Conversion Activities Attract Few Paying Customers
The objectives of the Centre shall be: To give
weapons scientists and engineers . . . opportunities to
redirect their talents to peaceful activities.
Article II of the ISTC Agreement, November 1992
"Conversion to nowhere" is how some Russian officials have described the efforts of hundreds of Russian laboratories to adjust to drastic budget cutbacks in defense orders at the research facilities. 1 Blaming the Soviet legacy, they contend:
Technological spinoff from military activities was almost paralyzed by the lack of incentives and mechanisms for adopting and adapting technologies to civilian production. . . . Although a large share of hightechnology civil-oriented goods was produced by defense plants, defense technology was never put to optimal use. . . . Parts and components that were of low quality or defective by military standards were used for civil-oriented runs of production. 2
Five years before the establishment of the ISTC, the Soviet government had promised a new approach to conversion. The optimistic Soviet rhetoric was promptly adopted by the Russian government as well. It became the great hope of hundreds of thousands of former weapons scientists and engineers in Russia as the route for continuing meaningful R&D programs, in addition to maintaining viable manufacturing activities, at satisfactory wage levels.
In a national effort to redirect many activities from a military to a civilian orientation, soon after coming to office President Yeltsin re-