Robert Le Levier

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ORAL HISTORIES
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Interviewed by
Finn Aaserud
Location
EQS Technologies, Santa Monica, California
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Interview of Robert Le Levier by Finn Aaserud on 1987 April 22, Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics, College Park, MD USA, www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/31393

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Abstract

Le Levier discusses his family background and education; his work at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory; the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory; Rand Corporation; the formation of R & D Associates; and his work on JASON.

Transcript

Aaserud:

We’re going to talk about your career, generally speaking, briefly first, and then we will talk in some more detail of your Jason involvement. Before we do that, I would like to ask you a question that I ask everybody, and that is, the state of your papers, papers very broadly construed, meaning letters, manuscripts, published, unpublished, because that’s also an aspect of the Center’s work to take care of papers of physicists, seeking to save material for the history of physics of this century. That’s my first question. Has it been seen to in any way that your papers are being kept, and are they keepable?

LeLevier:

Well, you have to understand that the bulk of the work I’ve done over the years is in the classified literature, not in the open literature. There have been a few papers published, the JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICS RESEARCH and what have you. But the bulk of the stuff I’ve done is all classified. So this is of course all unclassified, and what you’re doing is unclassified.

Aaserud:

Yes, it is. I have no clearances.

LeLevier:

OK, fine.

Aaserud:

We should be clear about that. But of course classified material is probably better kept than unclassified material, so eventually, should it be opened there might be more of that than things you would have done on an unclassified basis, of course.

LeLevier:

Yes. All the repositories of classified materials along the lines that we’ve done is in what’s called DASIAC, (DASIAC now in Kirtland AFB, Albuquerque, NM) the information center in Santa Barbara, and they have a huge repository. They dredge up things that I did in 1958, still classified. They’re exempt from declassification, and that’s the repository of the Department of Defense, for that type of work.

Aaserud:

Yes, that’s the classified repository that I wouldn’t have access to.

LeLevier:

Yes, that’s correct.

Aaserud:

Are unclassified materials sorted out in any way, in systematic fashion?

LeLevier:

They carry both the classified and unclassified in DASIAC.

Aaserud:

Right. But are they separated from each other?

LeLevier:

Oh no, they’re in the same vault, which is a huge —

Aaserud:

So it would be difficult, in other words, for an unclassified person to ask for things that are specifically unclassified in that kind of system, yes. Well, do you know about any other collections pertaining to Jason or related things that are unclassified, that are kept elsewhere that are more easily accessible?

LeLevier:

In the Jason office in MITRE. That’s where the unclassified Jason stuff is, all those documents.

Aaserud:

Yes, so that would perhaps be the repository for the things that would also be in Santa Barbara, the unclassified Jason material?

LeLevier:

I’m really not sure. I don’t know if all of the unclassified Jason work gets there. Certainly all the classified work gets there.

Aaserud:

Yes, OK. So you would say that the main parts of your papers are taken care of just by virtue of their being classified.

LeLevier:

Yes. That’s correct.

Aaserud:

Are there other aspects of your career that has a different classification to it, that’s unclassified, that has been kept in other ways?

LeLevier:

No. Not to my knowledge, no.

Aaserud:

OK. So then let’s turn to your career. I usually start asking about the very beginnings, family background, and motivation for going into physics, education, and then going through the working career briefly. So let’s first start a little bit about your parents. What was their background, their education, which generation Americans, etc.?

LeLevier:

Well, my mother was born in Europe, in what’s now Yugoslavia. My father was born in Arizona, and the family roots were by and large in Mexico, because the French came to Mexico and my family started there, so I have more Mexican relatives than you can shake a stick at. And my parents were not educated people. My father was a tradesman, a printer, and my mother was a secretary. I was an only child. My interest in physics stemmed from high school. We had a remarkable teacher named Potter.

Aaserud:

That was in Arizona or where?

LeLevier:

No, that was Washington High School in Los Angeles. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, one of the few native sons.

Aaserud:

That has stayed here.

LeLevier:

And went to UCLA, enlisted in the Naval ROTC, went to the Pacific, for three years during the war.

Aaserud:

That was after high school.

LeLevier:

This is after high school, yes. After two years in UCLA.

Aaserud:

So it was a specific high school experience that turned you to physics?

LeLevier:

Yes.

Aaserud:

Or was it a more gradual —

LeLevier:

No, no, it was that man.

Aaserud:

Did he have a similar influence on other people?

LeLevier:

Oh yes. Sure. Sure. Several of my colleagues. I lost track of them. Then after the war, when I went back to UCLA, the faculty had completely changed, and so I decided to stay there and do my work under David Saxon and David Finklestein, and got my Ph.D. in ‘51.

Aaserud:

... Yes, your Ph.D. is in ‘51. What kind of service did you do in the war period?

LeLevier:

I was a junior ensign on a destroyer, the USS HALL, DD583. And we went through all the campaigns, Leyte Gulf, Lingayen Gulf, Iwo Jima, Okinawa. Then back to San Francisco for a little R and R, and we were going to go back for the Tokyo invasion, and that disappeared. So I got out and went back to UCLA and did my graduate work.

Aaserud:

So there was no physics in your military background.

LeLevier:

No, no.

Aaserud:

Was that important in forming your interest in physics?

LeLevier:

No. What I kept doing on the ship was taking correspondence courses, algebra, mathematics, etc. etc. top keep going. Yes. It was by and large self-motivated, and then, when I got out of UCLA, I went to the Berkeley Radiation Laboratory with Bob Serber and Herb York was forming the Livermore Lab.

Aaserud:

Maybe we should talk a little bit about your UCLA experience, important teachers, student colleagues, any influences there.

LeLevier:

Well, David Saxon was by and large the main influence, and David Finklestein.

Aaserud:

Yes. What was your thesis on?

LeLevier:

Well, it was a two sided thesis. I did some optical work, optical models of the nucleus with David, to explain proton scattering on the cyclotron at UCLA, and it was wave mechanics, phase shifts, and with Finklestein we looked at nonlinear spinner theories, to try to explain the mass ratios of the particles, as they were known, and it was a dismal failure.

Aaserud:

It was all theoretical work.

LeLevier:

It was all theoretical work, no experimental work at all.

Aaserud:

Right. Were there other options you considered for graduate school than UCLA at the time?

LeLevier:

No. No.

Aaserud:

So it was a conscious decision to remain in Los Angeles.

LeLevier:

Mainly because the faculty had changed. It was a completely new faculty to me, and I finished my degree there, my Bachelor’s, and did a Master’s thesis, and then was asked to enter graduate school, and so I did.

Aaserud:

What was your expectation when you were nearing the PhD of a career? Did you want to go into teaching or do full time research?

LeLevier:

I was mostly interested in research.

Aaserud:

Yes, of the sort that you were doing, of course. And to do theoretical research in a university environment, or was that not important?

LeLevier:

No. As I say, I went to the Radiation Laboratory, and worked on theoretical models of deuteron scattering, because they had a lot of data, a lot of experimental work, and trying to understand some of that. And what more or less got me into the weapons business was the formation of the Livermore Radiation Laboratory under Herb. I’d known Herb as a personal friend, and so I ended up at Livermore working with these incredible people like Johnny von Neumann and Lothar Nordheim and Edward Teller and Richtmeyer. It was a very stimulating exciting period, in the very early fifties.

Aaserud:

How had you come to know Herbert York?

LeLevier:

He was at the Rad Lab.

Aaserud:

OK, so you hadn’t known him from before then.

LeLevier:

No.

Aaserud:

You got to know him, so your accepting a position at the Rad Lab was independent of your knowing York. You didn’t know York before then.

LeLevier:

No.

Aaserud:

So what were the options when you finished your PhD? Did you have other offers? Were there other things that you were thinking of doing?

LeLevier:

There were other offers, but I was attracted to the Rad Lab. So I went there, after talking with Serber, and –-

Aaserud:

Maybe you could talk a little bit about the environment there. You said who were there. How the work was done, what was particularly stimulating about it.

LeLevier:

Well, Harold Brown was one of our intellectual leaders there, and we were all interested in the large weapon problems, and I got involved in two dimensional hydrodynamic calculations on the Univac, which was designed for our needs, in doing two dimensional hydrodynamic calculations. It was, you know, one of the early machines of its kind, and it used tapes, magnetic tapes, and it used a mercury delay line in which pulses were formed at one end and propagated down the mercury and came out the other end, and it was by modem standards, it wasn’t much of a computer, but we did all of the two D hydrodynamic calculations on it, and it was the first two D hydro code that was ever developed.

Aaserud:

By contemporary standards, the computer was —

LeLevier:

— primitive.

Aaserud:

Yes, but by the standards then it was a good computer.

LeLevier:

Oh yes. Yes.

Aaserud:

So that was your exposure to computers.

LeLevier:

Yes. See, we had meetings with Eckhard Maukley in Philadelphia, “Here’s what we want to do. We want to go through the grid in one pass, and do velocity calculations, and motions, and then we want to go back through the grid and do equation of state and pressure calculations, and so we would like to not sit and re-wind tapes, “so they made the tapes such that we would pass through in one way, and then they would read the tape backwards for the subsequent pass, so that when you were all through with the pass, you’d start over again on the next time steps. They tailored the machine for our needs. That was sort of fun.

Aaserud:

Yes. To what extent was it basic research, and to what extent was it explicitly connected to a weapons program, what you did at the Rad Lab?

LeLevier:

Well, the basic research was trying to find stable methods of computing two dimensional hydrodynamics on a digital computer, for which there are severe stability criteria, and with Richtmeyer and von Neumann’s help, we generalized the artificial viscosity method, and this is old hat now, but in those days it was, you know, first crack, and people at Los Alamos were doing similar things along the same lines, so there was a healthy competitive environment going on.

Aaserud:

Yes. How did you find the environment at the Rad Lab compared to the environment at the university? Was it very different, or was the atmosphere similar?

LeLevier:

It was a very similar atmosphere, but it was challenging at the time, because it was a new frontier, doing things that had never been done, and it’s amusing, some of those codes still exist, in more modem forms, but they’re still — the basic computational techniques have not changed over the years. There have been advances, but one of the codes we did still is there, and being used, as far as I know.

Aaserud:

How large was the Rad Lab at that time?

LeLevier:

There were two labs. One was the Radiation Laboratory at Berkeley, which I only spent a short time at and the other laboratory was Livermore, and that’s where the computer was. And it was — well, with all of these famous scientists, it was a very stimulating environment.

Aaserud:

But it was small enough so that you knew most of the people and knew what other people were doing.

LeLevier:

Yes. Well, you know, it was, “We need someone to do two dimensional hydrodynamics. We need someone to do neutron physics. We need someone to do high temperature physics. Who’s going to volunteer for two D hydro?”

Aaserud:

Yes, right, so to that extent there was management to it, you got assigned different areas and you worked along on that.

LeLevier:

Yes. And then when you’d come to a very hard problem, and you don’t quite know what to do next, you’d get a hold of Johnny von Neumann, and he solves the problem on the blackboard, and then you implement it into the machine. He was remarkable.

Aaserud:

Remarkable, yes, that’s what I’ve heard from a lot of sources. So was that what brought you into the field of advising national security questions? That was the exposure?

LeLevier:

Yes. Well, early on at Livermore, they had contracted with Rand Corporation for Dick Latter and Albert Latter, who came up to Livermore and as I recall, Dick Ladder was the head of the small theoretical group there.

Aaserud:

At Rand.

LeLevier:

And he was a member of Rand. But he was running some theoretical problems at Livermore. And so that’s how I got to know the Ladders, and I had gotten to the stage where a lot of the things I had done were done and I didn’t really think I wanted to stay at the lab up there and grind numbers for the rest of my life.

Aaserud:

Although you could have done that.

LeLevier:

I could have done that, sure. So Albert invited me to join the Rand Corporation, which was an FCRC Air Force Project Rand. In 1957 I moved back to Los Angeles and joined the Rand Corporation. Had fourteen years of sort of incredible environment there.

Aaserud:

Did you have other reasons for going back to Los Angeles?

LeLevier:

No. Home. But Rand was unique you know, just come on in and do good work. That was the sum and substance of it. And over the years, we were involved with underground testing and concealing underground explosions. Albert invented the Big Hole, and they went to Geneva and participated with scientific dialogues with the Soviets.

Aaserud:

In the late fifties.

LeLevier:

In the late fifties, yes.

Aaserud:

Right. How big a transition was it? How different was Rand from Livermore?

LeLevier:

Well, at Livermore we had specific goals regarding design and performance of weapons. At Rand, we got into the issue of, what good are they? What are the effects? How could you use them? What are the employment options?

Aaserud:

So it was one step more basic, you would say.

LeLevier:

Yes. I got into ionospheric physics, which I had no background in, and rapidly with Richard got into the subject of blackout.

Aaserud:

How did that happen? How did you change fields like that? Was that your own decision, or was it by virtue of being part of a group?

LeLevier:

By virtue of being part of that group. And Richard was starting to work on trying to understand the phenomena of high frequency communications across the Pacific. When the large weapons would go off at sea level, you would have at times non-propagation, that is, disruption of a link. And we got into trying to understand that. And that led us into the physics of blackout phenomena, and how the ionizing agents from a nuclear weapon would ionize the so-called D layer of the atmosphere, and disrupt the radio wave communications, and we decided it could have a potential importance in not only communications but also in radar performance and ballistic missile defense technology, and at that time, we were planning the Teak and Orange events at Johnston Island, and so we did initial theoretical calculations of the expected blackout effects, and they were instrumented with certain instruments and you know, it was there.

Aaserud:

Yes. That was early on at Rand.

LeLevier:

That was ‘58, ‘59.

Aaserud:

Yes. Could you place your group at Rand within the larger environment there, how Rand functioned as a whole at that time, and what was your part of it?

LeLevier:

Well, as I say, Rand was a very forward-thinking organization, and Air Force Project Rand, and we decided that, hey, this could be an important effect; we ought to work on it. And so we did, and we were allowed to.

Aaserud:

That was another difference from Livermore, then.

LeLevier:

Well, Livermore was more applied to weapon design technology. I got into nuclear weapons effects, high altitude in particular, at the Rand Corporation, and pursued that for fourteen years.

Aaserud:

Yes. What was your group there? It was you and –-

LeLevier:

Well, let’s see. There was Albert Latter, Richard Latter. Albert became the head of the group, the physics department. We did a lot of work for the Atomic Energy Commission, in equation of state, and it was just a core group of very good physicists, Joe Green, Hal Brode, Forrest Gilmore, who’s still at RDA, and it was just an outstanding group of imaginative people, and I just happened to be there at a propitious moment and was able to make small contributions.

Aaserud:

Yes. Publication-wise, you mostly published or your work was mostly classified, was it not?

LeLevier:

Yes.

Aaserud:

So that all your publications are not all that many. I mean, what you did is separate from what an academic physicist would do.

LeLevier:

That’s right, yes. That’s right. We did publish in the open literature certain things which the Air Force would allow declassified, like the cavity, the salt dome cavities to conceal underground explosions, and detection, we got into the issue of detection of nuclear weapons in space, and what does a weapon put out, what are the emanations, and can these emanations be used to detect the fact that indeed an explosion has gone off at high altitude up in the mesosphere of the magnetosphere.

Aaserud:

Yes, but it was not entirely theoretical like that. You actually did use the explosions that did occur.

LeLevier:

Oh yes.

Aaserud:

And you used your conclusions for measurements on those.

LeLevier:

That’s correct. That’s correct, yes.

Aaserud:

OK, while we are at the subject of publications, you did send me a list here, and I noticed that the first part of that list is articles in the JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH. I think the first six articles or something like that. And then, there are some other abbreviations here that I’m still not sure about, SRD, CONF, CFRD.

LeLevier:

Yes. Those are all secret restricted data, confidential, no foreign — and those by and large I think are Project Rand reports, some of them.

Aaserud:

Yes, right, so Santa Barbara would be the repository for that.

LeLevier:

Yes.

Aaserud:

And in the case that it’s unclassified, it may have been deposited in one of the Rand libraries, like the public library of New York, for example.

LeLevier:

To a large extent, the DASL&C center has all of those JGR articles that are published; the unclassified ones. You can get those there. That is, I can get them there.

Aaserud:

Could I go there and ask or?

LeLevier:

I don’t know what their policy is. The person you would call is Ed Martin.

Aaserud:

OK, good. I’m going up to Santa Barbara anyway, so — what was the name of the center again?

LeLevier:

It’s the KAMAN Tempo. It’s a division of KAMAN Nuclear Science.

Aaserud:

Good, I can refer back to you, in speaking to Ed Martin?

LeLevier:

Sure.

Aaserud:

Of course, even if your publications were different from those of the academic physicists, you had a very strong connection with academic physicists through Jason, but we will get back to that, how your Rand experience fed into the Jason experience, and all that kind of thing. So, you were at the Rand Corporation of course for a long time, from 1957 to 1971.

LeLevier:

That’s right.

LeLevier:

While I was at Rand, and Dick and I were working on high altitude blackout, I knew Ken Watson from Berkeley Livermore days, and then Ken became involved with the Jason — what was then Project 137 or Project Sunrise — and they asked that I become a member of the Project Sunrise, by virtue of the fact that I had experience with both the weapons design and experience in high altitude weapon effects, and wouldn’t it be good to have somebody who knows something about the practical matters of defense and ballistic missile defense, to help the university people, who were not exposed to that kind of a background. And so I was a member of the FCRC and so I was deemed useful to the system, and so I was a charter member of Project Sunrise, which then became Jason.

Aaserud:

Yes. Did you participate in 137 too?

LeLevier:

Yes. Not at the planning level. Have you seen this?

Aaserud:

Yes, I have it, as a matter of fact, he sent it to me.

LeLevier:

That’s good.

Aaserud:

It’s good, yes. It’s short but it’s to the point. So maybe we should talk about your joining the 137. You weren’t in on the planning stages you said, so that you did not have personal connections with John Weaver, Morgenstern and the group at Princeton. But you were obviously asked by somebody. How did you get into it, the 137?

LeLevier:

Well, it had to be through Ken and Keith Brueckner and those people, which I knew in the university connection at Berkeley, and so I was asked, you know, would you join the group? I asked Rand and Dick Latter and they all thought that would be great, and so I did.

Aaserud:

Because there are two developments leading to Jason, at least two developments. One is that 137, Wheeler’s ideas leading to that, I think Wheeler was instrumental in that, and then it was the younger physicists that we just talked about, Brueckner, Watson, —

LeLevier:

— Murph.

Aaserud:

Murph, yes, and Gell-Mann to some extent, although he was substantially younger, who did go to the effort of establishing something called Theoretical Physics Incorporated, I think, which was a private advising enterprise. I don’t know if you were involved in those developments?

LeLevier:

No. I got into Project Sunrise, as I recall, and then Jason was established in January 1, 1960, for IDA. IDA was the administrative home and that’s when I sort of officially joined Jason, at that date.

Aaserud:

Yes. I have some material here pertaining to the very early times, mainly from the Institute for Defense Analysis. You know, describing Wheeler’s early interests, and the early stages of it, and also, a letter from Charles Townes, who was the chief scientist of IDA at the time, to [?] Norton who was the president there, which explains the plans for establishing a group, Sunrise, Jason, whatever, I don’t think it had either of those names then. This is in late September, 1959. And I notice that on the list that he produced of potential Jasons, you’re not on that. When he was giving a talk recently, I think it was the talk at the 25th Jason anniversary, he did put in your name there in longhand, and you’re also on the list of persons who participated in a meeting constituting Jason, I think, on the 17th of December, 1959. So you were definitely floating around there.

LeLevier:

Yes. “He” being Garry?

Aaserud:

No, “he” being Charles Townes.

LeLevier:

OK, fine.

Aaserud:

I don’t know if you’ve seen this letter or if you’re interested.

LeLevier:

I probably saw it.

Aaserud:

Right, so, you were a founding member, so to speak.

LeLevier:

I was sort of an add-on of somebody who was in the DOD system that could provide guidance and background.

Aaserud:

Yes, because you’re untypical in that respect.

LeLevier:

Yes.

Aaserud:

Most other Jasons by far are academic physicists. There are one or two industrial physicists, at least one that comes to mind. I’m talking about Richard Garwin. But there are now no other Think Tank people, I think, or no other FCRC people.

LeLevier:

I don’t believe so, no.

Aaserud:

Just to deal with general things, what has your tenure in Jason been? Has it been all the way from the beginning till now?

LeLevier:

Oh yes. Yes. The fall meetings, the spring meetings, the summer study.

Aaserud:

Maybe with some variation in effort over time, but you were as member all the time. How much time could you spend, maximum, during a year, in Jason, and how much minimum?

LeLevier:

It was on the order of seven, eight weeks.

Aaserud:

That’s a full summer study.

LeLevier:

That’s a full summer study, plus a few.

Aaserud:

So you were essentially asked by Ken Watson, whom you knew from Livermore — so you actually worked together then?

LeLevier:

In the Berkeley Rad Lab, yes. That is, as I remember it.

Aaserud:

Yes, it’s a long time ago, and you wouldn’t have any kind of correspondence or anything of the sort from that period?

LeLevier:

No. I tend to throw that stuff away.

Aaserud:

Yes, and it took place by mouth generally anyhow, I suppose. So I noticed at least in one document that you were paid by — this is the letter from Charles Townes to Garrison Norton.

LeLevier:

Yes, right.

Aaserud:

I notice at least in one document that you were paid by Rand. Is that a general thing that you were on the Rand payroll to be in Jason, or was that special at one time?

LeLevier:

I think Rand supported me, payroll wise, and then at some point, Jason changed and we were offered a stipend, so when I would work on Jason, I would be on leave without pay, from my parent organization, especially when I was with R and D Associates.

Aaserud:

OK. That was later, of course.

LeLevier:

This was in ‘71. And since that time, I’ve always, and even now at EOS when I do Jason work, I’m on leave without pay from EOS.

Aaserud:

Yes. So there was a special connection there between Rand and Jason in that respect.

LeLevier:

I think so, yes.

Aaserud:

We were talking about the Rand connection. I think that was rather unusual, so there was a special connection, to you, between Rand and Jason. But maybe we could talk about that a little later in terms of examples. It’s easier to do that, how the collaboration if any took place. OK, well, your motivation for joining Jason, could you describe that or was that something that came naturally at the point where you were?

LeLevier:

Well it came naturally on invitation from Keith and Ken. I guess they liked the work I did at Rand, and they were aware of it, and clearly they were an outstanding group of young theoretical — most of them were high energy physicists back in the early days, and so it was fun for me, as a scientist, to be with those people, and collaborate with them and talk physics with them and learn. It was highly beneficial to me, certainly.

Aaserud:

How different did you find the Jason environment from the Rand environment, or how similar?

LeLevier:

Very similar. Very similar. All bright people highly motivated working on complex physics problems. Very, very similar.

Aaserud:

Because, on a broader scale, there wasn’t much interaction between the physics of the Jason physicists and the physics of the Rand people, was there? Or maybe there was?

LeLevier:

Well, you see, Jason got into ballistic missile defense issues, re-entry physics, what is now called Star Wars, but we’ve been doing Star Wars research since 1960. It was called Project Defender in those days.

Aaserud:

That’s right; that was ARPA’s Project Defender.

LeLevier:

And it had all to do with things that are going on today, involving signatures and detection and radar cross-sections, and it’s been going on in both this country and the Soviet Union for as long as I can remember. The sudden speech by Reagan in 1983 — people seemed to think this was a new subject.

Aaserud:

Yes, but he gave the impression too, I suppose.

LeLevier:

He provided a focus, maybe. But it’s a very old subject, and you know, the Soviet Union has been engaged in this kind of research for the same period of time. And I can’t understand Gorbachev’s statements that they want us to stop doing Star Wars. I can only think that he’s not cleared to be briefed by his people as to what they’ve been doing.

Aaserud:

Yes. That could be political too, of course.

LeLevier:

Of course it’s all political. But it really is a very old subject.

Aaserud:

Yes. Was Jason, in addition to being thought of as a provider of advice from excellent people, it was also thought of as being a vehicle for a younger generation of physicists to get into national security questions?

LeLevier:

That’s correct, rather than individually consult for individual elements of the Department of Defense, it provided a focus, and that’s where the ARPA connection with Herb York came in.

Aaserud:

Was there any discussion at the time that you participated in or knew of that Jason was a good vehicle for that kind of thing? Were there alternatives thought of, for example?

LeLevier:

Well, let’s see. It was always regarded as getting “the best brains available” and applying it to matters of national security. And you know, why don’t we get the brightest university professors that we can, where they can make a contribution to the national defense? And that was by and large what was back of 137 and Sunrise, and it persisted to this day.

Aaserud:

Sure. But it was a rather limited group, of course.

LeLevier:

Oh yes.

Aaserud:

I mean, it’s conceivably not the most efficient way of getting all the younger physicists involved in that kind of thing, but it might have been –-

LeLevier:

— well, I don’t think you’d want to get all the younger physicists.

Aaserud:

Not all, but to provide exposure for a lot of them anyway.

LeLevier:

Yes. And I think it was a select group. It had high standards for entry and what have you.

Aaserud:

Oh yes, it was a badge of honor to be part of it. I mean, from a physicist’s point of view. I mean, it was a sign of your high regard as a physicist to be a member, right?

LeLevier:

That’s right.

Aaserud:

More than your high regard as a science advisor.

LeLevier:

Yes.

Aaserud:

OK, let’s talk a little bit about the organization of Jason, collaboration, how things worked, and then I’ll go into more specifically projects that you were involved in, to the extent that you can talk about it. I suppose in the very early years, you can confirm that Jason was entirely militarily related. All the work was for ARPA.

LeLevier:

Yes, Department of Defense. That’s correct. A lot of the early work we did was on Project Defender, on re-entry physics, on wake analyses, on — we got into charged particle beams and propagation through the atmosphere, this whole so-called SeeSaw.

Aaserud:

Yes, Christofilos, I suppose.

LeLevier:

Nick’s, yes — these guys, these plasma physicists were just the right people to work on that kind of problem. And they did. Brueckner and Watson and –-

Aaserud:

— right. Before we get to those projects in a little more detail, perhaps, maybe we could talk a little about the organizational structure of Jason at the time. Of course it was not very strong. It was a rather loose structure, but there was a steering committee.

LeLevier:

That’s right.

Aaserud:

That provided the organization that was.

LeLevier:

Yes. They would talk with the director of ARPA, be it Herb York or Steven Cassik, and what problems are you worrying about that we could look at and advise you on, the results of what we found, and how you might structure your programs, and where you should go, down which road, and it was of that nature.

Aaserud:

Yes. Were you part of the steering committee?

LeLevier:

I was on the steering committee for four or five years at one time. I forget when.

Aaserud:

Approximately?

LeLevier:

It was probably in the seventies.

Aaserud:

I may have the information somewhere. So how did that collaboration work? Did ARPA come with suggestions or did Jason come with their own suggestions for studies?

LeLevier:

Both.

Aaserud:

So you would say that there was a fruitful collaboration there between Jason and ARPA.

LeLevier:

Yes. For a bizarre example, someone approaches ARPA with an antimatter machine, and we would look at it, and you know, study it and advise ARPA that, well, you ought to put a little seed money here and there, but you know, don’t go down the megabuck road. But that’s only, you know — the laser business was as big business early on, very early on, yes.

Aaserud:

Because Jason was formed not long after the invention of lasers. That was in ‘58, I think.

LeLevier:

Yes. And Norman Kroll and a bunch of them worked very hard on lasers, laser technology, how it could apply to ballistic missile defense, and the sum and substance was that it didn’t look all that great. There was a program, a compartmented program in those days, on lasers, and it became uncompartmented, because some of us didn’t really think there was much of a role to play in trying to intercept warheads with lasers from the ground while they’re coming down on cities or on silos and those ideas never disappeared. They’re still with us in the FEL and the ground-based laser and the mirrors in space, so it’s all — maybe it will never go away.

Aaserud:

I’m sure that Jason’s involvement there was part of a more general effort. I mean, was Jason’s involvement in lasers, for example, a smaller contribution to a larger effort by ARPA? Was that how it functioned?

LeLevier:

Yes, that’s the way it by and large functioned, and over the years the Jason folks have come up with some very innovative things, like atmospheric compensation, articulated mirrors, and that continues to be an interesting field that people still work on.

Aaserud:

So there’s been continuity there from 1960 —

LeLevier:

— from Day 1, that’s correct.

Aaserud:

Until today. Are there any members in these early days that you would point to in particular, in terms of their impact on Jason, in terms of their work style, in terms of particular contributions?

LeLevier:

Well, you go across the board — Garwin, Drell, Brueckner in those days, he’s no longer associated with the group, Ken, who still is. Those were the early investigators who did a lot of work advising ARPA, based on their technical investigations, as to what looked like a good bet, and what looked like interesting things to do.

Aaserud:

Yes. But of course, the first steering committee was Goldberger, Watson, Brueckner and Gell-Mann. Those were the four, I think.

LeLevier:

You remember more than I do.

Aaserud:

Well, it’s not that long ago for me, but you’ll probably remember it as soon as I say it anyway. Goldberger as chairman, Hal Lewis as chairman, I suppose after Hal Lewis came — I’m not sure —

LeLevier:

Nierenberg?

Aaserud:

No, I think Ken Watson served for a little while, Garwin also.

LeLevier:

Oh yes, Ken was — and Garwin. Yes.

Aaserud:

How important was a change in chairmanship? Did the chairman signify a certain style, a certain kind of —?

LeLevier:

Not really. People are too independent.

Aaserud:

Yes, the other people, yes. Were you involved in selecting members and how did that work?

LeLevier:

When I was on the steering committee, yes.

Aaserud:

That was formalized by then, was it? You had a two year trial period?

LeLevier:

Yes, as I recall, yes.

Aaserud:

And that was — of course that was a decision from above. You went out to people and asked them to join.

LeLevier:

Yes. See, the university professors were in a good position. They would identify a bright young kid, who was interested in working on national security matters, and they would suggest him, and after a suitable period of working and working, then they would either become members or be dropped. That was sort of the mechanism.

Aaserud:

Yes. What was the percentages there of people staying on?

LeLevier:

It was very high. I could almost name the people that have dropped off. For various reasons.

Aaserud:

It’s been a very continuous group, of course. Those are the people hardest to find, of course, the people who dropped off after a short period. I don’t know if you wanted to name those people.

LeLevier:

I don’t remember.

Aaserud:

To what extent — did you discuss physics with Jasons outside of Jason? Was it a group that met for Jason problems, as far as you were concerned, or did it constitute a larger part of your life?

LeLevier:

Often things I would be working on at Rand or at RDA or here at EOS, there would be overlapping interests, and so a lot of the things I work on today are subjects at Jason and subjects that I’m just interested in. Like beams, neutral particle beams, lasers, etc.

Aaserud:

Maybe more so for you in fact than for a lot of academic Jasons.

LeLevier:

Probably, since I do this regularly. Yes.

Aaserud:

So the Rand kind of work is closer to Jason work than —

LeLevier:

Yes, the Rand and the R and D Associates, RDA.

Aaserud:

I’m sure that there are degrees among the academic physicists too, and some of the physicists have even changed their fields as a result of their work in Jason, but mostly —

LeLevier:

Mostly not.

Aaserud:

Mostly not. I’m thinking of examples in more recent times, let’s say for example, a change from particle physics to hydrodynamics, for example, that kind of thing.

LeLevier:

Right.

Aaserud:

To what extent did you bring the Jason work to Rand, and to what extent did you bring your Rand work to Jason? To what extent was there a connection or coordination even of projects there?

LeLevier:

Well, there was this overlap. We were interested at Rand in conceiving tests, both underground and in space. There was an interest in the Department of Defense and in Jason in those subjects. And Jason has done lots of work on seismic detection and understanding how shock waves, seismic waves propagate, and there’s just a commonality there, in problems of mutual interest.

Aaserud:

Yes, right. Was there some kind of formalized collaboration between your or other groups in Rand and Jason?

LeLevier:

No.

Aaserud:

But Jasons had meetings once in a while on Rand facilities, and I’m sure that –

LeLevier:

I suppose they did, yes.

Aaserud:

Jason didn’t collaborate with many other groups, period, I suppose.

LeLevier:

No.

Aaserud:

So Rand may be one of the groups that they really did collaborate with. As I said, I can’t think of anybody else in a situation similar to yours in Jason. You know, a person representing a comparable organization.

LeLevier:

That’s correct. I think that’s right.

Aaserud:

To what extent were you involved in selecting projects? Are there examples of that, first of all?

LeLevier:

Well, I’ve always been interested in the neutral particle beam business, and have done that with and at Jason, and people at Jason have been interested in the same subject, and so we’ve worked together and worked on these problems.

Aaserud:

Yes, so there was pretty much freedom there as to which projects you would choose to work on.

LeLevier:

Oh yes. Yes. Correct. Subject to the approval of the steering committee, you know.

Aaserud:

Oh yes, right. Well, maybe there was a pool of projects and people chose.

LeLevier:

Oh, there are. Yes.

Aaserud:

But if you got a good idea and you weren’t in the steering committee, you would have to go to the steering committee in order to —

LeLevier:

— to get support. Say, do you want to do this or that? It’s a dumb idea, or it’s a good idea. You know. That’s right.

Aaserud:

Do you have examples of that, projects you suggested that were either accepted or rejected?

LeLevier:

Well, the neutral particle beam would come closest. Of interest.

Aaserud:

Was that your main occupation throughout your Jason period

LeLevier:

Oh no, no. That’s been rather recent.

Aaserud:

That’s been recent. Contacts with agencies, to what extent were you involved in that? I suppose that was as a steering committee member anyway.

LeLevier:

Yes.

Aaserud:

So how did that function? Did you go to Washington? Did ARPA come here? Did other agencies come here?

LeLevier:

No, no. Traditionally the way it works, we would go to an agency, discuss their problems, they would identify a particular problem that they were interested in, would we be interested in working on it? And then subject to the steering committee approval, we would or would not work on this particular issue.

Aaserud:

Would the relationship with agencies, particular ARPA, vary in time? The kind of contact, the closeness of collaboration, that kind of thing, the impact of Jason on the work of the agency?

LeLevier:

Well, the format, there’s a group of two or three Jasons that would work with a given agency, and then they would identify problems, and then the larger group during a summer study or during the year even would work on these problems, subject to their interest, and the amount of work that should be done.

Aaserud:

But was it harder at some times to find interests than at other times with the agencies?

LeLevier:

Not really, no.

Aaserud:

There was always a full supply of problems.

LeLevier:

That’s correct. More than we could handle.

Aaserud:

What about technical tasks versus more general policy advice?

LeLevier:

I don’t get into policy advice. I’m more or less technical in nature.

Aaserud:

Some Jasons have, I suppose.

LeLevier:

Oh yes.

Aaserud:

Has there been a debate on that, to what extent Jason should be entirely technical, to what extent it should be science policy oriented?

LeLevier:

It depends on the member, what the interests are. Jason doesn’t discourage either.

Aaserud:

But there might be a discussion on what kind of advice is more efficient, or what is, you know, the best thing for Jason to do as that kind of group, some discussion of principle like that. Have you been involved in that?

LeLevier:

No, not really. By and large Jason sticks to its technical guns.

Aaserud:

Yes, that’s by far the majority of it.

LeLevier:

And that’s good. Because I think in that role they play a unique contribution, because there so damned smart.

Aaserud:

Have you mostly worked by yourself on problems in Jason? Have you worked in groups?

LeLevier:

In groups.

Aaserud:

Different groups or the same group?

LeLevier:

Different.

Aaserud:

With a lot of people.

LeLevier:

Everybody does that.

Aaserud:

I guess in time they developed a panel structure, that you had panels working on particular problems.

LeLevier:

Yes.

Aaserud:

I guess that wasn’t so at the very beginning, maybe in practice, but it wasn’t formalized.

LeLevier:

No, it wasn’t formalized. Now, it’s become a little more formal. One example is, one of the Jasons, several years ago, thought that laser pellet explosions in an evacuated tank might be useful in trying to understand how debris from high altitude weapons disassembles and moves and structures, and this has led to a large program with the Defense Nuclear Agency at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington. And that’s a big program that’s gone on now for several years.

Aaserud:

And that came from Jason.

LeLevier:

That was a Jason idea.

Aaserud:

When was that idea originated?

LeLevier:

Oh, about maybe three, four years ago.

Aaserud:

OK. Well, we were talking about projects a little bit. We were just mentioning them. So what would you consider the main projects, or the most important projects, that Jason has been involved in, during the whole history of it, mainly the first fifteen years which is what I’m concentrating on?

LeLevier:

SeeSaw.

Aaserud:

You would pick that, yes.

LeLevier:

High powered lasers, which is going on now, in the FEL. Free electron lasers.

Aaserud:

Re-entry physics?

LeLevier:

And re-entry physics, yes. Of course, the ELF Communications System, Bassoon, Sanguine, Shelf, that was —

Aaserud:

That was Christofilos to a great extent?

LeLevier:

Yes, that was Nick’s fertile mind.

Aaserud:

Was that a one man show, or was his contribution different from the others? He always comes up as an important person on this.

LeLevier:

He was an idea person. And he benefited greatly from the outstanding theoretical work that the Jasons — he was a member of Jason, and so he benefited. It was mutual. He would have a crazy idea and, you know, people would work on it, and maybe it’s not so crazy, maybe it is and all of the SeeSaw work is still going on now under Navy auspices. Heritage, something like that. It’s a much different concept, but I mean, it’s the same idea, and — but certainly SeeSaw occupied a lot of our early work, in boring a hole in the atmosphere and propagating stably a beam that didn’t want to propagate stably.

Aaserud:

Yes. And you were involved in that yourself.

LeLevier:

Yes.

Aaserud:

So did you work with Christofilos on that?

LeLevier:

Oh yes. Nick invented the Radiation Belts. He never got the credit for it.

Aaserud:

The Van Allen Belts?

LeLevier:

Yes, the Van Allen Belts. But he invented them before van Allen knew about them. That’s gone by the wayside. That’s fine, you know. But he had a nutty idea that we could erect a shield that would bump up re-entry vehicles, in going through this dense shield of electrons. And the plasma physicists quickly pointed out that magnetic fields don’t like to be loaded up with intense plasmas, because they break, they become unstable, and so the whole idea which was a fertile idea of Nick’s, you know, won’t work. But it was fun showing that it wouldn’t work. Then in the meantime of course the Van Allen Belts were discovered and measured, and van Allen’s name applied, but it was an independent discovery by Nick.

Aaserud:

Yes. Was that connected with Jason also?

LeLevier:

Oh yes. Sure. Sure.

Aaserud:

So that was part of that whole effort. Yes. I’m grasping, of course, for some example of a project to treat in more detail than others, because I think it would be fruitful to look at one particular project or set of projects both from the point of view of the project itself, but also how Jasons worked, as an example of how Jason worked and how the relationship was between Jason and the agencies and all that, and my problem is, I would have to find a representative project, but I would also have to find a project that I could have at least some access to material for. Would you have any suggestion on that?

LeLevier:

Well, I would suggest the SeeSaw. I think that by and large has become declassified. There have been declassified histories of SeeSaw. I think Ray Chapman wrote on that. Ray Chapman was at ARPA at the time, and I think that would be something you could look at.

Aaserud:

Yes. I’m not aware of that actually.

LeLevier:

As a high technology application of accelerator physics, and making electron beams, and trying to use them in a defense mode, where you would project the beam of lethal bolts of electrons which would blow up re-entry vehicles trying to impinge on your soil.

Aaserud:

Yes. Well, it’s very relevant to now, of course, to treat such a thing historically, because it’s an old form of Star Wars, of course.

LeLevier:

Of course. That’s what I said.

Aaserud:

So that might affect the openness of it. I don’t know if recent developments have made it harder to access that kind of information.

LeLevier:

You could not access the recent developments.

Aaserud:

No, but that recent developments and the recent publicity about such things might have affected the access to the older material. That’s what I’m saying. I would have to find that out myself, of course. So I suppose that, would you pick SeeSaw as your own most important project within Jason?

LeLevier:

Well, maybe not the most important, but certainly one of the most interesting. And stimulating, and you said the right thing, it was one of the first examples of Star Wars.

Aaserud:

Could you describe your involvement in that a little bit, and how it started?

LeLevier:

Well, mostly on the propagation issues, and stability, and the energies required to get through the atmosphere, and the collateral effects.

Aaserud:

Who did you work with on that?

LeLevier:

Well, let’s see. That was with Watson, Brueckner, Hal Lewis.

Aaserud:

At one time or at different times?

LeLevier:

No, in those early days.

Aaserud:

That was a group that was working on that.

LeLevier:

Yes. I think Marshall Rosenbluth.

Aaserud:

Yes, whom I haven’t spoken to yet. I should. Christofilos too, did you collaborate with him on that?

LeLevier:

Oh yes.

Aaserud:

So that was a panel, so to speak, working on that.

LeLevier:

Well, it was less a formalized panel than it was people interested in the subject and trying to see why it would or would not work.

Aaserud:

Yes, but in fact it was all of you working together.

LeLevier:

Yes.

Aaserud:

Of course it led to reports. That’s what the summer studies did usually.

LeLevier:

Right.

Aaserud:

Did it affect your other kinds of publications in any way? Are there aspects of this work that has appeared in journals, either from yourself or from others in this effort?

LeLevier:

I think stability analyses and propagation, I think that’s been in the open literature.

Aaserud:

Yes, that might be a direct result of this Jason involvement.

LeLevier:

That’s right, yes. Propagation of beams through plasmas.

Aaserud:

Yes. Did that affect the careers of any of these other people outside Jason, would you say? Did it direct them towards problems in physics, academic physics as such?

LeLevier:

Well, you see, it was certainly all involved with accelerator technology and making electron beams, and in the early days, there was a proton school and an electron school, and by virtue of Nick’s incredible genius, the electron school won out.

Aaserud:

OK. But you would say that it’s more a question of the existing physics being applied to national security, than the problems of national security feeding back on the nature of physics, that’s what you would say.

LeLevier:

That’s correct. That’s right.

Aaserud:

Are there early efforts that you were involved in that you would like to mention?

LeLevier:

Well, I don’t know what to say about the laser business. We did work on high powered lasers, way back. Gas dynamic lasers.

Aaserud:

Yes. That came in the mid-sixties?

LeLevier:

Yes.

Aaserud:

Solid state lasers were —

LeLevier:

That was later on. The big lasers were the gas dynamic lasers, which —

Aaserud:

That was the one that supplied sufficient energy so that there could be any hope for Star Wars application.

LeLevier:

That’s correct. For megawatt beams, that’s right. That’s right.

Aaserud:

On your publication list here, first of all, that’s a selected list, of course, the list that was sent to me.

LeLevier:

Yes.

Aaserud:

There are two candidates here that I suspect of being Jason work, that is, a report with Hal Lewis and Ken Watson on electromagnetic fields generated by pulses of relativistic electrons. How would you classify that? That was from 1964. How would you classify that work?

LeLevier:

It was part of our Jason effort.

Aaserud:

Yes, but in terms of project, as that SeeSaw?

LeLevier:

Yes.

Aaserud:

And then your work with Louis Branscomb, I’ve also spoken to, on changes in the chemical composition of the atmosphere following intense ionization impulses.

LeLevier:

No, that was done as part of our work on weapons effects, and that work has transferred to the ionospheric physicists, and understanding the chemistry of the ionosphere and the effective recombination coefficients of the ionosphere, and all of that work done for the Department of Defense has fed into the open literature and the general lore of ionospheric physics.

Aaserud:

Yes, because you have a paper, a published paper in the JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICS RESEARCH with Branscomb exactly on the same topic.

LeLevier:

Yes.

Aaserud:

Which is this one here?

LeLevier:

Yes, that’s the one, yes. As far as I recall, that was an original effort that we engaged in, which certainly developed a methodology for treating the various complex reactions and how they take place, and of course at the time we did the work, we didn’t know all of the reactions or their cross-sections, so Lou and I concentrated on a methodology, so that as you made measurements in a laboratory, you could feed it in and get better understanding of how the ionosphere works.

Aaserud:

Yes. In that connection, I —

LeLevier:

— have you talked to Lou about that?

Aaserud:

— you might enjoy a quote of Lou for you here, he says, “Bob, “that’s you, “Bob had been doing analysis of missile wake chemistry. What I learned from him was how to do a quick and dirty model of a very complicated situation and have it display the fundamentals.” I suppose that’s what you’re talking about, that’s his way of saying — yes, that’s how a transcript looks, by the way, of an interview. Since I have it here, I might as well show it to you.

LeLevier:

You’ve probably got a lot better information out of Branscomb than you would from me.

Aaserud:

I doubt it. You’ve been a member for a much longer time. We were talking about a lot of things, not all pertaining to Jason. I don’t think he was on the steering committee ever.

LeLevier:

I don’t believe so. I haven’t seen Branscomb for years.

Aaserud:

He moved to Cambridge. He’s at the Kennedy School now, I think. Well, you probably know it. He left IBM because they don’t want people after a certain age, I think. I think that’s a rule in IBM, so that’s the reason. So that’s what it looks like anyway. Yes, the things I have noted there are quotations regarding the work with you.

LeLevier:

It sounds like Branscomb.

Aaserud:

Yes, that’s what’s nice with these interviews, you know. We do some editing, but we don’t edit as much to leave out the personal way of stating things.

LeLevier:

That work is carried on now. It’s part of the lore in DNA. I think we dealt with maybe a handful of reactions, and now I think there are probably hundreds; on the computer.

Aaserud:

OK. But you started that, to some extent.

LeLevier:

Yes, we did that early work.

Aaserud:

It sounds very much like the kind of Rand work that you discussed too. So you were doing similar things for Rand, I’m sure.

LeLevier:

I did that on what was called a JOSS computer at Rand.

Aaserud:

That particular work.

LeLevier:

That particular work with Lou, yes.

Aaserud:

You used the Rand facilities.

LeLevier:

And it was a computer that Johnny von Neumann had built at Rand.

Aaserud:

Are there other publications or reports on this list that pertain to Jason? Or that have resulted from Jason work? I noted already the ones —

LeLevier:

— well, the Branscomb one, surely. And the heating of the F region, that was Jason work. The bulk of this is stuff I did at Rand.

Aaserud:

Yes. How complete is that list anyway?

LeLevier:

It’s complete enough.

Aaserud:

But you haven’t used a selection principle or anything.

LeLevier:

No, no. No. No, I would say the work I did with Lou was fairly important. He was a wonderful guy to learn from.

Aaserud:

Yes, which he said of you too, of course. It must have been a productive collaboration there. All right, in terms of other projects that you’ve been working on I have found some material. I have been through the Charles Townes papers, and he is a good paper collector. He keeps his papers well. So he has a collection of minutes from the Jason steering committee meetings, not from Day 1 unfortunately, but the period say from ‘67, ‘68 through ‘73, until Jason moved from IDA to SRI. And I’ve just picked out the times that I found your name mentioned on that. So maybe that could ring a bell or start something. The steering committee meeting on the 17th of November, 1968, you are mentioned under a heading called the OSI Panel, and it reads, “Meeting will be set up between Docket and Lauderdale and R. LeLevier to introduce LeLevier to Chamberlaine. LeLevier will lead the Jason panel.” What is the OSI Panel? What did this lead to? Were you introduced to Chamberlaine, and what was the significance of that?

LeLevier:

Yes. That was all highly classified. That was things I can’t really talk about.

Aaserud:

OK.

LeLevier:

A lot of these things are enigmas. You see various sources. You see activities going on. And they will present you with the data as they’ve collected it, to the extent that they have data, and then you try to sort it out, and you know, what are they up to? What if they succeed in doing this? What could be the impact? That kind of a role.

Aaserud:

What is OSI short for anyway?

LeLevier:

Office of Scientific Investigation.

Aaserud:

OK. And Docket was in CIA, was he?

LeLevier:

I think so.

Aaserud:

I think so too. I think I saw that. So maybe that’s just the extent to which it could be written down.

LeLevier:

Yes, that’s right.

Aaserud:

— without any danger of — OK. Now, I think the next mention of you that I have here maybe a continuation of that, so that won’t help us much anyway. A tentative list of panels considered was, and this is in December, 1969, this is a report from the fall meeting, I suppose — list of panels, ATC, C3, Kroll, LeLevier, Warning, ASW, Cecil, 8th card. Is that the same panel that was talked about earlier?

LeLevier:

ATC, is that Air Traffic Control?

Aaserud:

I suppose so, yes. But the other one that has to do with you is just your name so it’s not very helpful.

LeLevier:

I don’t know what the status of 8th card is any more.

Aaserud:

No, but that was also an ARPA project?

LeLevier:

Yes, that’s correct. We do get involved in sensitive areas, and they’re impossible to discuss. But the fun work was the air chemistry, the atmospheric chemistry.

Aaserud:

How much is it of each, of the fun work and of the work you can’t talk about?

LeLevier:

At least half and half.

Aaserud:

You would say, if there’s more of anything it’s the fun work, is that what you’re saying?

LeLevier:

Well, yes. But you make it that way. You try to make it that way.

Aaserud:

You have to work for it, yes. Because that’s a problem that I, as an unclassified person, would be confronted with, you know. How typical are the things that I do have access to, because it could easily skew things.

LeLevier:

Yes.

Aaserud:

If the majority of the work is just things that I would never know about, so how much of a problem do you think that is for a problem trying to do history of Jason from an unclassified perspective?

LeLevier:

It’s not easy, because I think a lot of our significant contributions have been in sensitive areas, and will continue to be.

Aaserud:

So you would estimate about a 50-50 percentage, that much sensitive?

LeLevier:

Yes. You know, some of the things I’ve published in the JGR on the dissociated recombination of the ionosphere from the Starfish explosion and the X-rays, that all got into the unclassified community and were an interesting contribution.

Aaserud:

Yes. But to what extent has it been cleaned? I mean, how much can be read in that literature of the real motivations and the real?

LeLevier:

Well, the real motivation, by and large, what I’ve been working on most of my career, is nuclear weapons effects, in all the media. And that particular piece of work came from the 1962 high altitude tests at Johnston Island, the Starfish explosion in particular.

Aaserud:

I wasn’t only meaning personal motivation, but also the origin of the problem, you know, from the agency point of view, how much of that can be read into the publication once it’s open. I mean, that’s a problem too. It may be difficult for you to say anything about this too, I don’t know. On the l7thg of May 1970, the LeLevier Panel, probably inactive except for possible briefings on Soviet ABM activities, is that the same panel?

LeLevier:

Yes, we did a study of the Soviet high altitude tests in 1962.

Aaserud:

This is 1970…

LeLevier:

Well, you see, during the Geneva talks on moratorium, 1961, the Soviets abrogated the treaty, and conducted some high altitude tests over their missile range in Semipolitinsk. This was 1961. And in 1962, they repeated those tests, but at very high yield, and sometime in 1968, ‘69, Dick Latter was going to chair a panel to try to look at all source data from the Soviet tests. He got preempted to go to Geneva, and asked me to chair the panel, and that’s the panel that Charlie’s alluding to, and that was simply an analysis of, what did they do, what they could have learned, and what would its impact be on ballistic missile defense systems. And that’s all classified.

Aaserud:

Is that a panel that goes beyond Jason, then, has membership beyond Jason?

LeLevier:

Yes. Oh yes.

Aaserud:

Was that a recurring phenomenon, that there were panels that were broader than Jason itself?

LeLevier:

Oh yes. There were, let’s see, I think Alan Peterson was a member of that panel. I don’t remember if Ken Watson was or not. But some of those panels, I would have selected Jason members because of their expertise, and then other members. One member of my panel was Bill Perry, who at that time was president of ESL.

Aaserud:

OK, so Jason was not a close enterprise in that sense.

LeLevier:

No, no, no, no. In various government activities, if a person from Jason was asked to participate and wanted to, they were certainly free to do so.

Aaserud:

Yes, not by virtue of being a Jason but by virtue of being himself –-

LeLevier:

Well, in part.

Aaserud:

Because of the classification of the earlier experience.

LeLevier:

And the connections that the Jasonites have with the general world of national security. It’s one of the strengths of the Jason group. You’ll find many members of Jason on national panels. I think Will Happer just chaired a panel for the National Science Foundation on inertial confined fusion. And that’s typical of Jason’s activities.

Aaserud:

Yes, and that’s an aspect of the original intention of Jason, that it should serve as a springboard for younger physicists into those kinds of activities.

LeLevier:

Yes, that’s right.

Aaserud:

So that’s an example of that aspect of the work.

LeLevier:

The way it works, yes.

Aaserud:

Well, while we’re going through projects that you’ve been involved in here, the last thing that I came to is less classified, I’m sure, and that was in 1971, you chaired a sub-group, a study of DOD labs. I think yours was the air warfare group, and Walter Munk took care of ASW, Doug? Peterson communications, and Henry Foley, ordnance. That’s a different kind of enterprise, then, from what we’ve been talking about.

LeLevier:

We were asked to review; I think Johnny Foster may have asked us to do this.

Aaserud:

Yes, I think I’ve seen that.

LeLevier:

To look at various government laboratories, like China Lake, the Navy, the Night Vision Lab, Redstone Arsenal, I forget what all there was. We just went to the various laboratories, were briefed on their programs, and wrote Johnny a paper on what we thought about the strengths and the weaknesses of the various laboratories. I forget who was on the panel.

Aaserud:

That’s kind of a different enterprise. How were you received by the fellow scientists, for example? It must be sensitive.

LeLevier:

Oh yes. They knew what we were there for. Oh yes.

Aaserud:

They knew that. So was that different for different labs?

LeLevier:

Very much different. You know, China Lake was an outstanding place, and the Night Vision Laboratory was outstanding. And some of them were pedestrian.

Aaserud:

Well, what kinds of changes were you expected to —?

LeLevier:

— I have no idea.

Aaserud:

You weren’t supposed to come up with suggestions for changing the whole structure?

LeLevier:

No, no, no, no.

Aaserud:

It was more looking at individual laboratories.

LeLevier:

Technical content — the technical content and the strength of the program.

Aaserud:

How untypical or typical was that kind of task for Jason?

LeLevier:

That is fairly typical. In a sense, that Happer just recently reviewed the ICF program across the board.

Aaserud:

Yes, I think that was regarded as a spring visit. I think that was something that also was institutionalized to some extent, that you had a spring visit of all or most Jasons to a particular institution, to a particular place, to look at things, isn’t that correct?

LeLevier:

Yes. We just recently made a field trip to Los Alamos, Sandia, and the Air Force Laboratory, for a broad look at what they’re doing, and this was more for Jason’s edification, and knowledge of what’s going on, rather than a critical review of anything.

Aaserud:

Yes, it works both ways.

LeLevier:

And so we were extremely well received, and I was impressed at all three labs, and the things they’re doing — and unimpressed with other things they’re doing.

Aaserud:

So those spring visits, are they mostly educational for Jason, or are they most leading to observations?

LeLevier:

They’re mixed. This last field trip was strictly informational. We made a trip a while back to Colorado Springs, to Norad, again, what’s Norad doing, how are they doing it? This was background information for the group, and strictly for the group. Now, the chief scientist at Norad will come to us and say, “There are several ideas for the detection of Cruise missiles. Why don’t you guys look at these ideas and tell me what looks good and what doesn’t look good?” So that it goes both ways. You educate the group of bright people, then you ask them to look at a specific subject within that larger framework, and then they get to advise the government or the person or whoever, as to, this makes a lot of sense, we ought to really work very hard on this problem, and this does not look very fruitful. That’s the way that goes.

Aaserud:

Yes. So, I have a final — actually, yes, a final project here, another one, actually two. This might be a difficult one, again. I’m just reading to you what I found. This is from a steering committee meeting the first of March 1971, and let’s see here, yes — Louis and Bengston[?] reported on the Jason ARPA meetings of February 10 and 11 on Ivory, Coral and Micropulsations. LeLevier will attempt to follow up on one aspect of the latter, if the compartment problem can be solved.

LeLevier:

This had to do with heating the ionosphere with a ground-based radio wave transmitter, you see. And one of the physics questions, when the ionosphere is heated with radio waves, great and glorious things happen. It becomes structured and you can do various things with the structure that couldn’t be done — you see to have a paper there.

Aaserud:

Yes, that might be a continuation of this published work in the JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH.

LeLevier:

That’s right. And that led to a very large body of literature on ionospheric heating and chemistry, and modifications of the ionosphere, and of course, what we were looking for was, you know, where are the applications of interest to the Department of Defense if any, and so that’s what we were looking for.

Aaserud:

Yes. The JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH seems to have been a central publication, when it comes to -–

LeLevier:

— this kind of thing. That’s right. Ionospheric physics.

Aaserud:

And more generally perhaps when it comes to material in Jason that has reached the public, it might be one of the important publications for that.

LeLevier:

Yes. It is. The JGR likes to publish things in this regime.

Aaserud:

Yes, right.

LeLevier:

And of course, whether there were or weren’t military applications, I can’t say.

Aaserud:

No. You can’t or you will not or both.

LeLevier:

I will not.

Aaserud:

Even if you knew. What is the compartment problem referred to here?

LeLevier:

Well, you know, in the classified world there are areas which have limited access, for various reasons, and that’s the compartment, that’s what that means.

Aaserud:

OK, so that’s different Jasons being able to work or not work on the problem.

LeLevier:

That’s right. That’s correct.

Aaserud:

And solving the compartment problem means that everybody that wants to, every Jason who wants to work on this problem can work on it.

LeLevier:

Either can or cannot, depending on whether they have particular access.

Aaserud:

Yes, but from Jason’s point of view, it’s a question of getting the people that they see fit to work on it.

LeLevier:

Yes, and that are interested.

Aaserud:

Right. And that’s the continuation then, in some sense, of the kind of work that you’ve done before.

LeLevier:

Yes.

Aaserud:

And it’s also closely connected with your Rand work. OK, this is the last piece of this kind of thing that I have here, and it may be a similar thing. Yes, Secede? (the seed?) and the ionosphere. Bob LeLevier will summarize recent Secede 2 test results and will also mention current developments and problems of interest in ionospheric heating. So that’s along the same lines again.

LeLevier:

Yes. After the Operation Fishbowl test series in the Pacific, we observed these large striated plasmas, generated by the high altitude nuclear bursts, really widespread, beautiful to behold. Then Max [?] at the Max Planck Institute was doing barium releases. This is a thermite mixture of barium and copper, I think. You know, a few pounds, over the Sahara Desert, and they observed that these barium plasmas would striate, and they would measure the drift velocity of the striated plasma, and they would infer electric field strengths in situ from the analysis, and these striated plasmas looked microscopically and macroscopically like the striated plasmas we saw in the high altitude nuclear tests. So would these barium releases serve as a useful simulation of high altitude plasmas, and could we use them to learn about the environment that could be established by high altitude weapons? And that was the whole Secede program, and these were large releases, you know, measured in tens of kilograms, and led to all kinds of structure, and we did propagation experiments, etc., as a big ARPA initiative, which was later taken over by the Defense Nuclear Agency, and became programs. And we used the barium plasma as diagnostic for disturbed environments, and this had strictly a military application. They don’t do high altitude testing, and we still have to try to infer, you know, how various communication systems would work through those plasmas. And so that’s what that was all about.

Aaserud:

Yes, right. So the end of the testing must have changed the kind of work that you did at Rand, and in that kind of direction.

LeLevier:

Oh yes. That’s correct.

Aaserud:

Well, did you move to another area of investigation, or did you just do the same kinds of problems in different ways, like this is an example of?

LeLevier:

That’s an example of continuing work. I left Rand in 1971. The whole physics department left Rand and formed R and D Associates.

Aaserud:

OK, so it was a continuation in that sense.

LeLevier:

It was a continuation. Now, R and D Associates was established as a private company, a for-profit company. So I was no longer associated with the FCRC, the Rand Corporation. But ARPA decided that they could control any conflict problems that we might have at R and D, and so I remained a member of Jason, and still am today. And a lot of the Secede work was done when I was at RDA.

Aaserud:

Yes. What were the circumstances of R and D moving out?

LeLevier:

Oh, very simple. Project Rand got mad at — the Air Force got mad at Rand because they were focusing less of their attention on problems of national security, and they were working on the private sector, New York City, fire fighting.

Aaserud:

That New York City office was part of that, yes.

LeLevier:

And so Project Rand decided, well, if they aren’t going to work on Air Force problems we’re going to cut their budget, so they cut the budget by a third. OK? So we had the dismal prospect of firing a third of our people in the physics department. And so, after numerous discussions with various people in the Department of Defense, they said, “The best thing you guys can do is take your group, form your own company. “So we left and formed our own company.

Aaserud:

Yes, but your group was not the kind of group that the Air Force wanted to punish.

LeLevier:

No, no, that’s correct. That’s right. And Rand, the board of trustees was very helpful in taking us across, innovating contracts.

Aaserud:

So in effect perhaps you remained a branch of Rand and retained the connection there.

LeLevier:

Yes, the Rand physics group just part and parcel left Rand and formed R and D Associates.

Aaserud:

Did that mean that there was no more physics at Rand as such?

LeLevier:

Well, they formed a science and engineering department, so the answer is, yes, physics is there and they still do physics, but —

Aaserud:

But different.

LeLevier:

Different. See, we had, in Rand physics, we did work for the Atomic Energy Commission, which involved special clearances and special access.

Aaserud:

Yes, they were particularly difficult.

LeLevier:

And so the Rand people could not walk into the physics department without escort or whatever, because of the nature of the work we were doing for the laboratory, for Livermore or Los Alamos. So there was a little bit of problem there staff-wise. But as I say, it was amicable, and I stayed at Rand (R and D) till 1983, and then I joined EOS.

Aaserud:

R and D, yes.

LeLevier:

I mean I stayed at R and D Associates. By and large doing the same kinds of work we did at Rand.

Aaserud:

EOS, that’s a new enterprise too then?

LeLevier:

EOS was a fellow that worked for me at RDA, Brian Gabbard [?]. He was one of my deputies in the science and technology division. Quit and formed EOS. RDA merged with Logicon, and went from a small outfit to a very large outfit, and I decided I didn’t want to be part of a large outfit, so I left and joined EOS as a founder, and I still remained at Jason by sort of a grandfather clause. And we all file conflict of interest statements. But Jason knows everything that I do at EOS.

Aaserud:

OK. So in fact, your change of –-

LeLevier:

— of venue did not affect my life style.

Aaserud:

In fact, rather the opposite. If you hadn’t changed venue, your life might have been changed more.

LeLevier:

Yes, that’s correct.

Aaserud:

Your changes reflect continuity more than non-changes. That’s interesting. OK. What about political views, political discussions within Jason? Was there as lot of that? Were there similar opinions? Did political opinions affect the choice of a project that you would take up, or is that?

LeLevier:

Well, the most political thing that happened, as you well know by reading these two papers by McDonald, was the Vietnam thing. But that, by and large, is the only real problem I’ve ever run into of that nature.

Aaserud:

Yes, there you had obvious interconnections with the political part of it. To what extent were you involved in those studies, that project?

LeLevier:

Vietnam? I didn’t participate at all. No.

Aaserud:

At all — by virtue of conscious choice?

LeLevier:

Choice. Yes. I was busy doing other things.

Aaserud:

But that wasn’t a political decision on your part.

LeLevier:

No, I just wasn’t — you know, I like space physics. I like the ionosphere. I like weapons effects. I didn’t have much of an inkling towards propagating radio waves in jungle foliage.

Aaserud:

No, that wasn’t your main interest, OK, so — and maybe by hindsight you were happy that you didn’t involve yourself, I don’t know.

LeLevier:

It’s just; I didn’t think it was my bag. It was not my area of expertise and I didn’t particularly see how I could contribute in any effective way, so —

Aaserud:

Yes. You didn’t go through the same kinds of problems that the academic physicists did.

LeLevier:

No. I was insulated. I didn’t have to go through any of that trauma, for which I felt very bad.

Aaserud:

Yes. It was a traumatic period for a lot of people.

LeLevier:

But I don’t recall over the years any conscious political — maybe you’ve run into some examples from other people, but —

Aaserud:

Oh, not much, no.

LeLevier:

When a problem comes up now, via SDI, Star Wars, people have not refused to work on a problem because of political motivations. If there are political motivations, certain guys may work on a problem to show that it’s a lot of nonsense. That’s fine. That’s fair game. Dick Garwin is — you know, that’s one of his favorite activities.

Aaserud:

Yes, SST and all that.

LeLevier:

But I don’t recall anything divisive in Jason other than the Vietnam business.

Aaserud:

No. Not even SDI today.

LeLevier:

No.

Aaserud:

The transfer to SRI in 1973; to what extent were you part of that? No?

LeLevier:

No. That was just IDA, Glenn Kent noticing that he could add 40 members to his staff if he got rid of Jason, so he did it.

Aaserud:

Did the new ownership or whatever you call it have some implications for the way Jason work was done?

LeLevier:

No. SRI was a very comfortable home for us, as is MITRE.

Aaserud:

Yes. There weren’t attempts at stronger management or anything of that sort?

LeLevier:

There was a little bit of that at SRI, but we quickly dealt with that. That was no problem.

Aaserud:

So in effect, projects were chosen the same way, people joined the same way as before.

LeLevier:

Yes.

Aaserud:

Another change at about the same time was that there were several contractors rather than only ARPA, I think in the late sixties early seventies you contracted with —

LeLevier:

You mean different agencies? Yes.

Aaserud:

Like NSA, CIA.

LeLevier:

That’s correct, yes.

Aaserud:

Also non-military agencies.

LeLevier:

Yes, ACTA.

Aaserud:

Did that change the work in any way?

LeLevier:

No. It’s just a different class of problems. More broader politically than technical.

Aaserud:

I was thinking it might have had some impact on access to material, or different access to different material for different Jasons, that you had different kinds of clearances connected with different agencies.

LeLevier:

Oh, that always happens.

Aaserud:

That was nothing new then.

LeLevier:

No, no.

Aaserud:

Because I think Jason has always striven, to the greatest extent possible, to being able to talk together about the projects they were working on.

LeLevier:

That’s correct.

Aaserud:

But it has always been an accepted fact that that’s impossible in all cases, that’s what you’re saying.

LeLevier:

That’s correct. That’s right.

Aaserud:

And that fact hasn’t changed basically over time.

LeLevier:

No. Some of the sponsors insist that just a very small group participate in their particular areas of interest. And that’s fine. The steering committee, you know, rules on that, and they’re aware of what’s going on.

Aaserud:

Generally of course Jason has kept a low profile. There hasn’t been much in the media, except on the Vietnam debacle, which only led to Jason’s being more careful, I think, about the media and all that.

LeLevier:

Yes.

Aaserud:

Of course there are some people in Jason who are more vocal than others. Richard Garwin that you just mentioned, perhaps Sidney Drell, his interest in science policy maybe has used Jason as his inroad to that kind of problem. He told me that Jason perhaps was the most important inroad for him to that, because for him Jason was clearly a starting point for that kind of problem.

LeLevier:

However, in all the dealings they had with Congress and what have you, they did that as citizens. They don’t do that as members of Jason.

Aaserud:

No, of course not. But there might always be a problem of, where did you get that information?

LeLevier:

That’s right, and that’s why some agencies don’t want certain Jasons involved.

Aaserud:

We were talking about Jason and outspokenness, and the problem of whether information within Jason was misused for Congressional testimony or other public utterances.

LeLevier:

Well, misused is your word.

Aaserud:

Yes, it’s too evaluative, OK, but say from an agency point of view, or whatever. Have you been involved in that kind of debate, discussion?

LeLevier:

No. I choose not to be.

Aaserud:

Yes. Most Jasons do that, of course. It’s a minority that has encountered that kind of problem. But when it occurs, the tendency is for Jasons to protect the person who gets involved in some kind of discussion like that. Or that has been the tendency, anyway.

LeLevier:

Yes. No one’s been thrown out of Jason for testifying on the Hill.

Aaserud:

No, although there might have been some pressure to do so from ARPA or other sponsoring agencies.

LeLevier:

I have no idea.

Aaserud:

No. The way Jason sees itself, at any rate, is that there has been no leakage from Jason, and that Jason is a less likely source of leakage of secret information than.

LeLevier:

There had better not be leakage. They’d lose their clearances.

Aaserud:

Right. But you know problems could come up anyway. But you haven’t been involved strongly in that, you can’t point to any specific questions that you have dealt with in that respect.

LeLevier:

No.

Aaserud:

Well, how unique do you find Jason, as a group, combining basic research and government advice the way it has done? Of course, you as a long time employee in Rand might be a good person to ask that question. Do you think Jason is unique?

LeLevier:

Jason is unique. The only other source of unbiased — I mean, Jason does not have any axe to grind. And the only — in principle, the only other source of information and advice like that comes from the FCRC, comes from MITRE, comes from Rand, comes from IDA. But I’m not aware of — and the National Science Foundation — but as far as a group of scientists is concerned, I’m not aware of any other group like Jason. They are — at least, at how you do it, they’re uniquely unique.

Aaserud:

Yes. And you would say that Rand is an entirely different kind of enterprise? Or sufficiently different that it doesn’t take away the uniqueness from Jason?

LeLevier:

No. I don’t think it does. No. No.

Aaserud:

What is the main difference; would you say, between Rand and Jason in that respect? What makes Jason unique?

LeLevier:

Well, in some sense they’re the cream of the crop. Rand has excellent scientists. All the FCRCs do. But Jason has become extremely broad, inter-agency, well-connected, and as I say, by and large they have no axe to grind, profit-wise. They give their advice and do their work, and whether the particular agency likes it or not, they get the answer they get. And I’ve never encountered any situation in Jason where we had to tailor our response to the wishes of the customer. If the customer doesn’t like our response, he can cancel the contract. There’s plenty of people out there wanting to get Jason’s help in looking at some of their technical problems.

Aaserud:

Did it ever come to that or close to that with any contractor?

LeLevier:

Well, you’ll have to ask the Gordon McDonalds of the world. I don’t think so. I don’t remember. Maybe some of the intelligence agencies don’t like what we say.

Aaserud:

Because that was what happened to PSAC, I suppose, under Nixon.

LeLevier:

Oh yes, they got too wound up in politics and policy.

Aaserud:

Of course Jason never went that high up in its advice. There was always —

LeLevier:

Well, DDR&E was —

Aaserud:

Yes, right.

LeLevier:

Although Caspar Weinberger talked to us a year or so ago.

Aaserud:

OK, so there are instances, it’s not just ARPA.

LeLevier:

No, no. No.

Aaserud:

Of course, the Vietnam thing, that was McNamara essentially.

LeLevier:

Sure.

Aaserud:

Well, are there other involvements that you have had that have gone that far up, that have not been limited to ARPA but have gone up higher?

LeLevier:

Yes, to the DDR&E level, to Johnny Foster. Harold Brown. But by and large, we don’t — if you don’t like a problem or the agency, you don’t want to work on it, you just don’t. See.

Aaserud:

In the first place, yes, so —

LeLevier:

An example of that was Vietnam.

Aaserud:

You said that Jason was unique because it was the cream of the crop.

LeLevier:

Those are my words.

Aaserud:

They consist essentially of theoretical physicists, not altogether, but that’s always been the majority —

LeLevier:

— yes — mathematicians — some computer scientists, (crosstalk) some biology, —

Aaserud:

— engineers — but the majority is certainly theoretical physicists. I mean, that seems to be limiting the group in the kinds of things that they can do. How is it that theoretical physicists can be so successful in such a large area of advising?

LeLevier:

How can it be?

Aaserud:

Yes, why theoretical physicists? Is that something that happened by chance?

LeLevier:

Well, you realize I have a bias — it’s because they’re damned smart, and they’re well-rounded, they’re used to taking problems, ferreting out the essence of the questions, and trying to answer them, in imaginative ways. Now, that doesn’t say a chemist can’t do that. But physicists seem to be fairly unique kinds of people. By that I mean also geophysicists. Gordon is a geophysicist. He’s probably one of the best physicists around. But that was a funny question.

Aaserud:

Yes. Well, you know, it’s only that it happened that it was the best people who went into theoretical physics. Or it could be that theoretical physics as a discipline is deeper going in some sense, and that by virtue of having that background, you also would become a better advisor. You know. Which of those is it, if any?

LeLevier:

Well, probably a combination.

Aaserud:

Yes. We talked about Jason as a springboard, and of course it hasn’t served like that for you in any way or has it?

LeLevier:

No. No. Not really. I’ve continued my research, and it overlaps as I said with Jason interests and vice versa.

Aaserud:

Because you were into that kind of advising before in Rand, which is like most of the other —

LeLevier:

— that’s right, and in R and D Associates especially with the Defense Nuclear Agency.

Aaserud:

Yes, later, of course. Has Jason led you to other kinds of advising activities?

LeLevier:

No.

Aaserud:

Has Jason been your exclusive involvement in that respect?

LeLevier:

Yes. I keep it that way on purpose.

Aaserud:

Yes, purposely so, not to divide too much, yes. OK, the crucial question is of course the impact that Jason has had, was their advice heeded? How as it heeded? Did that change over time? How important has Jason been in making advice that was brought into policy?

LeLevier:

Well, there you’re going to have to ask wiser heads in Jason, rather than questioning me. I don’t pay an awful lot of attention to policy matters. I know we’ve influenced the technical content of programs, and that’s where I think our useful role is.

Aaserud:

Yes, well, that’s influence in itself.

LeLevier:

And we have made recommendations that this program ought to be terminated, or this program should be accelerated. Now, it’s hard to come up with specific examples. That’s why I said, “Ask the Gordon McDonalds and Bill Nierenbergs of the world. You can get a better answer to that one.”

Aaserud:

Do you think it has been more efficient in advising for or advising against already existent proposals, or has it been more effective at coming up with its own new proposals for projects?

LeLevier:

Both. Particularly some of ARPA’s programs. We’ve just said, hey, this is a dumb thing to do; it’s never going to work. And boy, the program manager, when he hears that, boy, he doesn’t like it. We make a fair amount of enemies, and I think that’s to our credit.

Aaserud:

Yes. Well, if you don’t want to answer the impact question, you did suggest Gordon McDonald. Perhaps it would be worthwhile to go outside Jason to ask that question, to the agencies themselves.

LeLevier:

Sure.

Aaserud:

I did speak, as I said, with Steven Lukasik yesterday.

LeLevier:

What did Steve say? Did he think of any examples where we did anything useful?

Aaserud:

Well, he did mention Vietnam as an example. He said that was very important in setting the stage for a certain kind of weaponry, more than solving the Vietnam War, of course, but it started a new way of wise weapons or whatever.

LeLevier:

Smart weapons.

Aaserud:

Exactly. That was the example that he chose. He thought it would be better to talk with people who were more involved at the working level, like a program manager, to follow other projects from Jason into the policy world.

LeLevier:

Talk to Ray Chapman.

Aaserud:

Ray Chapman, right. He has been involved in that?

LeLevier:

Yes. He knows Jason and what they’ve done over the years. He can give you his insights as to the utility of stuff we’ve done.

Aaserud:

In what capacity has he —?

LeLevier:

He was at ARPA.

Aaserud:

Was he? Even as a program manager perhaps.

LeLevier:

Yes, in the good old days, the SeeSaw days.

Aaserud:

So he actually had close connection with the SeeSaw project.

LeLevier:

Yes.

Aaserud:

Oh, that’s good, that’s another reason for contacting him, yes. I’m going to have too much to do in Santa Barbara. So — well, we’ve been going on for a long time. I don’t know if you feel that the time has come to stop this.

LeLevier:

We’ve probably run out of useful things to say.

Aaserud:

I don’t know. What about the role of physicists generally in science and science advising? You see, my general project has to do with the role of physicists in science advising or science policy after World War II. To what extent does it make sense to pose that question? To what extent have physicists played a unique role, a particularly important role, and to what extent do they still?

LeLevier:

Well, they certainly played a unique role in the development of the atomic bomb.

Aaserud:

Definitely. But I’m talking about after World War II now.

LeLevier:

After World War II. Goodness. There’s a whole world of sensor technology that physicists and engineers have impacted — well, smart weapons. Comparisons of targets, profiles, and pick out targets, that sort of thing. Certainly, it’s not so much physicists, but in the whole area of artificial intelligence, and computers, that’s had a large impact.

Aaserud:

Physicists also more than computer scientists?

LeLevier:

Yes, physicists; mathematicians with a good physics background.

Aaserud:

Yes, but the physics of it is still crucial in that. OK, to wrap up, in a few words, what would you say that your Jason involvement has given you?

LeLevier:

Well, the stimulation of working with bright people, working on problems of what are considered to be national importance, and I find that very satisfying. And we did that at Rand. We did that at RDA. We’re doing that here at EOS. And Jason has always been an avenue where I had interaction with the university community, and I really benefited from that.

Aaserud:

Yes, that has been your contact point of course with that, and theirs with you too, of course.

LeLevier:

I guess, since I’m still a member.

Aaserud:

Right. OK, thank you.

LeLevier:

Very good.