Oral History Transcript — Dr. Donald Le Vine
This transcript may not be quoted, reproduced or redistributed in whole or in part by any means except with the written permission of the American Institute of Physics.
This transcript is based on a tape-recorded interview deposited at the Center for History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics. The AIP's interviews have generally been transcribed from tape, edited by the interviewer for clarity, and then further edited by the interviewee. If this interview is important to you, you should consult earlier versions of the transcript or listen to the original tape. For many interviews, the AIP retains substantial files with further information about the interviewee and the interview itself. Please contact us for information about accessing these materials.
Please bear in mind that: 1) This material is a
transcript of the spoken word rather than a literary product; 2) An interview
must be read with the awareness that different people's memories about an event
will often differ, and that memories can change with time for many reasons
including subsequent experiences, interactions with others, and one's feelings
about an event. Disclaimer: This transcript was scanned from
a typescript, introducing occasional spelling errors. The original typescript
Access form | Project support | How to cite | Print this page
See the catalog record for this interview and search for other interviews in our collection
Donald Le Vine; July 29, 1991
ABSTRACT: Educational background at University of Michigan-Ann Arbor; Ph. D. in Theoretical High-Energy Elementary Particle Physics in 1969; served for four years in the Army, first at Defense intelligence Agency (1969-1971) then with DARPA (1971-1973); served at DARPA under Dave Mann and conducted one of three studies on geomagnetic for antisubmarine warfare; began work with JASON in 1974; discusses the politics and rationales behind JASONís move to Washington; headed the Washington JASON office with Bob Leonard; comments on the friction when JASON left IDA and Steve Lukasikís role; explains the process of becoming a JASON and three types of internal conflicts in JASON; comments on the clash of cultures between Jason and the government with respect to project compartmentalization; JASONís success in acoustics as an exemplary method of JASONs; discusses the tension between the JASONsí private careers and government service; comments on the state of JASON upon his departure in 1985; his role with the JASON steering committee as mediator between government and JASONs; comments on the tensions between DARPA, JASON, and ARPA, as JASON diversified to combat a micromanagement issue. Discusses the impact of the JASON group, in particular with respect to free electron lasers; comments on JASONs during the Vietnam War era and the question of whether JASONs should expand into biology and sociology; recalls the search for women JASONs.
Aaserud: Okay. I am with Donald Le Vine at the TRW outside the Washington Beltway. It is the 29th of July, 1991, and I would like to ask you some questions particularly about your experience with the JASON group, but I would like to start out talking about your earlier career in order to get a sense of how you get involved in JASON and related areas. We just have to start from scratch without any biographical material.
Le Vine: Where do you want to start?
Aaserud: Well. You could tell me about your educational background and how that relates, if it relates, to your later career including getting into JASON. So what is your educational background?
Le Vine: I went to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. I have a Ph.D. in Theoretical High-Energy Elementary Particle Physics, which is related to what most of the JASONs used to be, anyway.
Aaserud: Exactly, yes. And quite a few still are.
Le Vine: Yes. So thereís a natural affinity right there. I graduated in 1969, went in the Army for four years. First spent time at Defense Intelligence Agency for two years in Roslyn, VA and then went to DARPA, where I met Dave Mann. I donít know if youíve talked to Dave Mann. Dave had something to do with the JASON too. He was at DARPA. And I did a project at DIA in which I ended up briefing him and his deputy, Kent Kresa. And I liked them, they liked me, so we finagled the Army to send me up to DARPA.
Aaserud: So you got into DARPA directly from Michigan?
Le Vine: No. I went to Defense Intelligence Agency first. That was for two years, two and a half years, and then I went to DARPA which was just up the street, and thatís where I met Koether and all those people. I must have reported in June, and the second week I was there my immediate boss took me out to San Diego and I met these characters called JASONs — Sid Drell Zachariasen, a lot of the people whose papers I used for my thesis, so this was my meeting with all my little local physics gods.
Aaserud: So which year was this now?
Le Vine: It had to be 1971 or 1972.
But I have my own bio which has the dates on it. My own resume.
Aaserud: It would be nice to get one.
Le Vine: I think I started working with JASON in 1973. So it must have been 1971 I went to DARPA. And the first summer I just met a few of Ďem, putting names with faces. And then, I think it was the second summer some guy had come up with this weird idea of making a new electron gun that was gonna kill everybody and his brother with the energy. And people thought it wouldnít work, but they didnít know how it worked, because on page 19 there was this equation which no one believed. So they gave it to me, because I was the resident physicist, and being naive I started on page 1 instead of on page 19, and it seemed to me the guy did Lorentz transform twice, which I knew was illegal. So it was the summer, and I took it out to Sid Drell — because I knew if anybody knows about special relativity itís Sid. His and Bjorkenís book was the book I used when I was a graduate student. Then he came back and said I was absolutely right, wrote a little note to my boss. Thatís my first technical interaction with the JASONs.
Aaserud: Actually Iíve been at SLAC and I looked through the Drell papers and Iíve asked for copies of that correspondence. That correspondence exists actually, but I donít have it here.
Le Vine: And so thatís how I started. I got to know him. You know, it was flattering, a guy just out of graduate school to be vindicated by him.
Aaserud: What was your general task in DARPA?
Le Vine: I just ran, I guess, sort of new technology, running odds and ends high technology programs. I didnít have any major multi- million dollar programs, just bits and pieces of things. So I met a few of the JASONs and then my boss, Dave Mann, got interested in the Navy and ASW, anti-submarine warfare, and he led a study for the Navy. And he decided he wanted me to run one of the three studies going on in geomagnetics, how you could detect submarines with geomagnetics, if you could. And so as part of the study I ran into Allen Peterson, Ed Frieman, Ken Watson, Norman Kroll. Iím sure you know all those guys.
Le Vine: They were my experts. Thatís when I really got to know them, and we spent a good part of a year working on the study.
Aaserud: But this wasÖ
Le Vine: It was not JASON.
Aaserud: Ö still not JASON.
Le Vine: Itís not JASON, but these were all JASONs. And then I was out the next summer, which must have been the summer of 1972. Then I left DARPA in early 1973. I resigned from the Army and became a consultant for myself, really working for Dave Mann, who left DARPA and went to the Navy. He eventually became Navy Under Secretary for Research and Development. He started working for Admiral Zumwalt. And so I was helping him on ASW. And then I was out for summer study, JASON summer study in San Diego at Bishopís School, 1973, and letís see — this is after they had gone to SRI. And Bob Leonard, was then the Executive Secretary, director of the JASON office, which was out in Menlo Park. You know, when they left Ida and went to SRI, everything got moved to Menlo Park. And apparently — this is all in retrospect — they began to realize that you canít run JASON from California. You need somebody in Washington. And Ed Frieman seemed to be impressed with me on this Navy ASW effort, and he, in typical Ed Frieman fashion, behind the scenes organized things. Thatís Edís style and Bob Leonard approached me and offered me the job.
Aaserud: Ed Frieman was Chairman at the time.
Le Vine: No. Ken Watson was.
Aaserud: Ken Watson was.
Le Vine: I think JASON was — this is all in some sense subjective — unhappy with it being run on the west coast. And they werenít happy with some of the support. They wanted somebody full- time that belonged to them rather than belonged to SRI. I donít know all the ins and outs, but they approached me to set up a Washington office. JASON would still be run out of Menlo Park. would be just called a physicist, but run the office in SRI Washington and Roslyn, have a secretary, and sort of be the Washington point man reporting to Menlo Park.
Aaserud: So this was a job that was a little different from David Katcherís and the earlier persons.
Le Vine: Yes, thatís correct, thatís right. I must have started October of 1973.
Aaserud: So you shared it to some extent with Bob Leonard then.
Le Vine: Thatís right. He was my boss. And he was actually involved in running the JASON office: it consisted of myself, my secretary, Bob Leonard, his secretary, and whatever staff. And everything was done in Menlo Park. All the staff functions, all the writing of checks, consultant forms, all the administrative efforts, typing of reports, all was done on the west coast. That changed over several years, which I think violates your 15-year history. But thatís how it started. And so I got into Ďem by actually having been at DARPA, met some of these people, and then they came to me and wanted me to set up something in Washington.
Aaserud: Well according to what I found out here from the JASON records, a look at the JASON records at the MITRE Corporation, you were appointed in October 1974. Is that correct?
Le Vine: Was it 1974? It could be. Maybe I got my years one off. Itís possible. I would go back to look at my resume.
Aaserud: Well there is a memo from Bob Leonard to JASON members, 11 October 1974, which is introducing you.
Le Vine: Okay. Iím off by one year then. I concede that easily enough. Okay, so everything I just said, you have to extrapolate by one year. And I must have left the Army the first of January, 1974. Because I was only a consultant for eight months. So it must have 1974 instead of 1973.
Aaserud: Well, to get even farther beyond my main period of interest, you started in 1974 and you quit when?
Le Vine: 1985. November 1985.
Aaserud: So that was a fairly long tenure.
Le Vine: Yes.
Aaserud: And you were placed in Washington during all that time.
Le Vine: Yes. I was first at SRI in Roslyn and then at MITRE.
Aaserud: How did you and Bob Leonard divide up your tasks?
Le Vine: Well, itís sort of the typical things between humans. It sort of evolves. At the first summer study, I had to go to him. He was there at the summer study, as I was, and so he was in charge and I was sort of the leg man that did all the leg work, but he was in charge of making all the decisions. And I think that was true also in Washington and in Menlo Park. I could do things but I had to every day call him and clear everything I was gonna do with him.
Aaserud: What was Leonardís position within SRI, by the way?
Le Vine: He was I believe a deputy director of a laboratory. And he eventually became director of the lab, of the radio physics lab. I can be mistaken. Even when I first met him, he was deputy director or one of the deputies of the lab.
Aaserud: So this was a side task for him, but a full task for you.
Le Vine: Yes. Thatís right. And I forgot how big the lab is, but my memory is I guess the lab was probably a couple hundred people. Yes, what you said is correct. There was somebody else, by the name of Bob Barnes, out in Menlo Park, whose job apparently was to assist Leonard before I came on the scene. I donít know. I had the impression — thatís all hearsay — that that didnít work out too well, but I have no firsthand knowledge. And you know, when youíre talking about people thatís a very sensitive issue. People are not always straightforward about human interaction and who did what to whom and how they felt. There was some friction going on, but I donít know what it was. And as you probably know, there was a lot of friction when JASON left IDA.
Aaserud: Well I donít have a complete handle of that. You came in I suppose after the transition had been completed.
Le Vine: Iíve heard a lot of stories, but theyíre not firsthand; this is all hearsay.
Aaserud: Well I just spoke to a central person today of course, Alexander Flax, who was the President of IDA when it happened. And I talked to Steve Lukasik who was the director of ARPA.
Le Vine: He sort of instigated it, at least that is the story Iíve heard.
Aaserud: Thatís my impression from the records, that he was most eager. And he was unquestionably the most negative about JASON when I interviewed him too. So it makes sense.
Le Vine: Have you talked to Hal Lewis?
Aaserud: Iíve talked to Hal Lewis, and he was not too crazy about Steven Lukasik, thatís right. But, you know, Iíve received general feelings. I donít feel I have a sense of the details involved in the transition. The formalities were obviously important. I mean the Congress had decided to reduce funding for IDA, and that was important obviously, but to what extent it was that and to what extent it was personal I am unable to say.
Le Vine: Yeah, you know, everybody has their own theories about that; I have a story which I believe, but it is hearsay, because I was not there. And even if I was there, it might only be hearsay too. It depends upon the perspective when you saw what was happening. But it is consistent. Lukasik was head of DARPA when I was there too. And itís consistent with Lukasikís theory. He did not like to have people stay at DARPA for more than three or four years. He liked rotation. And the possibility that he also viewed that it would be good for JASON to rotate is not inconsistent at all with his personnel policies at DARPA. And they had been at IDA for 13 years, 14 years. Thatís a long time. And I know what youíre talking about the $600,000. It was coming out of IDAís ceiling.
Aaserud: But, in any case, when you got there, did you sense that there was a problem of starting anew from SRI, was this a new thing for JASON do you think, or did they fit in quickly? Itís hard for you to say who werenít there during the IDA period of course.
Le Vine: Well, thatís a loaded question. There are two pieces, all to some extent colored by hindsight of course. But you could smell, you could feel it, there were tensions; there is no question about that. Even if one didnít know what the tensions were. I got bruised a few times because I fell into sensitive areas which I didnít know were there.
Aaserud: Thatís a good way of learning it.
Le Vine: Yeah. Itís hard. It was also I think a trough in JASONís technical history, and prestige I believe also. I donít know if itís cause and effect, but they were both there. My own personal observation which I made of the JASONs the first summer I went out there, was based upon listening to what they called a wrap-up at the end. And I found it boring and dull, except for a couple briefings by Rich Muller and Stan Flattť. Otherwise they were boring. And when I went back the next year I found them more interesting. That was Jonathan Katz — youíve met Jonathan?
Aaserud: No, I havenít met him. Thatís 1974 and 1975 weíre talking about?
Le Vine: Yeah. It must have been. See, in those days they had different categories. Now itís youíre a member or youíre not. Then they had three stages of categories. I forgot.
Aaserud: Trial member, whatever, thatís probably not the name of it, and regular memberÖ?
Le Vine: Thatís right. And they had difference in fees. Itís like associate and assistant and then full-fledged member.
Aaserud: It was related to their professorial positions I think.
Le Vine: No, no, it was not.
Aaserud: Not at all? Okay.
Le Vine: It was just trials, no. Because Jonathan was never a full professor, but he became a full JASON.
Traditionally, you came out the first summer for a couple weeks, look each other over, and then you came back for a one-year trial and thereís like another year, and then you became a full-fledged member. Itís sort of like probation for a couple years. But they had different names. Jonathan was out there, for sort of a two week trial that summer. And they had a couple other young guys. You could tell that JASON was, in my view, a lot more interesting, more exciting.
Aaserud: With the new people coming in.
Le Vine: Itís sort of like the old topics were staid and dull and boring, and they had some new people doing some new things. And I could even feel that, even being an outsider then. And subsequently I learned, I think, that my initial perception was correct. It was not just Lukasik. I donít think JASON was held in great high esteem by Washington in general at the time. It sort of hit a trough of becoming slightly irrelevant. And there was a lot of micromanagement attempted by DARPA, by Lukasik and Hellmeyer who was his successor. And there was a lot of fights as how to fend off this micromanagement. Micromanagement like trying to dictate who became a member and who didnít; who was chairman and who was not chairman; and which problems you work on.
Aaserud: So there was even a question at that time of whether JASON would have control of those questions? Not just choice of projects, but choice of members and choice of steering committee and chairmen.
Le Vine: There were some fights about that. JASON as you know are very strong-headed people, most of them.
Aaserud: Oh yes. Iíve come to that conclusion, yes.
Le Vine: They are very jealous of their prerogatives. Maybe even more so then than now. Itís a subjective statement, but they all had tenure someplace else, this was a part-time job, and they felt that was important so they could tell the government to go to hell anytime they wanted to. They could tell Ďem bad news or good news, and they just didnít feel that they should be told what to do, because it would then color their judgment; they no longer would be considered an independent entity if they had that happen. And there were a lot of internal steering committee fights, internally amongst JASONs, and then more importantly, how do we respond to DARPA, to this threat to our independence. And I think thatís exactly what it was. In retrospect, they werenít proud of everything they did. You know, nothing in life goes in a straight line; two steps forward and sometimes one back. And that had some impact on the technical work they did in the summer and how well they could find problems. It had some impact on recruiting people, for if you donít have anything interesting, why come. What kind of speakers you got. I mean they were all in some way tied together.
Aaserud: Well, I donít know if you would be willing to do this, even if you had some specific experience or specific example of what was discussed in that relation, I mean whether there was particular discussion of a member or a project that was a problem when you were there.
Le Vine: Those things are difficult because when you involve particular people then it becomes personal. And I donít think that particular names of people are so important.
Aaserud: No. But you could say that you had firsthand experience of this.
Le Vine: Well, there were a couple attempts to dictate who should become a member, and there were a couple attempts to have certain people fired.
Aaserud: Which JASON has done by themselves anyway of course.
Le Vine: Yeah. But no, this was that they were told to fire somebody. Itís a different statement. And, as you might expect, everybody had different judgment I guess. Everybody has a different opinion of the quality of each individual JASON. But one person in my view clearly was fired because of the pressure. I guess a compromise was made; somebody who was technically I thought reasonably good. But thatís not for me to judgeÖ I wasnít a JASON. But there were those fights. Iíd put them in three categories: members trying to be imposed on the group by outsiders, outsiders trying to get members fired, and that kind of personality micromanagement, as well as what kind of topics. I donít know how to get in more detail, because I donít think itís appropriate to talk about people.
Aaserud: Well, the one thing that comes to mind immediately is the change of chairmanship immediately after from Hal Lewis to Ken Watson.
Le Vine: Well that was before my time. There are stories I have heard. Whether they are true or not I canít vouch for. Iím talking about after I actually saw the steering committee meetings. Thatís only distorted by my memory, not by hearsay.
Aaserud: Well, itís hard to talk about people for obvious reasons. It may also be difficult to talk about projects, for other reasons, such as security and things like that. Thatís another possibility for micromanagement of course that the DARPA or whichever organization they contract for tries to have too strong a say as far as JASON is concerned as to which projects they can and cannot take up.
Le Vine: Well, you raise up a very important issue. I thought — this is my view of JASON — there were a series of problems that were clearly important technical problems, but one of the sponsors was trying to dictate which JASON could work on the problem and which couldnít. There were two issues that were raised. One is, JASON at the time viewed its great strength that it had these 40-odd people with different backgrounds, and anybody could work on anything. And so you get a variety of people, and that has an advantage. Different perspectives come in and you can kibbutz and carry on. And JASON didnít want to be a compartmented organization. And it seemed to be even then a tradition that anybody could work on anything they wanted, and they didnít like the fact that somebody could come in a say, ďI want Joe to work on it, but not Henry to work on the thing.Ē And then thereís the related issue, at the time I got there they started to get into black programs, which is just compartmented programs.
Aaserud: Which would also become compartmented within JASON.
Le Vine: And that becomes the issue, that the government de facto controls who gets clearances, but also it means that not anybody can work on it who wants to. You lose some peer review, because one of the advantages of these wrap-ups at the end of the year — the real value to the government — I thought was to come and listen the JASONs kibbutz with each other. JASONs who knew nothing about the subject asked questions and you get a feel for how good it is in real time. Having a Freeman Dyson or Dick Garwin review somebodyís work can be interesting, because they are bright enough, and you can see whether the speaker can defend himself or not. Well, if you have a compartmented program you canít do that, and it defeats a lot of the value of JASON of having a wide variety of very bright but, letís say, uneducated about that subject, people criticize some work to get a good peer review. And that to some extent lessens the value of JASON. Itís my view and the view of some of the other JASONs, but itís clearly my perspective.
Aaserud: There was a clash of cultures here of course.
Le Vine: Thatís right. And that was an issue that took up a lot of time, a lot of agony. This is again an issue of micromanagement of a different sort, and there were also factions within JASON, no questions given the strong personalities. Strong personalities donít always get along with each other. Itís human nature. People donít always get along with each other. So thereís different views, different motivations. My view of my job was to be neutral, which is not always easy to be. I served JASON; I didnít serve one or the other, and thatís not always easy to do. But so in that sense, my job was to gather information and pass it on to everybody and not distort it. I guess because I lasted eleven years, I must have been reasonably successful at doing something along their line. But that was a major issue, it took months and months of harking about that problem.
Aaserud: And youíre saying, as far as youíre concerned, it was a fairly new issue? It appeared when you came in, more or less?
Le Vine: It appeared. This is my perspective, that this was a new issue. Until then everything had been letís say secret, but just secret. Everybody had a TS clearance, so everybody could get into it. Then you started getting secret special access. It was the whole process of who could work on what, and why couldnít all JASONs have access to it. When I first took the job in 1975, I did, in retrospect, one of the smartest things that I ever did I went around and met the JASONs at their homes, at their universities, rather than wait for them to come to me. I wanted to see them on their own turf, because Iíve always felt people are more comfortable when you can see them at their place. So I went around the country to meet these people.
Aaserud: When you were introducing yourself?
Le Vine: Yeah. And as I said, in retrospect itís one of the smartest things I ever did, get to know them one-on-one. Then besides, when you can see three Nobel Prize winners in two days itís awe-inspiring, and for a lot of these people I used their papers and their books. I didnít have a big ego after going around and seeing these people. It puts you in your place. I was flattered that these people talked to me. But I went around, and one of the things I originally was gonna ask people, ďWhat are you good at? What do you specialize in?Ē The answer I got, until I stopped asking the question, was, ďHey, I do,Ē for example, ďhigh-energy physics for a living. Iím a bright guy, and I go to JASON and I do things I donít know anything about, because thereís no conflict of interest having a fresh perspective. That makes me naive, but JASONs are smart enough that we can catch up, and the value of JASON is to do things that you donít do for a living so you donít have conflicts of interest, to give impartial advice and then to leave it.Ē Itís a statement of arrogance of physicists: A good physicist can do anything. But leaving aside the arrogance statement, thereís a lot of truth in this statement. Letís take acoustics. Iím not talking to you, Iím also giving a lecture, right?
This is a naive statement, but you saw the movies and books about World War II where they used sonarís looking for submarines, so I figured the Navy had been doing acoustics for 20 years, 25 years by then, 30 years maybe, and knew what was going on. I donít know how JASON got into acoustics, that was before my time. They knew nothing about it. The Roger Dashens of the world, Walter Munk, Ken Case, I think, Marshal Rosenbluth was involved, Ed Frieman, Stan Flattť, Ken Watson got into this, and in a couple years they learned enough about what all the other contractors were doing that they were making major significant contributions in passive acoustics. And it struck me, how could they do this? People had been working at it for 30 years, and these guys come in a couple years and make major new contributions. Itís sort of a prime example of how you take some very bright guys who donít know that it canít be done, who come in and start asking basic questions and figure out what the basic problems are, and then go off and do some creative arithmetic or mathematics, come up with some answers. And this was JASON at its best. But it was people who only did it part-time. And that impressed me that this is what JASON should be good at. Because that means when they tell the government that this is right and this wrong they donít have any axe to grind, and theyíre sort of looking at things with a new perspective. Now that is also a problem, this conflict of interest issue has gotten worse. As you may or may not know, people more and more do for a living what they did or do for JASON. And that is a problem that has been discussed often. I canít speak for the last six years of course, but when I was there often it became a very troublesome problem. Usually the trouble was that they would learn it in JASON and then often start doing it academically. And there is this, Iíll call it conflict of interest issue. And I donít mean that anybody did anything wrong, but this appearance that they no longer were novices at what they were doing, and they no longer were impartial observers. And that laid some of them open to accusations that they were biased. Iím not saying they were biased, but perception is as important as reality sometimes. But I believe some of the founding JASONs believed very strongly in this virgin approach to the problems.
Aaserud: I think thereís a spectrum of opinion on that, even within JASON. If you look at oceanography for example, or look at Walter Munk. His academic work and JASON work are certainly related. Well, Steven Weinberg is kind of an inóbetween case, because he took up things he learned in JASON and published about them in the open literature, but remained mostly a particle physicist, which had nothing to do with JASON as far as Iíve understood. And then of course there are these people who maintain a complete separation.
Le Vine: Yeah, but thereís a different class too. I mean, Walter was a oceanographer before he joined JASON. I think maybe Walter was so good the Navy or others never really questioned it. Itís also Walterís style. Walter was never questioned about this, because heís always open about it. The problem came not in the Walters of the world or the Carl Wunches, who was with JASON for a while, who came in as an oceanographer. But other people who letís say were high-energy physicists, came in, learned oceanography, and then went off and changed their career towards oceanography. That was viewed differently than Walt who came in as an oceanographer. Thatís what Iím talking about. Youíre point is a conflict of interest, but I think JASON was more concerned with the case I was bringing up — people who could be accused of using JASON for personal gain. Okay? Thatís a crass way of saying it, but there was a lot of concern about that, and there were cases in which some JASONs did this. I have individual people in mind, but thatís throwing darts at people. But that concern was there, and thatís an issue that has never ever been cleanly solved. Whether itís harmed JASON or not is a personal statement.
Aaserud: Or harmed the field of physics.
Le Vine: Thatís right. But you talked before that one of the reasons you got into this, you were interested in how academic physics is influenced. There is a very difficult but legitimate concern about getting academia involved in the, say, national security issues. ďPersonal gainĒ sounds so crass, but actually, you know, learning something from the government which you then turn into part of your career. That can be construed in many ways, but thatís a real difficult issue and itís very tempting if youíre doing something in academia which is interesting, or letís say itís getting duller and the field is winding down, and you see something in JASON which is exciting, and even though itís classified, you can extract parts of it and use that to help you change career. Now is that fair and honest, open? Is that the way academia should be or not? I ask that as a question, donít think thatís a statement. In my view in some of the JASONs — itís again a subjective statement — it was so subtle it happened to them in some ways they didnít even know they were doing it, but they clearly veered that way and felt comfortable I guess with it. It happened in more than one case.
Aaserud: I just wanted to say something on that. It may look like youíre interviewing me instead of the other way around, but I just have to say that Iíve got the sense from one JASON that they turn that question completely around and say that to some extent academic work, becoming more and more disciplinary, has become stifled to some degree, and that it is only high-energy physics that they are working with unless they work within JASON in which they got access to other problems in which they could use more of the physics they had learned originally. So they turned it around and think that JASON is a broadening experience and itís academic work that could be the stifling experience.
Le Vine: Itís a difficult issue, and thereís this perceptional problem. It depends on what you want JASON to be. If you want JASON to be a reasonably unbiased group of very bright people who you can give difficult problems to and ask them to either review other peopleís work or more importantly try to come up with some proverbial ďback of the envelopeĒ work, then you want a group of people who are not tainted because they donít care that this company or that company gets it; that you have the integrity to say that even though this guy has a reputation, his work is hogwash and this is the way it should go, or vice versa. And thatís very difficult to do when you have, in any sense, emotional or intellectual vested interest in it. Now, if you want JASON to be a group of knowledgeable people who meet every summer that you bring ideas to and they sort of go over it for six weeks, that can be a very different kind of group. And when I left in 1985, for several years there was this growing dispute — maybe itís gone, maybe not — that JASON was becoming more and more a review of other peopleís work, and several JASONs said, ďThatís not our great strength. Our strength should be creativity; not reviewing what some other company has done.Ē Some of them disliked the fact of being reviewers. Theyíre good at it, but thatís a separate issue. What should JASON be? Now I have my own prejudice, but each person has his own image of what JASON should be, and this issue of, what we were talking about before, conflict perception, is tied to what your view of JASON is.
Aaserud: And there are different views within JASON of that of course.
Le Vine: Thatís correct.
Aaserud: But to be a little more concrete without mentioning names, did these things come up in the steering committee? I mean, was it discussed in the steering committee that this JASON or these JASONs or this work in JASON might lead to a conflict of interest, might lead to or has led to this person or this group doing other kinds of work in academia and therefore we should either change the project for them or get them out of JASON or something like that?
Le Vine: Well, there were two phenomena — within the steering committee. There were informal discussions. There were also discussions in the steering committee itself. But the discussions in the committee werenít always as blunt as the ones when you wandered into somebodyís room when they were talking. They were still steering committee members, but, I guess thatís human nature, to blunt it when you talk publicly. Yes, the issue was brought up, and there were several specific JASONs who at least initially were the source of the trouble. Yes, the issue was discussed and, but the subject is not clear enough that there was actually strict lines drawn. In some cases there were, but in a lot of cases it was fuzzed up. The trouble with giving examples is you end up giving names of people, and thatís not fair to them, because Iím not saying anybody was bad or good about this. I think itís fair to say that — well, there are JASONs I donít like, thatís fair to say, but I donít know of any JASONs that I would say blatantly used this to their own end. So itís not fair to accuse anybody.
Aaserud: No, no, but it might have been discussed. Thatís all Iím asking.
Le Vine: Yes. It had been discussed. And I just want to keep away from names because then it all gets the taint of whether you think somebodyís bad or good. Iím not making judgments; Iím making observations. It was discussed and I think to me they went to the heart of JASON, the issues of who decides what problems they work on, who the members are, who has access, can any JASON work on anything, and this issue of academic life versus JASON life were core issues to its existence.
Aaserud: Of course then we go full circle because in order for that to be a real issue, JASON would have to have a great freedom in the projects they were able to choose, among the projects that were possible in the Defense Department for example.
Le Vine: I donít understand. You mean in order to have a conflict academic versus the JASONs?
Aaserud: In order to choose projects that would not lead to a conflict of interest or that would be productive in some sense, they would need to have a broad range of choices for the kind of projects they could take up.
Le Vine: Thatís true, but then the individual JASON could just not work on something.
Aaserud: Yes. And thatís the case often, right?
Le Vine: I mean, I donít know it happened, but Garwin more than once made the comment in public that IBM works on something like this. But no one ever questions Dickís integrity. Dick is not the kind of person to do that to. But Dick has made that comment in public, ďHey, IBM is working on something like this.Ē But no one would ever ask Dick not to work on it. You know Dick obviously, by your smile.
Le Vine: Heís just not that type. But if you didnít know Dick — itís only because you know him. When you were talking you raised up another issue along the same lines. One of the reasons I found the first several years very interesting were these issues. These are very difficult issues, and I found them intriguing as to how the people try to cope with them, and how you handle them. Itís in a sense personal and institutional integrity, how you deal with these things.
Aaserud: Well just to talk about the basis for your giving such statements. How did you work with the steering committee in practice? I mean, were you at all the meetings? Did you have constant contact with them?
Le Vine: Yeah. Well my job evolved into this. I went to all the steering committee meetings, I wrote the minutes — that was my job, to take notes, write the minutes. My job was also — I was the staff, so I did all the staff work. But also to be in a sense the unbiased communicator. People would use me to call up and say pass on an idea, an opinion, a complaint. My job was to pass that on to everybody else. So I became the switchboard operator. I think I got a reputation for being unbiased but my job was to do it. And whether I agreed with it or not was independent. My job was to pass it back and forth. Because not everybody could get a hold of everybody, so theyíd call me and say, ďTell everybody else this.Ē And that was my job, so I became the communication node of some sort. Iím sure there were other communications that went on totally independent of me. Iím not claiming I was the only node, but I was a clearinghouse of information, and I viewed my job to tell only those people who were supposed to know, tell them exactly what I heard, what I thought I heard, as best I could remember, untainted by my own opinions, and just sort of back and forth, and to be neutral rather than try to guide where it went. And it was very easy. Especially as they trusted me more and more, I could have influenced a lot more than I did, because it just takes a little bit of, as you know, of changing this or changing that, and I viewed that was wrong. I had a great deal of respect for JASON, still do, and I did also have my own view of what it should be. I mean I wasnít totally without opinion. Itís probably fair to say, because the steering committee changed each year, people came on and off, that I became probably the corporate memory reasonably quickly. I was involved in all of the formal discussions, and a lot of the informal discussions also.
Aaserud: Did you have the same clearance as the JASONs?
Le Vine: Yes. Until, until we got into this —
Aaserud: — compartmentalization, yes.
Le Vine: And most of them I had, but there are occasions that I didnít have those. So not in every case.
Aaserud: So then what happened? Did they work directly? I mean, itís much more difficult to run it then.
Le Vine: It became more of a bone of contention who types the report, who locks it up, who transmits it to the government. And there were some altercations about — altercations is a strong word — there was some disagreements about how that was done, and caused some internal frictions. Because some of the reports were not done through the normal channel, and it caused some difficulties. Yes. No question about that. I think to go back to the same issue of this —
Aaserud: To what extent were you involved in — what should I say — selling projects?
Le Vine: Iím breaching your 15 years, because itís difficult to divide everything by month, but I think what I evolved into and probably started out with was this. I was the only person in Washington, even when I was at MITRE when I was sort of in charge. At most I had three clerical administrative people working for me, I was the only one with technical-scientific background. My job was to maintain contact with all the clients, the 12 or 13 clients we had. Go to them looking for topics, arranging meetings for the JASONs to come in to talk about these topics, making sure the reports got done, distributed, often briefed to whomever they wanted to. But probably my most important job was being the external interface to the government, to making sure JASON was known, going around looking for topics, talking to people, doing the staff work on topics who were identified. But I think itís fair to say I had a reasonable amount of influence in finding the menu of topics. And then once the menu was found, getting people to work on them. This was just as important as finding projects. JASONís an ornery bunch, because not everyone will work on something just because they were told to. I mean people volunteered, so finding the critical mass was also part of the job.
Aaserud: Well, you got a sense of that after a while.
Le Vine: Yes. And my recollection is that JASON did in the 1980s, I canít only remember so much in the 1970s — about 40 to 50 projects a summer. I guess a quarter of them went from one year to the other. There was a large turnover. To some extent how many we did was purely limited by my ability to how many topics I could do. Sometimes we volunteered for more than I could do, and they just died because I couldnít find the people and the briefings. They left it to me, especially at the end, to find the people, the briefers, the papers, the reports to do that.
Aaserud: So you were actually a go-between between the clients and the steering committee would you say?
Le Vine: Yes. And when they came into town — Iím sure there were some exceptions, but most of the time I went to meetings. And, as I told them when I left, told the steering committee when I left, I ended up with too much power. This was of course in 1985. I believe that I had too much power. Maybe they relied on me too much, or it was an indirect statement of how much they trusted me, but I could have influenced JASON a great deal more than I should have been able to. And I took that as a compliment, but there is also a danger inherent in it. JASONs in my opinion, they in themselves need to spend more time going to see people. But thatís getting beyond your period.
Aaserud: Thatís a problem when you leave of course, but thatís much later. But in the early years of JASON they contracted or had as a client DARPA and nothing else it seems to me, at least not formally. And when you came in, they had broadened their base quite a bit I think. Isnít that right?
Le Vine: No. When I started their budget was $600,000, just DARPA, and there was some money from the CIA, and that was it.
Le Vine: Yes.
Aaserud: So there was no civilian clients at that time?
Le Vine: Thatís correct. And there were no other DOD clients at the time. One of the impetuses to diversify was this micromanagement. Thatís one way to handle it. If DARPA is 95 percent of the budget, then they have power over you, and that was one of the big drivers to go find other clients.
Aaserud: But wasnít there some CO2 work or, I mean some atmospheric pollution work and someÖ
Le Vine: That came out later.
Aaserud: Ötransportation work even before your tenure?
Le Vine: Oh, well thatís possible.
Aaserud: But that came and went then. I mean, that was not a going concern when you arrived.
Le Vine: When you say climate work, I think of DOE work of which Gordon MacDonald was the main instigator. That came later.
Aaserud: Ruderman and Foley?
Le Vine: Yeah. OzoneÖ
Aaserud: Ozone layer. Yeah.
Le Vine: I think — now this is a guess, and I can be very wrong on this — I think until I started, they may have had other work, but it was always someplace calling up DARPA and saying, ďHow about doing this?Ē as opposed to direct funding. Now I could be wrong, I could be wrong about that. But when I started, DARPA was 95 percent of the budget, and the diversification all came subsequent to that, and the motivation started with the compartmentalization issue. I have to think about who approached who first, but when it became apparent the Navy was interested in putting in a large sum of money, there was a lot of discussion in the steering committee whether we should: Wasnít JASON just supposed to be at DARPA? DARPA being OSD, and reporting therefore to the DDR&E (?) who was then a more central figure I think than he is now and more encompassing. And there were people who argued, ďWe only work for the top guy, and if we start working for the services we lose our independence.Ē
Aaserud: When you came in, was it Johnny Foster who was the DDR&E or was it Perry?
Le Vine: It wasnít Perry. Perry came in after Ward so I think it must have been at the end of Fosterís period. I didnít meet Foster when he was there. The first DDR&E who I personally knew was Perry. But, you know, academics argue about everything, but there was discussion whether we should work for the Navy. Being OSD is different; we now become part of the service, and we lose again this objectivity thatís sort of above the fray, and should we go to Navy. If we go Navy, why not the Army, why not the Air Force, and weíre just getting spread out all over the place, and get involved in intra-service fighting. Itís sort of related. Theyíre related to the issues we were talking about before. And I believe — although this again is subjective of course, probably everything Iíve told you is subjective — in the end there were two things that pushed the Navy and led to the big break with DARPA. One was a subject that was absolutely phenomenally interesting — physics at its best. And secondly, micromanagement — trying to find a way to diversify, to break the strangle hold that DARPA had. Thereís an irony to this in my view. When I left — again I donít know whatís happened in the last couple years — DARPAís budget had gone up, but JASON clearly was having troubles finding exciting, major exciting problems out of DARPA. I think DARPA would agree with that statement and JASON would agree with it, so thereís some irony in that statement. But the Navy provided superb and exciting physics at its best, and JASON did some of I think its most superb work. Itís all buried in some classification someplace — a lot of it is.
Aaserud: Especially Navy work.
Le Vine: Yes. You know the Navy. It was physics at its best, and these guys did some superb work. But there are some negatives that go with that. Compartmentalization, in accordance with your jocular jest; the Navy is known for that.
Aaserud: But the Navy kind of work that was done before you came in — there was some — was that through ARPA?
Le Vine: It was ARPA.
Aaserud: It was? Okay.
Le Vine: Now, it may be the Navy and DARPA had some agreement. I do have my files back probably then of what topics we worked on. I probably could figure out when they started some things, but I donít know if I could or not. This is a feeling more than something I can vouch for — itís like maybe 1973 and 1974 — but my feeling was that before then the Navy might have called up ARPA and said ďDo it.Ē And DARPA would have spent 50K, 100K here for this subject or that, but it was not funded by the Navy or by DOE or by DNA. It was sort of a favor done. And thereís a difference, because when DNA for example put money in, the report went to DNA; it did not go to DARPA. But when DARPA put the money in, even if it was a DNA topic, it went to DARPA and then to DNA.
Aaserud: That was in the earlier days. Yes.
Le Vine: Thatís right. So I think that the big distinction there was who you worked for, who you sent your reports to, and who you had some control over. Lukasik — I take that back, I donít know who it was — directors of DARPA more than once got angry at JASON because JASON would write a report and send it to DDR&E and then he would call up the director of DARPA and chastise him on some topic when DARPA had not even seen the report. It can be embarrassing when it is negative on some program. JASON more than once went up here, and then the program manager and the director at DARPA got hit over the head. And you could argue whether thatís fair or not, but that happened more than once.
Aaserud: And that was by intention, I mean that was a strategy.
Le Vine: Yes. Well its intention because weíre gonna give unbiased advice, and weíre not gonna have a program manager who has a vested interest in his career to tell us what to say. Weíre gonna make sure it gets there. It goes back to your image of ďwhat is JASON.Ē Who does it work for? Does it work for the program manager? Does it work for the DDR&E?
Aaserud: Well thatís split and conquer tactics. Iím sure it wouldnít always work; it depends on the DDR&E and the ARPA director and the relationship and all that.
Le Vine: Thatís right, thatís right. And the JASONs, if you look at some of the reports — this goes back to this issue I think of the academic versus JASON, the topics you work on. If youíre really naive about some subject, letís take acoustics, letís pick on that, and you come and work on it for JASON, the answers you come up with a lot of the times will be naive, unrealistic. You might come up with a dollar figure something costs, and it may be crazy because the government canít afford it. You know, a $100 million sounds like little when youíre talking about $300 billion, but itís still a reasonable amount of money. The advantage of that type of approach is that you get not what bureaucratically is realistic; you get what is technically probably the best. And if youíre willing to put up with some naivetť you donít have people saying, ďWell, but the DDR&E wonít accept that program so I wonít say it.Ē You get sort of what you think is right. But you get a lot of naivetť. If you have people who get involved in understanding DOD, thereís a human tendency to say, ďWell, I think thatís right, but these guys wonít buy it, so why give it to them?Ē I like the idea of the naive approach, because Iíd rather have nine crazy ideas and one good one, than have somebody filter them out. Because then you never get change, you just get whatís acceptable, which is not always what is good for you. It may be painful for you, but itís good for you.
Aaserud: Was this as you discussed, in those terms, in the steering committee?
Le Vine: Yes, that issue. In fact there was a meeting that went through 1:00 a.m. That I remember. This issue was discussed. And there I can give you names, because —
Aaserud: Well, Iíd like the names on the next tape.
Le Vine: You know that Iím not great on dates, but in the 1970s throughout Sid Drell and Dick Garwin — you know both, Iím sure you talked to both —
Le Vine: — came up with this idea of mini-subs. I donít know if theyíve talked to you about this. This was using small submarines, small crews so that each would have two missiles, like SLBMs on Ďem. And they would patrol coastal waters, or near coastal waters. And therefore you could protect them. This is a way of protecting, this was protecting our missile force from the Sovietís first strike to destroy the Polaris, Poseidon. And there was internal controversy for several years because Dick and Sid promoted this idea. And Dick went around in typical Dickís fashion, finding all kinds gadgets of like sterling cycles, all kinds of different. Every time the government would come up with a technical reason you canít have it, Dick would solve it. You know Dick. And so, he found specific submarines. We donít need 120 men to run a submarine; you could automate it. You know, two men can run an aircraft plane; why canít X men run a submarine in the coastal waters? You can have P3s over them (?), you know. Itís easier to monitor whatís going on close to the United States than it is out in the middle of the ocean. This was a reasonably controversial issue, and it did not make JASONs friends in lots of places. The Navy didnít always like the discussions. Itís not just who controls the missiles, but how many people you have on submarines. Do you need a Trident or donít you need a Trident? You need a Polaris or not? I mean these are big money issues. And Dick and Sid were not too timorous, you know. The steering committee got into some discussions, because there was some feedback to JASON, that said, ďHey, we donít like this, and weíre your clients.Ē And there was discussions in the steering committee of whether we should suppress those reports or not. Rip Perkins is the one who made the statement, which I think is absolutely right, that it has nothing to do with whether he agrees with Dick and Sid or not. JASONís there to promote ideas and put them out there for the government, not to tell the government what it wants to hear. And he wasnít gonna let anybody stop JASON from publishing, and if they did heíd quit. Because JASON should be a place of ideas, and he would back Dick, even if he didnít like the idea. Because itís censorship, and thatís not what JASON should be like. And I agree with that idea, but that issue is an important issue. It gets to this issue, this thing, maybe in retrospect Sid and Dick were extremely naive and no one would buy it. But if they were sophisticated youíd probably lose lots of ideas which you really want. And thereís this tradeoff. That was discussed.
Aaserud: What time frame are we talking about now? Do you remember?
Le Vine: I could tell by looking at those listed reports.
Aaserud: Okay. Well, I have it here.
Le Vine: Because I can find — these are by year, arenít they?
Le Vine: Itís late 1970s. There was a whole bunch of them that came out. Yes. It was the late 1970s. And it was main — Dick is a very controversial figure, as you know.
Aaserud: Yes. Even within JASON?
Le Vine: Yes. And Dick does not take things — Dick is blunt about his opinions. And so I think some of the controversies are not just about his technology, but about him as a person.
Aaserud: I make a count of which person was mentioned most often in my interviews, and I, well, I didnít count them all, but it seems that Garwin is a pretty obvious winner of the prize.
Le Vine: Yes.
Aaserud: And they donít agree. But, heís keeping it going to a degree. But well, you said that there were discussions within the steering committee as to whether JASON should stick with DARPA or whether it should spread out.
Le Vine: Yes.
Aaserud: And that there was a danger of spreading itself too thin or something like that.
Le Vine: Getting caught into the fights between the services.
Aaserud: But conversely, was there any problem in ARPA, or did ARPA react negatively to the prospect of having JASON going to other places?
Le Vine: In other words did ARPA ever try to stop it.
Aaserud: Because one could think that ARPA saw themselves as owning JASON to some extent and didnít want competition from others.
Le Vine: My first reaction to that, nothing comes to mind that they reacted. Iíd say no. There was problems of how to work out the logistics. Thatís a different issue. There were some government — only meetings at ARPAís instigation, JASON wasnít there, to discuss this issue.
Aaserud: And you obviously were not there either.
Le Vine: Thatís correct. But I knew they were called for that reason. And so there may have been, but I donít know. I cannot recall in my mind that there was.
Aaserud: Öanything of the sort.
Le Vine: If there were, it doesnít come to mind.
Aaserud: Do you remember how the decision was made to go to another client, and how that developed and when?
Le Vine: I think the answer is yes, but then I think weíll end up in personalities. I think I do, at least of the first, of the big one. The Air Force avoids answering your question. Jack Martin, who was in my job for a while, became Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for R&D or something, and I know they went to Jack to get 50K or something like that. So the connection to the Air Force started at a personal basis, if you wanna say a personal. And I think Jackís comment was, ďShit, for 50K itís worth to have a place to sit at a table and listen to JASONís discussions.Ē To have a buy-in, you know. I donít blame him. That was personal, so that was a personal thing.
Aaserud: And the project I could probably find from the list of reports.
Le Vine: Yeah, I donít know what the first projects for the Air Force were. Sometimes there was some joint topics, too. We got into that. The Air Force would want something DARPA would want, and they split the costs between them. I canít think of any right now. Iíd just as soon not say how they got into the big one. I think that would get into a personality discussion which I donít think is appropriate.
Aaserud: Okay. But is it within my time period?
Le Vine: Your time period goesÖ?
Aaserud: 1975 approximately. But I think this is important.
Le Vine: I think it comes slightly after your time. I would say it came after your time. And what I would be willing to say is what Iíve said it before. I believe the main impetus for it was an attempt to handle the micromanagement issue. If the micromanagement issue werenít there, the chances are much less that they would have diversified. I canít say zero, but much less.
Aaserud: And the micromanagement came in with Lukasik essentially, or perhaps Rechtin. It was after Herzfeld.
Le Vine: Yeah, well, see I didnít get to JASONs — Lukasik was director of DARPA when I left and he was director of DARPA while I was at JASON for a while and so I canít say that it didnít start before him.
Aaserud: I think it was a gradual development with Rechtin and Lukasik. You know the ARPA history.
Le Vine: Yeah. And I think itís somehow tied — and I donít know where it started — but I think itís somehow tied, that JASON just was not held in high esteem. There was a nadir in their development. That was another thing that goes back I guess maybe to the same business that I have noticed as a change the last couple of years before I left. When I went to JASON, it was an anti-establishment organization. It was outsider, respected in some sense for technical work, but clearly not an ďinĒ group — and I believe itís now an ďinĒ group. And you can draw your own conclusions. Thereís pluses and minuses to that, but I think JASON now is recognized by some people in Congress. Itís more of an establishment figure. And that is tied I think to this issue of what is JASON, what do you want. You donít want to hear my opinion; you wanna hear the history, sort of more facts. But I think JASON has evolved over the years to more of that.
Aaserud: Well itís hard to avoid that with a history of more than 25 years.
Le Vine: Either that or you become an irrelevancy. But you could argue that by being an establishment figure you lose some of your objectivity. And a case in point of that, which I donít think Ed would disagree with. I mean, itís a very difficult issue. You talked to Ed Frieman.
Le Vine: When I first met Ed he was at Princeton, I think Deputy Director of Princeton Plasma Lab. Iím not sure who was the head.
Aaserud: That was before you joined JASON?
Le Vine: Yes. He was a professor up at Princeton, thatís where I met him. And then Ed became involved with the Navy. At first I knew more about the Navy than he did, but then it didnít take him long. Edís a very bright guy. Then he got on all kinds of committees for the Navy. The pinnacle of all this in some sense is that heís head of Scripps. When Ed became head of certain, some of the Navy committees, you might ask how can Ed do this and also serve JASON to help JASON analyze Navy material. Because he now hobnobs with the Admirals; therefore in quotes he is some kind of an ďestablishment figure.Ē Iím not in any way implying anything about Edís integrity. I can pick on Ed because you donít have to worry about his integrity. But thereís this perception. How can he handle both? And doesnít it worry you about JASON? The opposite is true of Dick. See Dick belongs to nobody. He doesnít belong to IBM. We all know that. IBM pays him money, but Dick would just as soon cut an IBM idea as TRW idea and anybody else.
Aaserud: Thatís right.
Le Vine: So heís the opposite. And Dick is not an insider; never has been, never will be. Nobody would ever question that Dick somehow be tainted, but Ed, you know, he was in the government for awhile, and he was on these committees, dealt with the Admirals. Maybe he did more effective work than Dick by being an insider and helping get ideas accepted, but the perception could be made that Ed has a conflict issue. Well Dick is the opposite guy, pounding on the door on the outside, and Edís in the inside, and itís a question of how do you change things — from the outside or the inside? And that sort of epitomizes to some extent the problem that you have. Itís a choice. And itís not saying one is better or one is worse. Itís this problem. And it goes back to the issue, what is JASON? My guess is that youíve asked that question to more than one of the people youíve talked to, besides being more than one question it has probably changed over the years. The answer you would have gotten 20 years ago is different than you get now. And probably from the older people you get a different answer than from those who joined after Vietnam. But I think itís central to this whole issue — what is the group, what itís purpose is, and how do you get academics to help the Defense community, and in what form. You know the expression around here, all over the place: you can buy bright people. JASONs are bright, but theyíre not uniquely bright. What makes them unique? You canít buy Dicks, you canít find Dicks every place, or Freeman Dysons or Roger Dashens, but you can find bright people, and what makes JASON unique? And we each have our own perspective of that. But if itís just a bunch of bright guys, you can pay TRW to hire them. But somehow it would be different having those guys work for TRW than be JASON. Youíd get different product. And so the question is then what is JASON.
Aaserud: But then we get pretty quickly to the question of the impact of JASON. Iím not saying itís a conflict, but there may be a tension between being independent and having an impact.
Le Vine: Yes.
Aaserud: And what is your view of the impact of JASON in that respect from your own experience? Okay, let me back up a little and tell you why I am asking you this, because I have interviewed about 40 JASONs, and they rate the impact of JASON fairly highly as a general rule. I thought that in order to get to the question in a more balanced way I need to talk to people who experienced JASON from the outside too, I mean in ARPA, in other places, who got their advice and used their advice. So Iím asking you as sort ofÖ
Le Vine: Ö halfway in and halfway outÖ
Aaserud: Ö in the middle, but you certainly had more of an in and more of a contact with ARPA and the other groups that JASON worked with than most JASONs.
Le Vine: Before I get to that, thereís something I keep forgetting to say. Thereís also the issue of the technical competence within the government. There are different views. One of the directors at DARPA, Cooper, Bob Cooper, gave a talk to JASON once, a couple years ago, and he made the statement that the technical competence within the government is going down. If you buy that, the less competent people in the R&D agencies like DARPA are probably less able to appreciate what JASON can do for them. How you distinguish a Freeman Dyson from somebody else often depends on the person doing the distinguishing. And so some part of your answer depends on who you talk to and maybe your view of how the government has changed or not changed over time. I donít have any quantitative numbers, but I would say that over JASONís prime years, each summer one, maybe two ideas would come out of it which were worth every penny the government paid to JASON and more. But rarely more than two. Sometimes just one. But almost every summer something would come up. Sometimes thereís a huge thing, sometimes itís a small thing.
Aaserud: We can cross them off on a list here.
Le Vine: Some of them you can. Some of them arenít on the list. But sometimes the idea was worth — you canít put a price on it, itís just there. Letís see, Iím not sure which ones you can say, which ones you canít say, but I would say that for a number of years it was like that, and a lot of people in the government recognized that, that all they were looking for was one idea, even if it wasnít for their agency. $2 million a year — if you can get one really genius idea itís worth two million bucks. Where else you gonna buy it?
Aaserud: That was Herzfeldís statement. Yeah.
Le Vine: And I think for a number of years thatís what you got. Sometimes in the craziest places, but you got them. Some of them didnít pan out; not all of them panned out. Of some that come to mind that are public, the acoustics was one over several years. The Navy more than got its moneyís worth. I think the Navy would say so. And they had a tremendous impact. I think in both those areas.
Aaserud: There is also a question of how the advice was taken up of course and implemented.
Le Vine: Yes. Free electron lasers is one in which itís clear that they had the idea, Marshall Rosenbluth and Norman Kroll, Bob Novik. And the government took it up and spent lots of money on it, and it had an impact. Whether you think free electron laser is good or not is a separate issue, but they had a tremendous impact. They made a revolution in free electron lasers.
Aaserud: To what extent did JASON try to follow up on the fate of the advice?
Le Vine: Thatís mixed. In the free electron lasers the government came to JASON every year and they did follow up, even after Norman left JASON. Have you talked to Norman?
Le Vine: Good. I think Marshall would tell you it was Normanís idea.
Aaserud: I havenít talked to Marshall.
Le Vine: But that one may be the unusual one, because they followed up year after year, came back to JASON each summer, and Marshall and Norman and Bob reviewed it, made comments on it, and the community was pleased with that, the government was pleased with that, that was a real sort of contribution. And thatís one you can talk about. Itís unclassified. Itís straightforward.
Aaserud: This started before your time, right?
Le Vine: No. The free electron laser came after my time. During my time, I guess during my time.
Aaserud: After you came, yes. OK.
Le Vine: A gut feeling is that JASON was not very good about following up to see. Theyíd write a report and then it would just sort of go into the woodwork someplace. There is an advantage of letís say Ed Frieman having been involved with the Navy, he could follow things up. I think the follow-up had a lot to do with personal relationships, and some relationships between JASON and individuals was very good and there was follow-up, some werenít so good and they didnít. And I think it was more of a personal than an institutional thing. A JASON person, but also the government person. Sometimes even the government was very enthusiastic about JASONs and would sort of force the follow-up in a sense from their point of view because they wanted it, they needed it.
Itís hard to give an exact answer to you. JASON is a place of ideas, many of which at the first seem speculative and visceral because they canít be engineered. That doesnít detract I think in any way from the utility that the idea came from them. I donít know of any particular case that JASON had an idea that turned into a system, surely not a weapon that I know of. But then I wasnít around when they had a lot to do with RVs, and I didnít have to do with that stuff. But I canít tell you that out there thereís this XYZ gadget from a JASON idea. Free electron laser is probably closest, but I donít think thatís working system yet, that I know of. They mainly did the physics to show whether it was worth putting money into study engineering, if you wanna say that, to make it plausible. And given a little bit of time to think, I could probably conjure up a dozen ideas which I think clearly had impact on the government. Whether the impact was lasting and led to something that was a final product, I donít feel competent to tell you that. I didnít know that Herzfeld said the same thing, but that was my view when I listened to the end of the summers. If I could find out of those two days an idea that was really just original, then I think the summer was worthwhile. But there were summers that, in my opinionÖ
Aaserud: Ö they didnít have themÖ
Le Vine: Ö they didnít have them. But Iím not a JASON, and we all know that, so my view of whatís good and bad is different. So I donít know if that answers your question. Itís a hard thing to answer. Itís like asking DARPA what impact DARPAís had on the DOD. Itís difficult, because itísÖ
Aaserud: And at that stage it may be difficult to distinguish JASONís impact from otherís impact too, because at the implementation stage there are also other things that get involved and introduced into the picture.
Le Vine: Yes. Thatís right. And ideas which are brilliant, and then two years later they just couldnít be done. And so thereís these tradeoffs. And itís also that some of the problems were interesting but trivial, trivial in the sense they were small. And even the solving of them may have been amazingly important to the program manager but on a bigger scheme of even that agency was sort of in the noise. Itís also that issue of impact. Is it a national impact or is it sort of a very small piece. Different people with different perspectives will say different things. Again, trying to avoid your question, because I donít know the answer, but there is some intangible thing that JASON did that was very clear. Letís pick TRW, and youíre working on free electron lasers, which they did, and you know that in the next month youíve got to go brief JASONóboth scary and exciting. But the fact that you had to do it each year, itís clear for a lot of contractors it motivated them to scrutinize their work and to be a lot sharper about what they did than they would have done otherwise.
Aaserud: Well thatís a subtle effect.
Le Vine: Yeah, itís a very subtle effect, but itís clear that there were program managers who used JASON for no other reason. They brought in the contractors and they were sitting there in the back room and just wanted to listen, and that was worth whatever the cost. If it passed, the Garwins and whoever happens to be there, then it was OK. In fact Bill Perry came out to JASON a couple of times to wrap up, and thatís what he said. He came to listen to the JASONs kibbutz the speaker — the other JASONs — and he learned from that kind of stuff. And to him it was worth what he paid for. Thatís an intangible, and thatís in the eye of the beholder. So I donít think Iíve answered your question, but Iím not really sure exactly how to answer it. One of the jobs I thought I had — JASON spoke different language than government. Most people in the government by necessity, even if they were technical when they went in, after a year or two you lose your edge because you get involved in the bureaucracy. JASONs didnít appreciate the, well you can call it the pressures and realities of bureaucracy. They figured science was it. The first sentence of a report is often an equation, and they donít understand how to translate all these equations into words which somebody can understand. And there clearly is a translational problem, and I thought that was part of my job, to try to talk the JASON well enough so I understand what he was trying to say and then try to put it in some kind of understandable prose. Sometimes it was successful, sometimes not, but there was a mismatch in languages, which made it I think sometimes difficult, because not everybody in the government could make that transition.
Aaserud: If you look at a lot of these JASON reports, there are equations and equations and equations, and a government bureaucrat wouldnít quite appreciate that.
Le Vine: Exactly.
Aaserud: Do you have any examples of funny stories or not-so-funny stories about difficulties of communication, how it expressed itself, whether you experienced instances of it?
Le Vine: Letís see. Itíll probably come to me tonight after you leave. I never thought about that. Itís a fair question, since I said it, didnít I?
Aaserud: Yes. Itís on the tape I hope.
Le Vine: Well, yeah, I donít deny I said it. The first thing that comes to mind is that Freeman Dyson — I guess Rich Muller was helping Freemanócame up with this idea of rubber mirrors. I donít know if youíve heard the expression of rubber mirrors.
Aaserud: Iím not so sure. For satellites?
Le Vine: This is for telescopes. On the ground when you look through the atmosphere you have this distortion problem because thereís the atmosphere and the air is moving, and how do you get rid of the distortions. And Freeman and Rich came up with this idea that instead of having a solid mirror you have it made in little blobs and you could independently move each one, so you can distort the mirror slightly to compensate for the atmospheric distortion. And the idea has actually been implemented in astronomical telescopes, I think also in DOD kind of telescopes, so that you can compensate for the atmospheric distortions.
Aaserud: Feedback sort of thing.
Le Vine: Yes, thatís right, some kind of feedback loops. And Dyson is a good mathematician — mathematical physics — and extremely good at that. I remember one report he wrote on that. At some time at the end of the summer I sometimes read some of these, and I went down to Freeman. Have you talked to Dyson?
Le Vine: Well you know Freeman is so gracious and always like he has no ego there. Heís always so like ďyes, thank you,Ē heís always pleasant. You wouldnít on the face of it think he was as bright as he is, unlike some other people who try to show it.
Aaserud: Yeah, he doesnít advertise it, no.
Le Vine: Thatís right, advertise, thatís right. And I went to Freeman and told him, ďLook, I read this thing, and it doesnít make any sense to me. And it sort of starts out with an equation and then itís followed by another one, itís probably very eloquent, but what in the hell does it mean?Ē And he told me and I said, ďIf you write this for the government, no oneís gonna understand what it is.Ē
Aaserud: Yes, weíll just stop the tape.
Le Vine: Iím not sure where the story is gonna go. But I remember this was the first time I thought I ran into this. And so I went down to Freeman at Bishopís School and told him, and he in his gracious way said, ďYes, youíre right.Ē And so he rewrote the introduction of his report into English, made a two-page paper in English. Now the report had some impact. Whether it was because I told him or not is irrelevant, but thatís the first I remember in which I made an attempt to have a JASON translate their work. I can think of many cases in which people have agreed with me. Iíve had a lot of people in the government, when I talked about a report, who would read the executive summary, they have no question, they believe every equation there. They just as soon have the equations as a bunch of appendices, and have a two-page executive summary. But that doesnít give you any funny stories. Maybe theyíll come when we talk, but I canít think of anything. Sometimes when you talk it comes back to you, but no, I have no funny stories. If I do, maybe theyíll come to mind. What Iím saying is, I know that that happened many times. That was the case.
Aaserud: Well, how typical or untypical was this? Were you an editor for the JASONs to a great extent?
Le Vine: I wouldnít use that word. Thatís not fair, because Iím a physicist by trade but Iím not a JASON physicist. If I had stayed an academic physicist I would not have become a JASON. I know that. So Iím not in their league.
Aaserud: But precisely therefore, perhaps, you would have a better sense of what would need to be changed.
Le Vine: I didnít do all the reports, but I think it was not uncommon. I tried to read Ďem, and it was not uncommon for me to call the main author and tell him things along those lines. It wasnít that I was looking for errors in arithmetic, because that I donít feel comfortable with, but what does it say? Whatís the meaning of it? That was an informal job, and I did it. I didnít read Ďem all, couldnít. That was not uncommon for me to do. And they mostly were gracious to accept that. Sometimes did something about it, sometimes they didnít, but they were gracious and actually wanted to listen.
Aaserud: Did the agencies ever come back and say, ďWhat the hell? I donít understand this?Ē
Le Vine: They said it, I think, a little more subtly. I would say after a while what was suggested is, ďWhy donít you have a review back at DARPA? Why donít you come back with a couple of your graphs and summarize the work?Ē I think that was a subtle way of saying that. Before the reports are out — okay? I canít guarantee it, but I think that what they wanted was a 15-minute summary. Itís also why several of the program managers came out for the 2-day wrap-up because in a half hour talk you canít get too much into the technical stuff and then they have a chance to talk. And in fact I encouraged the program managers to come back and talk to whoever the principal author was, off in the corner, or over lunch or something, and learn what they meant. Because when you talk they canít keep saying, ďX, Y, Z,Ē you know, integrals and that stuff; they have to use words. And I think the people you find who are happiest with JASON on the programmatic level were people who used them that way. They would come out maybe at the beginning of the summer, tell Ďem what their problem was, come back at the middle, or especially at the end, and talk to them. Not just read the report. Over the years I see an evolution of having two or three JASONs come back and give a half a day summary to a bunch of people about what JASON has done. And then they had to be nontechnical. That may have been the way of saying this.
Aaserud: Yes. But during the typical summer study there was a lot more people present than the JASONs?
Le Vine: Yes.
Aaserud: — including people from the clients.
Le Vine: But a lot of the program managers would just give Ďem a task and never come out. That was not uncommon at all. There was no interaction. Most of the visits by far, over 90 percent of the visitors, were people who came out to give briefings. They were not the program manager type.
Aaserud: To give briefings, yes.
Le Vine: Yeah. So we had lots of people who would come there to give —
Aaserud: For a day or so and leave again.
Le Vine: Thatís right. And thatís different than the guy whose job is come out and talk. Joe Mongano might be a good guy for you to talk to. I have his phone number someplace. Joe was at DARPA, heís a physicist, is a laser guy, direct energy guy. He was the DARPA point of contact for JASON for several years.
Aaserud: Okay. Starting when approximately?
Le Vine: I guess itís 1980-1984, something like that. He and Sherman Karp, both opinionated, both bright guys, theyíre both in the area, could give you stories about the impact, and they could you give it to you from the government point of view. This at the program manager level, not at the Herzfeld-Lukasik level.
Aaserud: Well, as I said, I am mainly interested in the earlier period.
Le Vine: Yeah. Those would be later, they would be later people.
Aaserud: Thatís right.
Le Vine: You talked to Bengston.
Aaserud: Yes. A long time ago. And I talked to Katcher. And Iím talking to Don Le Vine now.
Le Vine: Did you talk to Jack Martin?
Aaserud: No. I have not.
Le Vine: And there was another guy: Turner.
Aaserud: Turner, who was there for a very short period.
Le Vine: Yeah. You want to know about the impact the first several years. You basically want to talk to people who were there before I was there. Dave Mann would be interesting to talk to; he would not be gray.
Aaserud: He would not be — Iím sorry?
Le Vine: He would not be gray at all, his opinions will not be gray. He has strong favorites and strong unfavorites. But he was there, heís known JASON before my time. He was in DARPA for several years. Well, everybody has prejudice, no matter who the hell they are, donít we? Most people who come to mind who may give you some insights from the government would be post 15 years. And Katcher and Joel may be better sources of names than I would be.
Aaserud: Possibly, but I mean Iím sure you have some sense of the earlier period too — not from firsthand experience, but just from picking up on what was there when you came. So Iím still going to ask you the following question. Instead of asking about people I will ask you about projects in the sense that if I am going to produce anything more than an article on JASON, such as a book for example, I think I would need a very good idea in detail of a project or a set of projects that JASON did that are representative and that I also can get access to, and to follow these projects from the beginning until the end in some detail to get some sense of how JASON worked.
Le Vine: Well, the one that comes to mind would be acoustics, for me, passive acoustics.
Aaserud: Navy work.
Le Vine: No, this was started under DARPA. Iím positive.
Aaserud: Yes. Without anyÖ
Le Vine: ÖNavy funding.
Aaserud: No compartmentalization either.
Le Vine: Thatís right. And it was unclassified. They picked up a subject that had been done for 30 years and made major, major changes to it that even the community accepted.
Aaserud: Is that a project thatís also called ďUnsoundĒ?
Le Vine: No.
Aaserud: No. Thatís non-acoustic.
Le Vine: Thatís non-acoustic, thatís right. Youíve talked to Bill Nierenberg, I can tell. Bill likes Unsound.
Aaserud: It was actually Munk who used it, but okay, Iíve spoken to Bill too.
Le Vine: Thatís the one that was going on when I started, so itís a new time period. It started I think a year, maybe a year or so before I started.
Aaserud: Which one? The Unsound?
Le Vine: No, the passive acoustics. And I can point out probably the articles in there. I donít know how they got into it, but that one I think was a clear success, had impact you could follow, and made a contribution to a subject that had been going on for many years.
Aaserud: Well Iíve been warned by others about following Navy work.
Le Vine: Yes, you may be stonewalled.
Aaserud: Thatís right.
Le Vine: I will not dissuade you of that. One other that maybe — well, thatís another Navy one.
Aaserud: Well okay.
Le Vine: Youíve heard of SANGUINE? Thatís a JASON idea.
Aaserud: Yes. That was Christofilos originally.
Le Vine: Yeah. He was a JASON.
Aaserud: Well I think it comes all the way from Project 137 in 1958.
Le Vine: I donít know when it started, but I remember that. That I knew nothing about. I mean I just happened to see that.
Aaserud: And Christofilos is also a character.
Le Vine: Yeah. I never met him. But thatís what I hear, yes. Internal waves, yes. Hereís one article from 1969. It had to do with internal waves. Munk, Dashen, Zacharias are probably the main characters. If you could get Walter to talk. Walter was the instigator of that, and Roger Dashen. Have you talked to Roger?
Le Vine: This is all business of internal waves and the effect of internal waves on propagation of sound. And they had a lot of other people helping them.
Aaserud: But thatís affected some peopleís work in physics too, hasnít it?
Le Vine: Yes, thatís right.
Aaserud: So that would have a lot of good aspects to it.
Le Vine: Yeah, I think thatís all unclassified.
Aaserud: But the implementation wouldnít be, of course.
Le Vine: Probably not.
Aaserud: If I was going to follow up that.
Le Vine: Thatís right. I donít know how sensitive the Navy would be on that. You may or may not run into problems on that. Because even though some of the systems have been talked about in the newspaper, that doesnít mean the Navy will talk to you about them. Iíve learned that too. Whatís unclassified is not necessarily open.
Aaserud: Well, Fred Koether is a perfect source on those problems.
Le Vine: Yes.
Aaserud: He knows his ins and outs of that.
Le Vine: SEE-SAW. The JASONs were involved for a long time in this thing SEE-SAW, this using particle weapons.
Aaserud: Yes. Brueckner strongly recommended that as a case.
Le Vine: But that was at least at the time classified. I donít know if itís been unclassified or not, but for a long time parts of that were secret. And the Navy took up some of that even when DARPA dropped it as a strategic defense. The Navy was considering putting it on carriers. And you may run into classification problems and maybe not. It looks like 1969 is the first one I see of that.
Aaserud: 1969 — the passive acoustics thing.
Le Vine: Yeah, internal waves. The re-entry vehicle stuff, which is way before my time, I donít know. That was what sort of the founding problem was, ďCan you make an RV?Ē And youíve talked to the people about that.
Aaserud: Yes, that was what Goldberger and Brueckner and Watson consulted Convair about before they formed JASON.
Le Vine: Thatís sort of what they, I gather, got their teeth into the first time. But I donít know. Because that was way before my time, and so I donít know whether itís a good one to follow or not. The first one that comes to mind, the one of my tenure, would be this acoustics. This report is secret, but I thought this stuff was unclassified. Surface Waves and Internal Waves — unclassified. Internal Waves. My guess is you could get the genesis of it. The bulk of the work is unclassified. Implementation I donít know. I donít honestly know that. Hereís a whole bunch of them that are secret. Some of them are unclassified, and hereís a bunch of them that are secret.
Aaserud: Thatís worse.
Le Vine: That was another thing JASONs looked at. One of the arguments against doing acid rain environmental problems was that it was unclassified. This was discussed in the steering committee. The discussion was: what is JASON? To be a JASON you have to have a TS clearance, or get one. Get a TS clearance. Okay, so JASON was to do classified national security problems that you couldnít get done someplace else. You have a group of people, theyíve got their clearances, you come together, you have a secure place. But if you do unclassified work you could supposedly make these people consultants for a period of time. You donít have to go through this whole administrative structure. Again, if JASON is to be unique, one of the uniquenessís is that it does classified work. You just canít go and have a summer study and get five people from different universities. That you could do for an ozone study or an acid rain study, assuming they are available. But if itís secret you just canít clear somebody overnight. So JASON was a unique reservoir because everybody had TS clearances. And so we shouldnít get into the unclassified, because thatís doing what other people could do. So that was discussed, that issue too. Now that I think about it, that was relatively late. That was I think in the early 1980s that argument came up. So probably most everything then had a classified nature to it, if for no other reason than it was leading edge of technology possibilities. And these were even ideas like Densepack, which you may have heard of or may not. That was a basing idea for ICBMs for a while. Now itís gone by the wayside, but the work was all classified when it was done. I donít know if itís been ever declassified, but even if the idea became dismissed, it still was done in a secret time, because if it did work out, you didnít want the bad guys to know about it. So you may have difficulty finding something thatís purely unclassified.
Aaserud: Was there some pressure from within JASON to do unclassified work, non-defense work, I should say?
Le Vine: My recollection is that that was much beyond your time period. That idea only came up later.
Aaserud: I was thinking that perhaps it was one result of the Vietnam experience. That some people felt burnt by that, and that was a way of keeping people.
Le Vine: There never was unanimity in JASON that I know of about anything, but there was a sizeable group who felt that that work was a mistake. And thereís also a bad flavor that JASON shouldnít have gotten into psychological and sociological kinds of things. There was a reluctance on the part of a lot of people to get into that again. They should have stuck with physics, and one of the problems was getting into the sociological kinds of things. But that again was over when I came. And Iím sure youíve looked at the years when people joined. There was this hiatus, you know, when Dashen and Curt Callan came in the late 1960s, but there was several years in which no one joined. It was a definite dearth of time, and that had to do with probably the Vietnam. Thatís what sort of divvied up the generations, but there was a dearth of new blood, and maybe new ideas. I think I came at the tail end of that.
Aaserud: Okay. So it started to improve.
Le Vine: Because they had Flattť and Muller, Katz, Curt — I think Roger came in 1966 and then Curt came later. I may be wrong about that. I think there was a beginning of infusion of some new blood.
But there was several years in which no one joined.
Aaserud: And that was not a decision of the steering committee, that was just the difficulty of getting new people.
Le Vine: Yeah, that I donít know. I think it was out of favor. There have been people who have turned down JASON when I was there because they did not want to work on defense problems. I think thatís gone up and down.
Aaserud: Thatís probably hard to find documentation on, because I would suppose that people were asked very informally first.
Le Vine: Well, if you look back at the minutes, which you probably have —
Aaserud: Yes, well, not a full set, I think.
Le Vine: I remember writing them. You donít say all thatís said.
Aaserud: Oh no, of course.
Le Vine: In some sense the juiciest things from a historical point of view were never written.
Aaserud: I have a very good example of that here actually. ďInstead of incorporating your comments in the minutes, I thought that this form might be better; less likely to get to ARPA.Ē
Le Vine: That sounds like — sounds believable.
Aaserud: Thatís from you to Watson in 1975. So you know thatís just an example of it.
Le Vine: And that was part of the ongoing friction, if you want to say it, between them.
Aaserud: I was stupid. I didnít bring the main documents that these comments pertain to. So there was not a big discussion when you were there as to expand JASON towards, you know, biology or sociology. I know there was before your time.
Le Vine: No. There was none.
Aaserud: None at all. That was settled when you were there.
Le Vine: Yes. It was physics. And in fact there wasÖ Letís see, I canít tell whether itís before or after your time. There was an experiment that didnít work out well that reinforced that. There is one computer scientist really, Despain, but there was another man who was in a related field called Computer Science but different than him.
Aaserud: One of the younger ones?
Le Vine: No, heís an older man. And that didnít work out. There was a communicationÖ Saul Amarel.
Aaserud: A person who didnít stay in JASON?
Le Vine: Thatís correct. And I think the reason was Saul was at Rutgers. Heís a bright guy, heís in computer science too. There was a communications problem between him and the physicist. There was a definite gulf. And one of the arguments is JASON should beÖyou know, itís silly — itís not silly, itís small things. It was important when we found a building that all JASONs could be on one floor. That was partly my doing, but itís clear I was just reflecting other peopleís wishes. There was this fear that if you put JASONs on two floors youíd break Ďem up. And the value of JASON is that you can all wander up and down the hallways. And it sounds silly, but itís important that everybody can communicate. Otherwise you canít work on the same problems, and oftentimes I think the bright ideas came from bull sessions in the hallways. And so it was important that there was some homogeneity. Physics is heterogeneous enough that you have lots of perspectives, but it is homogeneous to some degree. Saul who, as I said is a bright, bright guy, didnít fit in. And I think Carl Wunch, who is an oceanographer, had the same problem. Munk in some ways is unusual I think, because he is an oceanographer but can understand physics.
Aaserud: Allen Peterson perhaps to some extent?
Le Vine: Yes. But they had Saul, they looked at artificial intelligence, before it was a big fad.
I forgot which year that was. But that left him.
Aaserud: Artificial intelligence. Allen Peterson looked at that to a great extent.
Le Vine: Yeah. But Saul Amarel made a big effort. As I said, there was a communications problem, thereís difference in languages.
Aaserud: Which is both personality and discipline of course.
Le Vine: Thatís right. But I think honestly there was never an argument or discussions that I can remember of going beyond physics. No no. Astrophysics was considered a part of physics — astronomy.
Aaserud: Right. But you see, if you look at the discussions behind establishing JASON in the first place. When Goldberger for example was writing to Wheeler about what kind of people should join JASON, he wrote that theoretical physicists in general is not a good group to join. People would have to have some experimental qualities too. And he thought that the general experimentalist with a theoretical frame of mind was the perfect person to join. He did not think that particle physicists who were only interested in particle physics were good JASONs.
Le Vine: And that goes probably maybe back to this idea that theyíre gonna do things differently than they do in the universities. You have to have somebody who can in a couple weeks pick up some subject and become a semi-expert on it. But if you look in JASON now — well, six years ago — thereís several classes of them. Thereís the inventor class, thereís a few of the guys who are inventors, thatís what they do and thatís what they do best, they invent ideas. Then thereís a few of them who are elegant mathematicians. And thereís different kinds of people, depending on where the problem is, you get different kinds of people.
Aaserud: Yeah. Well Dyson is both of course.
Le Vine: But if you have some complicated integral, you run down to Dyson, you know. ďFreeman, you solve that for me.Ē But people like Bill Press — I donít know if youíve talked to Bill?
Aaserud: No, I havenít.
Le Vine: Bill is an inventor type. When you are looking for some invention, you go to Bill and Paul HorowitzÖgadget guys, always. They are much younger, but they were the inventor types. And I think Walter is more that way too. Walter is a conceptual person, and Iím not sure heís as interested in the gory details. Heíd always every couple of years come up with a new idea of what to do in oceanography. I guess the answer to your question is no. I donít remember any major discussions. It was sort of accepted. There were major discussions whether they wanted women. It wasnít if they wanted women; could they find a woman. And could they find a woman who wouldnít be a nominal woman.
Aaserud: I know of one woman who has been in JASON. Thatís after my time. Thatís the extent of it.
Le Vine: I guess thereís two more. Sally Ride I think is a JASON. Iíve never seen her there. I donít know if I saw her actually. But thatís beyond your time.
Aaserud: Well Iím jumping now, but I had one more question on my mind, and thatís was there ever a dispute that you remember about the classification of a report between JASON and whatever client who received the report? Did you recommend a classification andÖ
Le Vine: Öand the government overruled it? Yes. But the way the process workedóbecause we had some problems, some faux pas I guess is what you say — is that we sent out all reports to the government as if they were secret. Because it didnít make any difference internally at all, but everything is secret including the waste, and then we just handle everything as secret. Since it had to go to the government before it went out anyway, we treated everything as secret, without, letís say, stamping every paragraph, but treat it so if afterwards they decided it was secret we could go back and trace it. And then we sent everything to the government under that guise, and then they decided what the classification was.
Aaserud: Okay. So you didnít recommend anything in reality.
Le Vine: Well we did make a recommendation. We did make a recommendation, but you asked if there is a dispute. And I do believe that there were mistakes made on this, that we thought something was unclassified and the government later on decided that it was secret. Things probably got sent to the government unclassified and the government decided it was secret, so what we decided is treat everything secret. Since everybody was cleared, it didnít make any difference. So I think no. I think one of the things Nierenberg was proud of saying, was — and as far as I know it was correct: ďJASON that I know of never was the source of a leak, and never had a security problem that I know of.Ē And, as far as I know, thatís true. I donít know whatís happened recently, but as far as I know thatís the case.
Aaserud: But weíre coming back to the question of the relationship between JASON and academic physics now again, because conceivably some JASON thought that a technical paper he had produced in JASON was so good that he wanted it on his publication record, and he had a strong sense that this is unclassified. And in such a case there might be some kind of dispute, but you donít remember that.
Le Vine: Youíre asking the question or posing a hypothesis? You were just saying did this ever happen?
Le Vine: Or are you trying to say, you meant youíve been told of one that did happen and want me to confirm it?
Aaserud: No, I have never been told. The only thing I know is that there are cases in which JASON reports led to well-renowned publications in, you know.
Le Vine: Öjournals.
Aaserud: In journals. And without knowing anything, Iím just asking you whether there are instances in which there were articles which JASONs saw as important but they were unable to publish because the government didnít accept that it was unclassified. That is my question, and now my tape is running out.
Le Vine: The example I think of was definitely after your time. And I canít remember how it was used. We had been going back and forth several times with the government as to whether it should be classified or not. I think it finally got published, but Iím not sure how much of it got modified. I know who the author was. If you were asking the question differently, do I ever know of a case in which the government censored something that JASON thought should be unclassified and the government just seemed to arbitrarily and capriciously want to censor, that I cannot recall. Disagreements were sort of over numbers. I think this came down to, ďWe donít want that specific number mentioned, because we think that numberís classified.Ē And the guy would say, ďNo, but itís in the handbook,Ē and theyíd fight over this or that, and maybe theyíd compromise and theyíd say plus or minus something, I donít know. Nothing comes to mind that somebody felt that they were somehow censored that Secrecy was used as an excuse to keep something out of the press. If thatís what you ask, I canít think of anything if thatís the case.
Aaserud: Well, ďexcuseĒ, I donít know. During the early part of the war, you know, all publications that involved fission were prohibited from publication, which of course had the effect that the enemy would understand that something was going on.
Le Vine: You should ask that question of Dick and Sid. Because one possibility was these mini-subs. They might have a better recollection of that. Sid would probably be the better one to ask. Because if anything my recollection is there may have been some discussion about that, but itís too vague for me to make a comment. I just donít remember. It was not a big problem. If it happened, it was an exception.
Aaserud: Because conceivably itís not just numbers, but the fact that a certain kind of technical work was done within JASON might be viewed as dangerous.
Le Vine: This list was classified at one time ďfor official use only.Ē The list of JASONs was. I guess the Freedom of Information Act probably stopped that, but for a while JASON was very sensitive about its membership list.
Aaserud: Well I know theyíre sensitive. It took a long time before they trusted me with it. Well, itís still like that. I mean, Iím not supposed to give it to the National Enquirer or anything.
Le Vine: At least until the early 1980s there were still pickets at Columbia. I donít know if they still are there.
Aaserud: I think itís been later too. I think I picked up for a while.
Le Vine: Is that it?