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Bush Appoints Vest To New Commission

By Kathy Lin


MIT President Charles M. Vest has been appointed by U.S. President George W. Bush to a commission that will review the nation’s intelligence capabilities and processes with regard to weapons of mass destruction.

The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, created via Executive Order on Feb. 6, will report its findings and recommendations to the President by the end of March 2005.

In an MIT press release, Vest said, “This assignment is a call to major national service and I will work to the best of my abilities together with my fellow members to accomplish the goals of this independent Commission. The issues to be addressed are of profound importance.”

Vest is one of three academic figures to serve on the committee. He will serve alongside Henry S. Rowen, Professor of Public Policy and Management at Stanford Graduate School of Business, and Richard Levin, President of Yale University.

Vest familiar to DC

Vest has had an extensive history of serving on various government commissions and working with politicians.

He was the chair of the U.S. Department of Energy Task Force on the Future of Science Programs from 2002 to 2003, a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology from 1994 to 2001, and chair of the President’s Advisory Committee on the Redesign of the Space Station from 1993 to 1994.

Vest also chairs the Council on Competitiveness, a Washington-based group that brings together business, university, and labor leaders to find ways to collaborate on leading issues.

Vest has also served on the Massachusetts Governor’s Council on Economic Growth and Technology and the National Research Council Board on Engineering Education. He was previously the chair of the Association of American Universities.

Van Evera skeptical of commission

Professor of Political Science Stephen W. Van Evera said Vest is will be a valuable asset to the commission, but has doubts about the progress the team can make.

“I think Vest is a very capable and honest man and a fine public servant,” he said, but added that he was “not aware” of any instances in which Vest has devoted time to intelligence matters.

There are “quite a few distinguished appointees ... [but] only one intelligence veteran” on the commission, Van Evera said. He says it will be “a weak commission” because it is lacking in people with “deep experience with intelligence matters.” Commenting on the importance of experience, Van Evera said, “If you don’t know where the bodies are buried, the powers that be in Washington can keep you away from the touchiest issues.”