University investigates possible missile defense study cover-up

Massachusetts Institute of Technology officials are investigating allegations that a federally supported laboratory at the school covered up evidence critical of the prospective U.S. missile defense system, the The New York Times reported Thursday.

The university is looking into a 1998 report that cleared military contractor TRW of falsifying missile sensor test data. The report was completed under the auspices of the Lincoln Laboratory, MIT's chief recipient of U.S. government funding, the Times reported.

"Potentially, this is the most serious fraud that we've seen at a great American university," said Theodore Postol, the MIT physicist who first made the allegations of impropriety almost two years ago.

The case follows the allegations of Nira Schwartz, a senior engineer at TRW in 1995 and 1996, who said the contractor had faked missile defense sensor test results for ground-based hit-to-kill technology. The Lincoln Laboratory oversaw a federally funded report that exonerated TRW but Postol has insisted that the conclusions of the Lincoln investigation are "false and unsupported."

In early 2002, Postol faulted MIT for not following up on his complaints and ignoring a possible case of "serious scientific fraud."

Edward Crawley, head of the university's Aeronautics and Astronautics Department, initially said an investigation into the Lincoln Laboratory report was unnecessary, but in November he decided to support an inquiry and late last month Crawley recommended a full investigation.

"The bedrock principle for all research done at MIT is scientific integrity," said a statement from officials at the school. "Any allegation that there has been any deviation from that principle must be taken seriously, and that is what MIT has done in this case," the statement added.

Postol's case was supported by a February 2002 General Accounting Office study that called the TRW test results "highly misleading." The GAO report also said the Lincoln report relied on data processed by TRW, but investigators did not look into raw data from the tests, the Times reported.

"Either there's a serious problem with the GAO report, which needs to be corrected," Postol told Crawley in August, "or Lincoln Laboratory could be involved at the highest levels of management in covering up fraud," he added.

Critics have faulted Postol for his attention to the TRW situation because the contractor lost a competition for the contract to Raytheon in December 1998. The case is important because it is a rare opportunity to look at the missile defense system's feasibility, he said.

"It's absolutely relevant," Postol said. "It goes to the heart of whether this system has any chance of working. It's more relevant now than when the case first arose," he added.

MIT officials would not comment specifically on the inquiry into Lincoln Laboratory, citing confidentiality policies.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.