Robert Diebold

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ORAL HISTORIES
Interviewed by
Michael Riordan
Interview date
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Interview of Robert Diebold by Michael Riordan on April 20, 1995,
Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,
College Park, MD USA,
www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/48351

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Abstract

This interview with physicist Robert Diebold is part of a series conducted during research for the book Tunnel Visions, a history of the Superconducting Super Collider. In it, Diebold recalls his introduction to the SSC project at the 1982 Snowmass workshop and his subsequent move to the Department of Energy, as well as his perspective on the site-selection process for the SSC. He states that Texas was the standout site and that there was not a clear-cut second-place site, and he further notes that, while Texas had political advantages, the technical advantages of the site drove the high evaluation of it. Diebold also discusses differences in DOE oversight structures around the SSC under Energy Secretary John Herrington and Energy Secretary James Watkins, and the long effort to implement a cost-and-schedule-control system on the project. He reflects on how leadership of the SSC was structured and the people selected for key roles. The interview concludes with a discussion of factors driving cost increases on the project and their impact on relations between DOE and project leaders. Diebold posits that SSC Laboratory Director Roy Schwitters’s management style led to a deterioration in those relations.

Transcript

[Editor’s note: {Braces} indicate written comments inserted by Diebold in 2009.]

Riordan:

When did you first become involved in the SSC?

Diebold:

At the Snowmass 1982 summer study, where I headed up one of [Cornell accelerator physicist] Maury Tigner’s accelerator groups looking at the possibilities for a proton-proton collider at 10 to 20 TeV.

Riordan:

What was your position at that time? Where were you?

Diebold:

At that time, I was at Argonne National Laboratory.

Riordan:

When did you become involved in the Department of Energy?

Diebold:

After 1982, I was involved in several other of the {SSC} studies, {of} both accelerator and detectors, for the next two or three years. An on-going type of thing, DPF [the American Physical Society’s Division of Particles and Fields] studies. There was an accelerator workshop at Ann Arbor, where, again, I headed up an accelerator group involved in the detector-accelerator interface as well. It was finally the spring of 1985, ten years ago almost exactly, that I started coming to Washington as a detailee from ANL. I moved with my wife here in June 1985, and I was a detailee at the department working for Bill Wallenmeyer [ed., then Director of the DOE High Energy Physics program] until the fall of 1987, when I actually became a federal employee at that time, as the division director for the SSC division under Bill Hess [ed., then Director of the DOE Office of High-Energy and Nuclear Physics].

Riordan:

At that time, that was seen as the office under Hess that was going to manage the SSC? Is that correct?

Diebold:

Yes.

Riordan:

In other words, the principal line of authority would have gone from the Director of the SSC, yet to be named, through you, through Hess, through the rest of the DOE hierarchy. Isn’t that the original construction? At what point were you working… Was Wallenmeyer still at the Department of Energy at the time?

Diebold:

Yes. He left at about the time I came on board as a DOE employee. So, he was my boss for a couple of years there {while I was a detailee}, about two and a half years. I was working for him. Myself, Ray Fricken, and Joyce Lewis were basically the SSC office within Wallenmeyer’s HEP division during that time. Towards the end of [that period] — I guess it was in January 1987 when Reagan announced that he was backing the project… It was in the spring of 1987 that I started on the site-selection process.

Riordan:

Were you very much involved in that?

Diebold:

Yes. I wasn’t officially a member of the task force that was doing that. Hess was the director of the DOE’s SSC Site Task Force. At any rate, he was the overall manager of the site-selection process, with Ed Temple as the Executive Director. So, we had Temple who did the day-to-day type of things. Quite a task group of, I don’t know, twenty or so people who were involved at one time. {Ten members of the DOE Task Force plus thirty-seven others listed as technical support and advisers.} I guess it was late 1987 that the National Academy committee looked at the 36 or so sites [ed., submitted by the states interested in hosting the SSC], and then it must have been the fall of 1988, at which time I was a federal employee, when the actual site visits took place. Eventually the decision…

Riordan:

…came down to the reduced set {of eight best-qualified sites selected by the NAS committee, of which one dropped out, leaving seven}.

Diebold:

Yes, to the reduced set. So, I was involved in the site visits, and was a consultant. I participated in the discussions with Temple and Bill Hess’s group.

Riordan:

Was it fairly clear early on that there were two really good tentative sites, namely Fermilab and Dallas?

Diebold:

I wouldn’t put it that way, no.

Riordan:

When did it become …?

Diebold:

Well, we went around and visited the half a dozen sites. Seven sites at that time were still in the running, and we evaluated them on a half a dozen criteria starting with geology and working on down. It was clear from the Texas site visit that that was a very good site. We always had the Illinois site in mind because it had the injector [ed., the Fermilab Tevatron]. But it was not in fact… It ended up with Texas being far and away the best site from the technical and socioeconomic standpoint — airports and all of that. That was far and away the best site, and if you tried in some sense to rank the other sites, there were two or three sites that in some sense came in second place. You can look at the report that came out from that group of seven and try to give them their scores from outstanding and excellent to good and so on. But in fact, it may have been one of the other sites [that came in second]. Tennessee came in very good. {According to my own calculations; it looks like Tennessee came in second, but that depends on the weighting used.}

Riordan:

You are saying it was Texas and then…

Diebold:

And then a grouping of some of the others.

Riordan:

Illinois was among that grouping.

Diebold:

It was not that Illinois was a clear-cut second choice, I would say. In retrospect, we certainly did not give enough weight to having an existing lab. Of course, both Panofsky and in particular Wilson had to cope with setting up a new lab [ed., when they were the founding directors of SLAC and Fermilab, respectively], and again maybe Wilson made it look too easy. Somehow, he was able to do it in the arctic wastelands, as many of the Californians at the time referred to Illinois. But he was able to attract good people, got organized, got the site going, had the linac [ed., the linear accelerator used to boost protons to sufficient energies for injection into the ring] up and running within a very — relatively, in retrospect rather — short time. If the SSC had been working on that scale, we would have had the linac running for a year or two before the demise. Not just the source and the RF tubes but the whole linac at that time.

Riordan:

So, you’re saying that, in retrospect, you didn’t put an appropriate dollar value on the whole injector.

Diebold:

Yes. That’s right. The conceptual design for it took the costs that were attributable for the injector system and to setting up a new set of buildings, things of that sort. They added up those costs, and I don’t know, it was three or four hundred million dollars [ed., It was the (Robert) Siemann panel that established the value of the existing Fermilab infrastructure.] {DOE Report No. DOE/ER-0392, p. 99 shows a credit for Fermilab facilities of $495 million to $1,033 million.} That did not include the land, because the state was going to supply the land wherever we went. Of course, that was for only a 1 TeV injector, which was the design at the time. Certainly, setting up a new lab was distracting, especially given the weak management structure of the SSC Lab. It was so distracting that it really slowed down getting things rolling enormously. If there had been an existing lab with an existing infrastructure, a lot of that would have taken place automatically. {The lack of infrastructure in Texas turned out to be very important (even though one would have thought that URA [Universities Research Association] should have been able to set up procurement, financial, etc., systems quickly based on those at Fermilab).}

Riordan:

You’ve got the cost-control people and the systems engineers and all of that.

Diebold:

Right. Procurement. It took quite a while to get a procurement system set up that was decent. Even though Fermilab had a procurement operation that had been running for years, somehow it took URA a long time to get one set up down in Texas.

Riordan:

If you had to pick a number out of thin air, what was the value of all of those intangibles, now that you have hindsight? Can you?

Diebold:

No, I don’t think so. What’s the value of having a good procurement system? It’s hard to put a number on that. It was a distraction for DOE and for the lab itself. The lab was tied up and couldn’t buy things in an expeditious manner. How can you put a number on that?

Riordan:

If I were to grab the number $1 billion out of thin air, would you say that’s too high or too low?

Diebold:

You mean that, instead of the $300 million, we should have credited $1 billion? That’s probably the round number that would be appropriate. That’s what the cost estimate was after the 2 TeV injector was costed out, the cost that we looked at in the summer of 1990. I don’t remember that off the top of my head, but it’s all there.

Riordan:

All right. Then let’s move ahead to when the Texas site was chosen. I presume you were not at all surprised when the Texas choice was made.

Diebold:

Right. Technically, as I said, it was far and away the best site. And also politically, it was clearly the best site in that they were offering [to contribute] a billion dollars. They had strong congressmen, a Vice President [George H. W. Bush], and the whole shmeer. The two things fit together. There have been a lot of cynics, of course, who have said it was picked because of politics. But from where I stood, that did not enter into the discussions of the Temple-Hess committee. {The} people {on the committee} were really engineers looking at rocks [geology], and at where the airports were, and things of that sort.

Riordan:

But wasn’t the Temple-Hess committee — and I remember this green booklet that rated the various sites — using a set of criteria, establishing a set of qualifications to present to top DOE management, which would then make the decision? Do you believe the decision was made based on those qualifications, or did politics enter into the equation to some extent in the final choice?

Diebold:

There’s nothing to distinguish between those two choices because the report said, and I think correctly, that technically this was the best site. And if I had been [Energy Secretary] Herrington, or whoever was making the decision, [Texas] was the choice that I would have wanted to have made anyway.

Riordan:

Technically the best site.

Diebold:

Yes. So, am I making the choice because of the politics or the technical aspects, or of the two fitting together? There wasn’t a choice from that point of view because they both fit nicely. That question would only make sense if somehow Texas had not been the best technically. And comparing the positive political aspects that came with Texas in spite of its hypothetically inferior site, then that question would have made sense. In this case, they didn’t have to. It was a no-brainer. They dovetailed together.

Riordan:

Where, specifically, do you think that the Fermilab site was inferior, in what area or areas?

Diebold:

Well, the geology wasn’t quite as good. It was quite a bit wetter. You had to go deeper. The existing site gave you certain constraints. It was clear that the surrounding community had a lot of vocal opposition to it — an awful lot. That entered only indirectly into these criteria, the local opposition. There were socioeconomic things that blurred with that: how many people you’d have to move, or tunnel under, or what have you. There were more of those people in Illinois than in Texas. So, certainly, that indirectly weighed on people’s minds. The local opposition, whether you’d be tied up a long time. There were all sorts of things such as geology. The geology was good, but it wasn’t as good as in Texas. {I remembered wrong. The geology and tunneling at both sites was deemed “outstanding,” although they differed on some of the sub-criteria; Illinois did worse than Texas on “environment” and “setting’ criteria.”}

Riordan:

So really those two, geology and the local opposition.

Diebold:

Also, at the time we had thought that one would be able to build the machine slightly out of [a level] plane through a small amount of brain power {for a slightly more complex geometry}. That also entered also into the decisions. In Texas there was, as you know, some very good geology and some only so-so geology. We had thought they would be able the keep the tunnels in the good geology. That’s what the Texans had originally proposed. The Texans proposed a different plane. It looked like that was going to be close, but we figured that you could always take it slightly out of the plane with a machine. As it turned out, [SSC Laboratory Director] Roy Schwitters’s technical design group refused to consider such a thing; they insisted on staying in the level plane.

Riordan:

And going into the…

Diebold:

Which meant that the tunnel went into the marl and shale, and also that they moved the ring around somewhat such that, although it was underground, it was then going under a lot of peoples’ property instead of just farmland. So, it made it somewhat harder for the state of Texas to get the land. An unnecessary complication, I believe, because only allowing a level geometry makes siting the accelerator more complicated. It’s a trade-off with pitfalls and complications, but that was a trade-off that the Schwitters group refused to consider and actually stiff-armed the Department [of Energy] on.

Riordan:

Okay. I didn’t realize that. Anyway, going back a little bit in time to early 1989 after the decision for Texas was in — this was also the same time they were making the transition from the Reagan to the Bush administration. Was there any change in going from Herrington to [Energy Secretary Admiral James] Watkins that you noticed, in terms of the management of the project?

Diebold:

There had been relationships built up with Herrington and [DOE Under Secretary Joseph] Salgado. Salgado had a staff person whose job was only to look after SSC.

Riordan:

Who was that?

Diebold:

Gigi [Regina] Borchard. She eventually after went out to work for… She was a political appointee. Her family was friends with the Reagans.

Riordan:

I think I know her.

Diebold:

She was twenty-six at the time. With a name like that, it was hard to take her seriously, but in fact she was a smart, intelligent young person like many of the staffers you might meet up on the Hill.

Riordan:

Did she get married and become Gigi Coe? I think I met her. I remember that Martin Marietta had a woman working for it named Gigi Coe.

Diebold:

Okay. Could be. At any rate, I don’t think she was totally busy. That was her only job, to be the liaison between the SSC and Salgado. And I think that helped. She was a fairly reasonable person, fairly sharp, didn’t try to get in and meddle, but she would pass information along. Then we had a new bunch of people come in and take a while to get up to speed. In that case… I can’t recall the name of the guy from Louisiana who was the Deputy Secretary…

Riordan:

Oh, Henson Moore.

Diebold:

Moore, and he had a guy named Jay Stone as his staffer, who looked after the SSC, but it was far from full-time. When he did, it was a more active role that he played. He didn’t really know what he was doing, but that didn’t stop him from playing a more active role. At that time Garry Gibbs — whom you had listed as somebody to talk to — was the guy downtown [ed., in the Forrestal Building headquarters of the DOE in Washington, D.C.]. At that time, he was the Acting Associate Director for the SSC.

Riordan:

That’s the question that I wanted to get to. At what point did they decide that the management of the SSC was going to be done, not through Hess’s office, but directly through the Office of Energy Research (OER). There was a separate…

Diebold:

Well, [Office of Energy Research Director] Bob Hunter decided that it [the SSC project] needed to be elevated to a more direct report to himself, I guess. So, he talked to the OER management people and set up a new structure, namely with an associate directorship, and that of course had to go through the various hurdles of approval for a new structure. Eventually, Hess and I were filled in on this plan, but not until it had been in the works for some time.

Riordan:

So, you didn’t have much input to this decision? This was done back under the Herrington administration? Hunter was a Herrington man, right? Or did he stay on for a while?

Diebold:

Oh, god, it must have been under Herrington, yes. It was certainly under Herrington. Absolutely. And Hunter was a very smart guy, very intelligent — smart, but not wise. And his people skills were awful: abrasive, somewhat inarticulate. He was in there on a political appointment, but this one was more political than others. His brother was a Republican congressman [Duncan L. Hunter]. He had his own high-tech firm using lasers [ed., Western Research, near San Diego]. It’s good he had a technical background. He realized very early on that the SSC Laboratory needed a cost-and-schedule-control system. The CS-squared thing. He started ordering URA to “get one!” Of course, URA ignored him.

Riordan:

In 1987 or 1988?

Diebold:

No, I’m trying to think when that would have been. That would have been shortly after the lab began. That would have been like February 1989, or maybe a bit earlier. {The Office of the SSC was officially set up as separate from the Office of High Energy and Nuclear Physics (which was then under Wilmot Hess) in early 1989.}

Riordan:

Okay, so he did stay on a little bit into the Bush administration?

Diebold:

He must have, because… Yes, maybe it was. He was Republican, but of course Bush was also Republican. Yes, it was within a month or two after URA had come on board. Here was Bob Hunter demanding that indeed they needed to get their CS-squared system going. {He thought} it was going to take them several months to get it going. It turned out that it took years and years. He knew from experience in the past, where he had his little high-tech firm that had done work for DOD, that you needed to have this system in place. People were going to want to know how well you were doing, and want to be able to audit you, and verify that you were making progress and on schedule and costs and what have you. Doug Pewitt was around at that time down at the Lab as an associate director. Pewitt had worked in Hunter’s firm previously. [ed., Pewitt had also previously worked in the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of Energy, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.]

Riordan:

Oh, I didn’t know that.

Diebold:

And they had parted, apparently, with some ill feeling.

Riordan:

As often is the case, isn’t it?

Diebold:

Yes. Like I said, Hunter was somewhat abrasive and not the best people person. And you might say that about Mr. Pewitt, too, who had been [OER Director] John Deutch’s deputy [in the DOE Office of Energy Research during the late 1970s].

Riordan:

I hear he’s down in Dallas, or something like that.

Diebold:

Yes, Doug Pewitt, last I heard, is still in the Dallas area. Yes, he is one of the names I have on my list that you certainly should talk to. He eventually got fired by Schwitters.

Riordan:

Yes, on an issue that, I understand, was really the focal point of the effort to put together the URA management team — the SSC management team, I should say.

Diebold:

Yes, I guess he was involved in writing the proposal that the URA presented to the department.

Riordan:

Although you wouldn’t have seen much of that. There is one statement that I should check that I’ve heard from a number of sources, which had to do with the selection of the SSC Director. I have heard from several places that the DOE, through the offices of Salgado, had let it be known that they would not respond favorably to a proposal that had Maury Tigner as the Director. Do you have any knowledge of that?

Diebold:

I don’t know of Salgado’s views. I do know that Bill Hess and also the head of URA at the time, Ed Knapp, somehow felt that Tigner was not up to it in some sense. He was fine as a technical project director, but he wasn’t the guy to go out and charm Congress, and all that sort of thing.

Riordan:

This is something you probably know second-hand, or do you have first-hand knowledge of it?

Diebold:

Well, I guess I overheard conversations from Hess and from Knapp that they indicated that they both felt that way, which you should obviously talk directly to them about. Certainly Maury had done a good job on the project until that time. Ideally, I think it might have been a good idea, in fact, if somehow one had found a “front man” — Leon Lederman, say. People in retrospect wondered whether we should have gotten Leon in for a couple of years and have had him as a front man with Maury actually then doing…

Riordan:

Building the machines.

Diebold:

Making everything work in the back room, right. Somehow Wilson was able to do both things for a while, fairly successful. As we said earlier, this was a somewhat bigger project. Certainly, there was more scrutiny, more public interest, higher visibility. So, you maybe needed an outside-looking guy and an inside-looking guy. It often happens with a university president and the provost. Somehow, Mr. Schwitters wasn’t able to bring himself to give up any of his powers or responsibilities. Somebody like that… even though, for a very short time, Tigner was on board as his deputy. You obviously didn’t talk to Mr. Tigner, but when I asked him why did he leave — this was a couple of years after the fact — he said he sort of hung around for a few weeks, and Roy wasn’t giving him anything to do. So, he saw the handwriting on the wall, and he figured he’d go do something more useful somewhere else. I think that it was more complicated. But still, we could have realized something like that, management-sharing. And Roy’s interest was in being an outside person. He loved rubbing elbows with football stars or whoever, congressmen.

Riordan:

Texas billionaires.

Diebold:

Yes, he liked that, but the project suffered because there wasn’t a Maury Tigner sitting there with this project-management responsibility, making things happen. When Doug Pewitt tried to take over some of that responsibility — because it was a vacuum, and nobody was doing it — he got his ass fired.

Riordan:

Anyway, I want to get back to the DOE and the process of setting up of this management structure — this associate directorship. Were you one of the people that applied for that position?

Diebold:

Yes. I guess there were a lot of people that applied, and somehow it sat there for a long time. They got the applications and didn’t find anybody that the DOE management liked who was appropriate.

Riordan:

The DOE management, meaning Secretary James Watkins, or…

Diebold:

Well, I suppose it was first the ER management, Jim Decker being the common denominator throughout. The Hunters of the world came and went. It may have been Decker… Certainly during some of that time Decker was the Acting Director of Energy Research. [ed., after Hunter left later in 1989 until Princeton physics professor William Happer was confirmed in 1991.] But at any rate, I’m sure it was done in consultation with whomever — Salgado or Henson Moore.

Riordan:

Do you recall who applied from the high-energy physics community?

Diebold:

I think Paul Reardon was one of those who was on a short list. Actually, he was in that session today, sitting there just ahead of me.

Riordan:

Really? I didn’t see him.

Diebold:

For a while at least.

Riordan:

I should track him down.

Diebold:

So, he was considered for the post. He might have done pretty well. Garry Gibbs was the Acting Associate Director for quite some time. Even after Joe Cipriano was brought on board and was down in Texas — where not only Cipriano worked for Gibbs, but in fact Cipriano had direct connections to the Admiral [Watkins]. That was a little awkward for a while. Eventually, Cipriano was made the Associate Director for the SSC.

Riordan:

And Gibbs did not come from any physics…

Diebold:

Technical? He does have a degree in physics. He knows something about lasers. He had worked at DOE for quite some time. I think he got started in the project-management area, along with Ed Temple. They were colleagues for a short period, and then he went and worked on using lasers for fusion, I think. Then eventually during the transition to the Bush/Watkins administration… At that time, he was working up in the Secretary’s office, looking at the project. Just before the Reagan administration guys went out the door, they made him the Deputy Associate Director for the SSC, to give him a holding place because he had been doing good service. And then, eventually, when he ran out of things to do in the front office, which was largely looking after correspondence, he dropped back to the only home that he had, this SSC project. He did not have a background, obviously, in high-energy physics or accelerators or anything of that sort.

Riordan:

Why do you think the candidates from high-energy physics — namely, you, Paul Reardon, and I heard that Hess was also interested in the position if he was not going to have it under him — why was not one of them chosen?

Diebold:

Well, you’d have to ask somebody like Decker. Apparently, they wanted somebody who was probably more forceful, or whatever — a good, strong manager. I think what they were looking for was a strong manager type. Reardon is a pretty good manager, at least he had been. He didn’t do quite so well with the SSC, but whether that was Schwitters’s fault or Reardon’s, or some combination… Nobody did well in that project manager role at the SSC under Schwitters. {Well, John Rees did okay.} I think they [ed., the DOE management] were looking for a strong manager, and they didn’t see me or Reardon as strong enough, or whomever else.

Riordan:

Do you think it had anything to do with the lack of large project-management experience?

Diebold:

That’s probably part of it, yes. They were looking for somebody who had managed billion-dollar projects.

Riordan:

I’m looking ahead to selection of Joe Cipriano, who obviously had managed $16 billion worth of projects at the Department of the Navy.

Diebold:

Yes, they were looking for somebody with a track record of having managed billion-dollar projects. In high-energy physics, we didn’t have very many of those guys. They were largely retired. Or maybe, even arguably, there weren’t any five- or ten-billion-dollar projects. Even in inflated dollars, Fermilab was a bit under a billion.

Riordan:

In 1985 dollars.

Diebold:

And Wilson had retired by that time anyway. Panofsky had retired. Lederman hadn’t really managed a big project. He’d run a lab, but it wasn’t a big project.

Riordan:

Do you think Watkins participated in that decision to any extent? In other words, was his hand as incoming Secretary evident in any of this? Or do you think it was all done down at the OER level?

Diebold:

Well, you’d have to look carefully at exact time scales. Certainly, the high-level officials in DOE wanted somebody with more project experience, especially Watkins and company. They believed that you ought to have somebody who managed big projects. Of course, the biggest projects had been managed by DOD. So, that was the natural place where they went and looked. They didn’t believe that fuzzy-headed physicists could manage big projects. You needed a professional project manager, an engineer type or whatever, rather than an academic physicist, which they saw all physicists as being, at least high-energy physicists.

Riordan:

How did you feel about this decision at that time?

Diebold:

Well, I was disappointed. It caught me a little by surprise that we were first separated off from Bill Hess. [ed., that the SSC project office was removed from under Hess’s purview.] Disappointed, of course, that somehow in the process, it lessened my role in the thing.

Riordan:

Could you have, for example, become the Deputy Director instead of Garry Gibbs? In other words, why at the time not make a transition from Germantown to the Forrestal Building? [ed., Most of the Office of Energy Research staff, including Diebold, Hess, and Wallenmeyer, worked in the DOE offices in Germantown, Maryland, outside of Washington, D.C.]

Diebold:

Well, Garry had been made the deputy, as I said, partly because they needed a place to put him. OER went along with that, and they had a deputy. He was the guy down there at Forrestal. Eventually, he got fairly summarily banished out to Germantown. The incident that apparently caused this was probably not a really good reason for having banished him. But it was maybe the straw that broke the camel’s back. They were looking for an excuse. He was in a difficult position. He had Salgado [ed., Henson Moore, see below] making demands on one side, and yet on the other he was working for OER, and Salgado wanted to get something through the OER bureaucracy in an hour’s time — which often would take days, weeks, months even. You know, he had to deal directly with Salgado, and that didn’t leave the OER guys too happy at times. Sometimes, even when he had a week or two, he would get the thing done instantly and up on the OER desk, and then it would sit on the OER desk for a long time. Then, Garry Gibbs would get blamed because the thing was late.

Riordan:

This is still in the Salgado era, or were you talking about Henson Moore?

Diebold:

No, this was Henson Moore. If I said Salgado, I misspoke. No, this was Henson Moore.

Riordan:

The reason that I’m asking some of these questions is because John Metzler [ed., who worked with Diebold in the SSC office, mainly on foreign affairs] made a point, which sounded quite valid, that there was a vacuum in terms of high-energy physicists — or people with close connections to the high-energy physics community — in this new office that had been created. One of the points he was making was that this allowed certain numbers and assumptions in the [1991] Green Book — where the cost of the SSC increased, I think, in the 1990 timeframe — to become cast in concrete without sufficient OER review. How does that accord with your memory? For example, the thing John was focusing on was the assumption implicit in the Green Book that 50% of the detector costs would come from foreign sources. And he said essentially that this decision was made… He felt that the decision was made in Henson Moore’s office without sufficient OER review because there really was this vacuum.

Diebold:

Well, it probably was, but if we were indeed going to get major international participation, then somehow figuring that half of the physicists involved on these detectors would have come from abroad was not a bad assumption. You can go look at where the GEM and SDC experiments [ed., the large collider-detectors being designed for the major SSC experiments] finally got to, but I think it wasn’t too far off from half of their physicists coming from abroad, so you might have expected half the components to come from abroad, just between CERN and here. So, I don’t see that as a terribly… Even if high-energy physicists had been involved in this decision, the result might never well have come out that way. But you’re probably right that the figure was something that was decided upon from above, and it wasn’t totally unreasonable.

Riordan:

But he stated this from the standpoint, not of talking with physicists, but from going around to the science ministries and in the international arena, trying to pin down what was going to be available — learning from the Europeans how tight the situation was.

Diebold:

Of course, the problem was that the Europeans wanted to do the Large Hadron Collider, and so they were constrained to support the LHC and couldn’t really support the SSC. So, that was a fundamental catch-22.

Riordan:

His conclusion from talking with people that had their hands on the purse strings was that 25% of the detector costs was a more reasonable number.

Diebold:

It might well have been. As it turned out… Well, once you go look and see, and we’ve got it, it’s just that I’ve forgotten it for a couple of years, what the final version was. The documents indicate how much they believed that these two collaborations weren’t going to be able to get [the projected foreign contributions]. It may be closer to a quarter than a half [of the total detector costs].

Riordan:

I notice I’m getting close to the end of the tape, so I’d like to ask you one final general question. To me, one of the key watersheds — or perhaps one could call it a mistake — was when the cost increase came in, going from $5.9 billion, which was authorized in the House, to eventually $8.2 billion, which I think was cast in concrete by the end of 1990 or so. Can you tell me your feeling about that, having had one foot in the world of DOE, which I know at the very highest levels was quite upset when this cost increase came in, and having the other foot in the high-energy physics world? How important was that cost increase?

Diebold:

Well, they’re very attached. First, was it really needed? Part of what drove that, I believe, was that Roy and [SSC accelerator lead] Helen Edwards wanted to make it their machine rather than the Tigner design. Yes, it would have been a better machine with double the injection energy and bigger magnets. That’s the design. It would have been a better machine. The question is, “Would it have been good enough with the old design?” I would say that it was never really proven that it wasn’t good enough. Did it make a big impact eventually in getting us killed? Well, yes, to the extent that we got killed largely for budgetary reasons, and that it was perceived at least that these costs were out of control. They had increased to well, $11–13 billion. People were using fairly wild numbers, and they were starting from the $3 billion or $4 billion level, which was comparing apples to rutabagas. Every year, more dollars, etc. But that was one of the factors that got us from $4 billion to $13 billion. But it was only two out of many billions {of apparent cost increases, including inflation and whether detectors were included}.

Riordan:

For example, was this event a key factor in what could be perceived as Watkins’s decision to micromanage the project? Did he have a more hands-off attitude before that? And after that cost increase, did he decide he really had to put his own people within the URA management and that the DOE site office in Dallas had to keep a really close watch on the project?

Diebold:

I don’t know. I don’t have a good lead on that. It must have worked in that direction, certainly — that the cost increase alerted him that he was going to have to keep a close eye on it. Indeed, there were other flaps. The conventional construction numbers were getting out of hand at one point. Henson Moore fired off a stiff letter, of which I’m sure you know about. So that must have contributed to their realization that the SSC management needed closer attention.

Riordan:

Would it be fair to say that the relationship between the DOE and the physicists changed at that point, from a cooperative to a more adversarial relationship, or was that gradual?

Diebold:

That was quite sudden. That was when Schwitters took over.

Riordan:

Really?

Diebold:

Yes. Tigner tried to cooperate with us the best he could. He made reasonable arguments. We would try to listen to him. He tried to cooperate. He did a good job. He got out a good report and so on. Roy came in, and he wanted to put his own stamp on it. He didn’t want the CDG folks. He didn’t want DOE breathing down his neck, micromanaging him. So, he put up a high wall to try to keep that from happening, and things went from bad to worse in a hurry. That’s when the difference came.

Riordan:

That’s very interesting. I had always in my mind placed the big divide at the cost increase, which was part of the Schwitters management process, but you’re really pushing it earlier. Good. Well, the tape is about to run off its header anyway. Why don’t we end here and pick this up again when I come out to Germantown?

Diebold:

Okay. You really need to talk to Ed Temple and Dan Lehman and Joyce Lewis, whose names were not on your list, I believe.