‘National security community’ eyes possible deal with Green Bank

Courtesy file photo
The entrance to the Green Bank Observatory in Pocahontas County.

A possible partnership between the Green Bank Observatory and the “national security community” is being explored by the National Science Foundation, NSF Director France Cordova said Wednesday during questioning by U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., before the House Appropriations Committee’s Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee.

“One potential partnership has turned up recently for Green Bank with the national security community,” Cordova said, when asked by Jenkins about what collaborations the NSF may be pursuing to help finance ongoing operations of the Pocahontas County radio-astronomy observatory. “I don’t want to say too much about it because it’s very new — within the last couple of weeks, few weeks — but those have been very long and now sustained discourses with that community over their potential interest,” she said.

The Green Bank Observatory’s location in the 13,000 square mile National Radio Quiet Zone lends itself to signals intelligence gathering tasks. The operational section of the former U.S Navy installation at Sugar Grove in neighboring Pendleton County was tasked with signals intelligence duties prior to the Navy ending its presence at the site in September 2015, but the facility — on a separate tract of land from the main base — is now operated by the National Security Agency, which presumably continues to perform signals intelligence work there.

The National Radio Quiet Zone was formed specifically to reduce radio interference in the vicinity of the Green Bank Observatory and the Sugar Grove Navy installation.

Jenkins said that other federal agencies, such as NASA, could establish potential partnerships with the Green Bank Observatory, while “fulfilling core NSF missions and functions.”

Cordova’s appearance before the House subcommittee was made to address the NSF’s budget for the 2018 fiscal year.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelhammer@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5169, or follow @rsteelhammer on Twitter.

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