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A committee of prominent scientists co-chaired by a Harvard professor has revised its report on the feasibility of the laser weapons that will be used in the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) after the Defense Department refused to allow publication of the lengthy document, committee members said yesterday.
Originally scheduled to be published in the January issue of the journal of the American Physical Society, "Reviews of Modern Physics," the report was held up when the SDI office classified several sections of the document.
Physicists on the 18-member committee, which is sponsored by the American Physical Society and whose co-chairman is Gade University Professor Nicolaas Bloemborgen, said that their revised report should clear the SDI office's review process.
"Obviously the report will have some political impact, but it's to the advantage of the government to make it public because it makes available the problems with SDI," said Thomas Marshall, a professor at Columbia and member of the committee. "Some will be encouraged, some will be discouraged by the report's findings."
The committee adopted "a large number of minor changes" to remove sections of its analysis of SDI that were deemed classified last fall, members said. The committee met with the SDI office in December in order to work out a version of the report that would be agreeable to both the government and the scholars, members said.
Committee members said that the changes were minor and primarily technical in nature.
"The purpose of the meeting was to end up with an unclassified report and I think we've done that," said William W. Havens, executive secretary of the American Physical Society.
The revised report was sent to Washington onJanuary 15, where it is being reviewed by theoffice in charge of SDI research, members of thecommittee said yesterday.
Committee members said they expected the reportto be cleared for publication by the end of themonth.
"I expect that the report will come out withina few weeks," said Kumar Patel, a chief physicistat Bell Labs and co-chairman of the committee.
The 400-page report assesses the technicalfoundations of the lasers in the "Star Wars" planwhich has been touted by the Reagan administrationas a shield against nuclear weapons.
It comes to a conclusion on the feasibility ofevery single "directed energy" weapon that hasbeen proposed to shoot down incoming missiles,said one committee member who spoke on thecondition of anonymity. Members have refused tosay what those conclusions are until the report iscleared for publication.
Several members of the committee have said inthe past that they personally thought the "StarWars" plan is not feasible for the near future."Certainly a lot of it could benefit by staying inthe lab for 10 years," Marshall said last fall.
The committee, formed two years ago, became thefirst group of independent scientists to be givenaccess to confidential Defense Departmentdocuments about SDI.
In return for the unprecedented viewing ofclassified material, the committee of universityand private sector scientists consented toprepublication review by government officials.
"The document remains the same, it was justcleaned up," said Marshall.
"We were able to win out every problem to oursatisfaction," said Patel
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