by Howard J. Grossman, AICP
Have you heard about the Jasons?
Every year since 1960, the nation’s most brilliant scientists have gathered secretly to solve highly classified problems for the Defense Department and the intelligent community. They call themselves the “Jasons,” named after the Greek myth, Jason and the Argonauts, looking at issues that the government cannot solve.
In a startling book by Ann Finkbeiner published in 2006, in 304 pages, the author reviews the role of the Jasons and sizes up the work, the results, the failures and how these men and women have responded to the overall needs of the defense of this nation. One of the issues looked at was related to the Vietnam War and ways to help overcome some of the difficulties related to the Ho Chi Minh Trail, but one of the most powerful needs was to examine the means to defend against nuclear missiles and how to knock them down before reaching the lands of America. While this was never completely discovered, much work was accomplished along this line. Another area of interest was climate control, something which is in the headlines constantly and which requires action today, not tomorrow.
The Jasons receive high-level briefings by top officials of the government and utilize this information to initiate a process of discovery and action with recommendations, sometimes used and sometimes discarded. The fact of the role of the Jasons, leads to the potential which may exist to begin such a process along regional domestic lines, perhaps not solely designed for national issues, but focused on those topics which are high-level needs inside the Pocono-Northeast. Here are some of the issues that could be examined that are important to regional life, both financially, infrastructure wise, and humanistic.
■ The region does not have a DARPA , meaning the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, but it does have many regional and local organizations who could help identify the research needs that could lead to an organized approach to resolving a major concern. To accomplish this, all of the wonderful colleges and universities in the region could join together to create our own Jasons-type organization. This could lead to new ways to overcome liabilities that exist across the region.
■ Pension reform is needed in many communities to help solve a financial debt issue that has great obstacles to financial capacity. A regional Jasons entity could be helpful in this regard. To some extent, the local Division of the Pennsylvania Economy League does some of this work, but its dedicated staff is small and a Jasons group could enhance what the League does and move in a direction of bringing together top officials from the private, public and nonprofit community. Using all of the higher educational institutions collectively would provide added value to the talent base that exists.
■ Fiscal responsibility affects most communities and counties across the region and a Jasons approach could help alleviate this long standing problem and look at what has proven successful elsewhere and bring those examples to regional attention. Think of what local governments have gone through the Act 47 system such as Scranton, Plymouth, Nanticoke and others. Many other communities face challenges that threaten financial stability and should be seeking assistance that a regional Jasons entity could offer.
■ The growth of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics), as a way to focus educational steps, is a growing need. A Jasons role in finding out how STEAM can better be provided in school districts through proper attention would assist in making this more meaningful across the regional landscape. Many educational places have looked at this, as well as public libraries, but much more centralized actions would help identify new means to advance STEAM as a way to teach and utilize these functions inside the region.
■ Ethical entities such as the Ethics Institute of Northeastern Pennsylvania, based at Misericordia University could be advanced as a way to meet health, media, education and a host of other topics in the region and provide an ethical setting that would be a base for advancing this topic accordingly. The Ethics Institute could be a lead organization to host a round of efforts to bring this topic forward much more than has been the case throughout the region.
■ Briefings by regional mayors, regional organization leaders, community leadership officials and many others would advance this theme more effectively and help mobilize appropriate steps toward creating a regional Jasons entity. The media could help promote this concept by editorializing the theme and build support for looking at ways to focus attention on domestic and global issues that are important to futuristic life inside the region.
■ Religious organizations of all persuasions should think about ways that could focus on a Jasons group in the region by talking at sermons to their congregations and including information in newsletters as to how such an approach can benefit life inside the region. Religious entities are a powerful asset for regional development and could advance this idea extensively as well as contribute to the solution of regional issues.
There are so many ways that many entities could contribute to establishing a Jasons-type group being formed in the region, and there are many other topics for discussion. The aforementioned book provides a guide for thinking about using this process as a basis for a new and exciting opportunity for meeting the needs of a region that truly can be inventive and help this and future regional generations reach new levels of quality of life in coming decades.