JASON is an independent group of scientists which advises the United States government on matters of science and technology. The group was first created as a way to get a younger generation of scientists—that is, not the older Los Alamos and MIT Radiation Laboratory alumni—involved in advising the government. It was established in 1960 and has somewhere between 30 and 60 members.
For administrative purposes, JASON's activities are run through the MITRE Corporation, a non-profit corporation in McLean, Virginia, which contracts with the Defense Department.
JASON typically performs most of its work during an annual summer study. Its sponsors include the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and the U.S. Intelligence Community. Most of the resulting JASON reports are classified.
The name "JASON" is sometimes explained as an acronym, standing either for "July August September October November", the months in which the group would typically meet; or, tongue in cheek, for "Junior Achiever, Somewhat Older Now". However, neither explanation is correct; in fact, the name is not an acronym at all. It is a reference to Jason, a character from Greek mythology. The wife of one of the founders (Mildred Goldberger) thought the name given by the defense department, Project Sunrise, was unimaginative and suggested the group be named for a hero and his search.
JASON studies have included a now-mothballed system for communicating with submarines using extremely long radio waves (Project Seafarer, Project Sanguine), an astronomical technique for overcoming the atmosphere's distortion (adaptive optics), the many problems of missile defense, technologies for verifying compliance with treaties banning nuclear tests, a 1982 report predicting CO2-driven global warming, and a system of computer-linked sensors developed during the Vietnam War which became the precursor to the modern electronic battlefield.
In 2002, DARPA decided to cut its ties with JASON. DARPA had not only been one of JASON's primary sponsors, it was also the channel through which JASON received funding from other sponsors. DARPA's decision came after JASON's refusal to allow DARPA to select three new JASON members. Since JASON's inception, new members have always been selected by its existing members. After much negotiation and letter-writing—including a letter by CongressmanRush Holt of New Jersey—funding was subsequently secured from an office higher in the defense hierarchy, the office of the Director, Defense Research & Engineering, name changed to Assistant Secretary of Defense (Research & Engineering) (ASD (R&E)) in 2011.