- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 12, 2003

The leadership of the University of California in managing the nation's nuclear weapons design laboratories is being questioned. I believe there are strong reasons to continue the current arrangement.
To an outsider, discontinuation of this arrangement might appear to be attractive, but such a decision must be considered in the context of the historical role the university has achieved over the past 60 years. The University of California has been in charge of the Los Alamos and Livermore Laboratories throughout their successful development of nuclear weapons. For more than half a century, they have contributed strongly to winning the Cold War.
The first phase of the university's involvement consisted of the establishment of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and resulted in the development of the atomic bomb, which ended the war with Japan without additional bloodshed of American soldiers. The financial cost was high: $2 billion, including some work for which the University of California was not directly responsible. But even this amount was negligible compared to the cost of conducting a full-scale war.
Following the "hot war" against Japan came the subsequent Cold War against the Soviet Union. This second war is most remarkable in part because of the absence of bloodshed on both sides.
During this Cold War, the University of California played a most important role because, for the first time, the war was conducted in the labs rather than on the battlefield. A fundamentally important part of this war was a deep controversy between those scientists who were convinced that scientific progress is essential and others who were opposed to the development of powerful weapons whose ultimate destiny could have hardly been foreseen. This controversy was, furthermore, coupled with broadly applied secrecy which regretfully weakened international cooperation, but which at least in part was absolutely necessary.
I am emphasizing this point because here, the administration of the University of California played a most important part, which was very effective, although to a great extent it was silent.
One of the most important points is the attraction and retention of first-rate scientists, all of whom have a great affection for peaceful work. Another important point is the circumstance that, together with work on weapons, work on pure science did proceed. The prime example of this is the development of computer technology in which the second weapons lab, Livermore, played a leading role. This technology has a high place among the scientific advances of the 20th century.
The story of a happy, peaceful ending of the Cold War would be incomplete without mentioning that the United States is now supporting scientific cooperation with Russia. This, of course, is in part due to the fortunate fact that the Soviet leadership stopped short of the futile pursuit of a conflict that in fact they had lost. Another important part of the progress toward permanent peace has been due to the leadership of the University of California administration. It recognized throughout this difficult work that continued scientific accomplishments are necessary, and they have been made to a surprising extent independent of stimulating negative feelings toward an opponent.
I conclude by strongly recommending continued reliance on the University of California administration, which managed to support science and technology to ensure their availability in war while minimizing feelings of enmity. Discontinuation of the service of the University of California administration now would be unjust; it would be harmful to the creativity and effectiveness that characterized the work of more than a half a century. Instead, new avenues should be opened up, of which two seem to me most important.
One is to take strong measures against misappropriations of funds or government properties. The necessary detailed supervision should be provided.
The second and more difficult one is to redefine the details of secrecy, to reduce it to its most essential part and then severely enforce the reduced restrictions. In particular, such policy should permit mention and discussion of novel ideas which, according to careful judgment, are bound to be discovered anyway.
A free spirit is now particularly needed due to the absence of nuclear testing, making it more essential to rely on the technical judgment of scientists on critical questions. The university encourages such an approach.
Universities are concerned with providing the scientific base to anticipate and respond to emerging specific and abstract problems. Let us not replace them with a tightly focused organization created to deal most exclusively with definite programs.

Edward Teller, one of the founding members of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in September 1943, is a co-founder of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory with Ernest Lawrence in September 1952. As director emeritus of Lawrence Livermore, Dr. Teller can still be found in his office at Livermore on Tuesday and Thursday each week.

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