum extent possible,” wrote John J. Young Jr., the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics in a June 26, 2008 memorandum (pdf) to the military services and defense agencies.

The new DoD policy responds to concerns about an increase in post-9/11 restrictions on disclosure of unclassified DoD-funded research in academia and industry. The new policy reaffirms a 1985 presidential directive (NSDD-189) which stated that national security classification is the only mechanism that may be used to limit disclosure of scientific research when there are valid national security concerns, but that unclassified research may not be restricted for security reasons.

“DoD will not restrict disclosure of the results of contracted fundamental research… unless the research is classified for reasons of national security, or as otherwise required by statute, regulation, or Executive Order,” Mr. Young wrote.

“The performance of fundamental research… should not be managed in a way that it becomes subject to restrictions on the involvement of foreign researchers or publication restrictions,” he wrote.

The new policy memorandum was first reported in “Pentagon: ‘Fundamental’ Research Best Left Unclassified” by Sebastian Sprenger, InsideDefense.com, July 7.

“Since the September 11 terrorist attacks, many research institutions have reported more restrictions on participation in government contracts and research grants, as well as more limits on publishing,” wrote Jacques S. Gansler, a former Under Secretary of Defense, and Alice P. Gast, a former vice president at MIT, in the July 11 issue of Chronicle of Higher Education (sub. req’d).

The writers, who chaired a National Research Council committee on “Science and Security in a Post-9/11 World,” also noted with concern the rise of a “growing number of research projects that are categorized as ‘sensitive but unclassified,’ a designation that limits the scientific community’s right to publish the research results and restricts participation of foreign-born scientists.”

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