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Interview of Richard Garwin by Finn Aaserud on 1991 June 24,
Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,
College Park, MD USA,
For multiple citations, "AIP" is the preferred abbreviation for the location.
Focused interview on Garwin's work with JASON. Discussion includes: origin of JASON; funding; problems of access to documents; JASON reports; the electronic battlefield and sensors in Vietnam, 1967; arms limitation (U.S. Navy); and JASON's administrative structure.
We are in Richard Garwin's office on the 24th of June 1991. I would like to talk about JASON specifically this time, whereas we concentrated on your whole career the last time. I will let some of my questions at least be guided by some documentation that I have obtained during my research so that there's some specificity to this, because it's very hard to remember specific dates so far back in time and to connect what was JASON and what was not JASON and all that. I am presently writing up an article on the origins of JASON and there are at least two stories melding into one. One was John Wheeler's attempt to establish a national laboratory for basic science back in 1957–58 as a response to Sputnik, which really only led to Project 137 which was pursued in 1958 but which then turned out to be a precursor for JASON. On the other hand—and I have quite a lot of documentation for that-there was an independent development—I have been told in interviews—towards JASON from a little more below: the younger physicists who wanted to establish some kind of independent advising company or facility, represented in particular by Keith Brueckner, Marvin Goldberger and Kenneth Watson at Los Alamos. It was only after they had incorporated a company, I think, that they were guided by Charles Townes and others to go into IDA instead with their idea.
Yes, particularly Keith Brueckner and Ken Watson are entrepreneurial types, especially Keith. I don't think I was much involved in any of those activities. I was working for IBM, I was very busy in all of my activities at Los Alamos in the summer time, really doing what I could technically. There was no way I could make any money out of this, contrary to the other people so that wasn't involved for me. I didn't have large numbers of students. I wasn't a theoretical physicist, so it made it difficult for me to get away in the summer time and not difficult to work on various things. I was thoroughly involved with the government, both before Sputnik and after, working on air defense and strategic weaponry, and then post-Sputnik on intelligence matters for the President's Science Advisory Committee and things like that. I had more to do than I could manage. I am sure that I was as helpful as I could and encouraging to these people but I didn't play a leading role.
Did you spend time together with these people at Los Alamos during this period?
They weren't at Los Alamos very much. I was there every summer in the 1950s pretty much. I think Murph Goldberger and Ken Watson were there only one summer and I don't know that Keith Brueckner was there at all. He may have come through but that's my impression.
So that may have been the crucial summer of 1959 actually?
It probably was. In fact, the summer of 1959 I wasn't even there because my wife and I and our children were at CERN for a year in 1959–60. I missed out on that one.
Yes, because it's interesting to note that when Goldberger was writing about this to Wheeler in a letter in 1958-that's about Project 137 but it's the same kind of people who he wanted to have involved-he was addressing the question of whether it should be theoretical physicists or experimental physicists, for example. He found very few theoretical physicists who would be equipped for this-of course, excluding himself and a few others. He preferred experimental people-Richard Garwin and Bob Wilson, for example—to be involved in that kind of enterprise. So I suppose you must have been approached about these things but you did not take an active role.
No, and even when JASON was first formed. Because I was so much involved with the White House and because it had begun as an attempt to make an independent for-profit consulting company, I wasn't at all clear about the propriety of working with them. I couldn't be a part of it until I saw some years of experience as to how well it did and what it did. I mentioned that to you. So I would come and brief the JASONs a couple of times on various things but I was not a member.
So you think that this was a fairly unique response of those people?
Right. Hardly anybody else in industry and hardly anybody else involved with the White House thought this way.
Yes, but even at Los Alamos it was a fairly unique response.
That it was those three or two or whatever people.
That's right, because they were not from Los Alamos. They were just consultants to the laboratory. The people in the laboratory had a perfectly respectable life and they could do whatever they wanted. They didn't know much about Washington. They couldn't find their way to Washington, for the most part, in those days.
Conceivably there could have been some kind of general frustration about getting through with the advice that you felt that you were used the way the advisory technicalities worked at the time.
I think mostly it was the consultants who had that view and the people at the laboratory were just doing their thing.
Yes, well it could have come out of that because they have acted as consultants too, of course. Los Alamos might not have been the crucial background.
It was just getting together. Actually, we had been on the faculty of the University of Chicago together-Marvin Goldberger and I. He and I and Ed Adams and a couple of other people-maybe T. D. Lee had worked together in 1950 on some reactor questions for Nuclear Development Associates here in White Plains at the time-peaceful reactors. [PAUSE] I read a little article a couple months ago in the New York Times, maybe it was "About Men" or something like that. Anyhow, this author had known a person, an old man who had lived through some of the most interesting times and situations conceivable. He would talk to him but he never really had any interesting things to say-no insight or anything. I am afraid that is how it is with me.
Oh well. I am glad we can do this anyway. I am sure it is not wasted. Charles Townes wrote to Garrison Norton-Charles Townes was the new research vice-president, research head of IDA at the time and Garrison Norton was the president. Townes wrote to suggest the establishment of a JASON-like thing at the end of August 1959. He reports that he had discussed this extensively with Brueckner, Goldberger and Watson who were the main persons in this. They had suggested persons who might be interested in joining the group. You were among those. I don't know, of course, whether this is a guess on their part or whether this carried your signature or how serious it was.
They talked to me about it and I encouraged them. I had been working very hard for many years on questions of national security and public interest. I had tried informally to involve some of my friends. I remember feeling frustrated that Charlie Townes had so much to offer but he just didn't seem to want to do any of these things. I remember feeling that it was only when he got this high-paying job as Vice President of IDA that he went into the field. I guess you can't complain about that. That's the capitalistic system. We were working for $35 a day as consultants to the President's Science Advisory Committee.
Yes. Another person, of course, that was very strongly involved in this was Marvin Stern who went with Townes to Los Alamos for this visit. I don't know if that rings a bell with you.
I know Marvin Stern quite well. I have seen him over the years-probably a year ago.
But were you together with him in that connection?
Do you know what the day was?
It must have been in August 1959 but I do not know the exact day.
I wasn't there then because I was in Geneva, but I probably heard about it.
When did you go to Geneva?
I think it must have been July of 1959. I don't think I was at Los Alamos that summer.
You might be interested-let me give you this. On October 14, 1991 there is a day of discussion at Cornell because I am the Bethe lecturer this year. Carl Sagan and Jay Orear and I decided that we would have a symposium about Enrico Fermi.
That is interesting. But I will be back in Denmark by then unfortunately.
Anyhow it will be all recorded.
And published too, probably.
Much later, probably.
Yes. So that was the development from below so to speak. The development from above was through Project 137 and you were also suggested for that-I have a lot of documentation on the project by John Wheeler. He has a lot of papers on this. In June of 1958 you were suggested as a good candidate for participating in this. It seems to be reading like John Cosundstaedt (?) although Wheeler's handwriting is not always that legible. Does that tell you anything?
Did you participate in Project 137?
I don't think so, no.
That was in late July, early August of 1958.
Where was 137?
That was held in Washington at the National War College.
No, I don't think so. I was in Los Alamos that summer so I wouldn't have left my family.
I could have found that out. I just don't have the list of participants with me so I made it easy for myself by asking you. I mentioned this to you before but I could read the quote to you perhaps. Wheeler was the main person behind all this and Goldberger of course being one of his students was very interested too. He wrote extensively about his reaction to his experience there. He's writing, as I told you before: "The principal scientific personnel should, aside from chemists and biologists, be experimental physicists, primarily. The problems in theoretical physics are for the most part not deep ones. The superb would be Dick Garwin and Bob Wilson, both of whom are pretty good theorists, too."
So what he is saying is that it's pretty hard to isolate form these practical questions a real problem for theoretical physics. The problems are experimental systems and what-not. Of course, as you work on those things, sometimes you will isolate a theoretical problem but it doesn't come to you fully.
No, you cannot plan for that of course.
That's very interesting though because what has happened is that JASON is more largely theoretical physicists and scientists than experimental. I think that's a result of people-theorists-having become familiar with these problems so they look at the problems and then they can isolate things which can be attacked theoretically. In many cases there are also practical solutions, but it doesn't hurt to have the two going hand in hand and to have experimental insights that are then put on a sounder basis by theorists or are recognized as more general.
But would you think that any good theorist would be able to do this-or would some other skills be required? That is also what Goldberger is implying, I think, that a theorist is good as long as he has some feeling for this kind of problem.
If you have really smart people. Just because they're theoretical physicists doesn't mean that they don't have some other talents.
No, of course not.
I think some of them are pure theorists. They've never had previously any contact with experimental things, unlike Dick Feynman-you've read his books and you know his background. And occasionally you'll find other people who you'd never believe because of the things that they've accomplished in theory, but they also are very good machinists or whatever. What they needed was a set of interpreters-people who could really provide some insight, understanding and go part of the way toward a theoretical posing of problems.
It's very interesting, I think, but I don't know what can be made of the fact that I have found no similar group arising in any other environment than the American one. There have been attempts in other countries. Even JASON has tried to push the establishment of a similar group in Britain, for example.
There are several reasons. One is that it's in the United States largely that outsiders are allowed to have such access to secret materials and even politically sensitive materials. In most other countries if you are not part of the government you are not allowed to see anything that goes on. Even Canada and England are much more secretive than the United States that way. England has moved some distance toward such a system. For instance, they have chief scientific advisors in the Ministry of Defense who come from outside the community totally, in many cases. But they've not been able to make a consulting arrangement.
In fact, it's quite precarious in the United States because there is a matter of critical mass. You have to have a certain size in order to make an impact across the spectrum. In the United States we get most of our money in JASON through DARPA, and the other government activities give their money to DARPA. Many times we find that the most interesting problems, the ones on which we can be most productive, are not DARPA problems at all. So DARPA sometimes wonders why they have this administrative responsibility and the liability potentially of explaining to the Congress what's going on, and that they don't get much out of us. We're always trying to find real problems in DARPA. Furthermore, very often-
So there is that freedom?
I mean money is not spent for specific projects. ARPA does give a large amount of money for just general meetings and discussions, etc.
That's a kind of overhead. Everybody gives money and they understand that the way we work we have to spend money on meetings, inspection trips, general briefings, and so on. It's only a question of whether in the end they are repaid commensurate with the expenditure. Usually we will negotiate, resulting in an agenda for the year-topics to work on for each of the sponsors. So if we work on any of those and deliver, that's OK. Sometimes we will be in a position where we agree to do something, some particular thing, and then if we don't deliver insights and reports on that it's not good for us or for the people in the agency who have stood up for JASON. Finally, it's easier for an agency head or somebody high up in the agency to tell people "bring problems so that we can give them to the JASONs because we are paying them this money anyhow." That's easier than telling the people down in the ranks to "bring problems and money, because there are these smart people who might help you solve your problems."
Many people don't want their problems solved. Their problems are their security-their paycheck. If they did want their problems solved they have people with whom they are more familiar that they're likely to go out to and try to get to help solve their problems. It's not always an easy thing to have meaningful problems posed with enough freedom so that we can look at them.
But it is, after all, the purpose, or a great part of the purpose, of JASON to get that kind of independent judgment.
That's right. The agencies often don't want independent judgment. They want something typically at various levels which will support their projects and their program. For instance, very often it happens that people won't really tell us, they won't give us all the facts, because of classification or whatnot, and they will justify this by saying, "We don't want these imaginative people to be bound by the facts." I guess it was Isaac Newton who said that "If I've seen farther than others it's because I've stood on the shoulders of giants." If we have to start at ground level you build an awful long time in uncertain directions before you make an advance beyond what was known before. I think one can trust people with reputations in science that just because you show them one way to do something, they're not going to believe that's the only way. Rather, they will be challenged to do it another way. At least they will have that as an example and they can abandon an alternative right away if they can't make it do at least as well as the usual way.
Your point is that not everybody is thinking that way. Would it be possible that you give examples of that. You're talking in general terms now, of course. Are there agencies that are worse than others in that respect? Is there a case that would be interesting to look at as an example of that kind of problem?
In the early days, Stealth and counter-Stealth were handled that way in some cases. There are other problems of access. That is, the Navy has a set of clearances and they try very hard to keep the number of people with access to their programs to a minimum. But in some cases there is really no information there or when you get in you find it's not reliable information. No, I don't have any-my memory fails me about a discussable example.
Because the whole idea originally was that JASON should have a very broad access. It shouldn't be access for a particular purpose necessarily, it should be possible to ask questions about a range of problems.
That's right. That's gotten worse in the government as government has grown. One has a proliferation of boxes-that is, of limited access regions-so that it becomes more difficult also to have a collegial mode of operation of JASON. The Navy, as I say, is particularly bad that way. There's a large amount of anti-submarine warfare work and submarine security work done by JASON-we work on both sides of the house, that is to maintain the security of strategic submarines and to be able to find the submarines on demand. For many years, that work involving a substantial number of JASONs was really quite separate and had very little communication with the rest of the activity.
So that was not something that everybody could talk about over lunch at the JASON summer studies.
And there had come to be more compartmented work and things like that. Some of them for good reasons, but some of them not for good reasons.
Has that been a gradual development for the worse or has there been peaks-or how has that been? Did it start out like that?
It didn't start that way. There were some fields in intelligence, for instance, in which there was always limited access and there still is. Gradually there was a proliferation of these other things. The secular trend, and on top of that, there were times when things became tougher.
If I look at the first fifteen years of JASON, for example-which I do-does this development apply?
Oh yes. There was quite a lot during that period. The first fifteen years go from 1960 to 1975; Johnson and then the Nixon Administration and Ford.
We've gone a little farther in time then I had intended at this point but we could go back. You talked about reasons for not joining at the outset-that you were occupied with so many other activities. In that respect, I found another quotation interesting. I would just like to try it on you. It's a letter from Garrison Norton, the IDA head, to Betts, the ARPA head, dated 22 December 1959. He writes about JASON, "We had originally planned to recruit some members of the group from industry. To avoid any possibility of conflict of interest, however, as well as a possibility of criticism on the ground of alleged conflict of interest, we are now limiting our selection of members to persons from universities and other non-profit organizations." I would just ask whether you think it may not have been a reason for you personally not joining at the time. And do you think this was something that applied at the time and that it was an important reason for JASON having the academic membership that it has?
I think so. I think if you find experts in the aerospace industry people who earn their regular living by working in the fields in which JASON is to work, that would be an intolerable conflict of interest and appearance of conflict of interest. In fact one problem that has developed in JASON in the last decade or a little more is that people have worked so hard on many of these problems in JASON that they have changed their research orientation in some cases to work in this new field. So they become more expert of course, but at the same time there is this conflict. They write a book in their normal life using much of the phenomenology or the set of tools that they have derived or become familiar with in their JASON activity. It's not necessarily the best thing from that point of view. We've created our own new industry-academically based industry.
Yes, but there must be cases in which JASON work has affected academic work and vice versa.
Yes-affected academic work, at least. Of course, what people do in their research-the theoretical tools that they know-determines to some extent the problems in which they can be most effective. Because of my long involvement with the White House of a non-political nature and so on, I didn't have the usual problems associated with bringing people in. It wasn't that they were bringing me into the government activity. I was already involved in all of these sensitive things.
Yes, because the original motivation or one of the very important original motivations for establishing JASON was exactly to have that awareness on campus of military problems that might have some bearing on what they were doing on campus.
That's right, but also to have people who were knowledgeable and who could be called upon in time of need, whereas people in industry and in the defense laboratories might be too involved in their individual projects to give an independent overview.
Yes. But your reason for not joining JASON at that time was not connected to the conflict of interest problem?
You did mention that you had some JASON connection before joining, that you gave some briefings at Bowdoin or elsewhere. I would like you to be a little more specific on that if possible.
I talked to them about the ABM problems. We had studied such things on the strategic military panel in PSAC and I had my own way of looking at some of these questions so I thought I would go up and tell them what I thought. In particular, you can work a long time looking at the feasibility of discriminating decoys. But if you would just consider two aspects, namely putting the real warheads in a balloon and having a lot of balloon decoys just like that-so anti-simulation-that shortcuts a lot of analysis and test programs. And I just wanted to make sure they thought about that. The other aspect was MIRV-to have an all warhead missile so that every object would be identical and they would all be warheads and there wouldn't be any basis for discrimination. You would mix them-all warhead missiles and some all-decoy missiles and it wasn't a matter of comparing one at a time in a flight, you would have to compare from one flight to the next flight. They would then have a broadened spectrum of observables. They were simple things like that which seemed to me to be very powerful and that people often miss.
The first invitation I have come across in the JASON papers to you to participate is a letter from David Katcher, who was the executive secretary, from April 1963. "I understand that Murph has already asked you to the Jason meeting next week. I hasten to send you the program, etc." That may have had to do with that, in 1963 already.
Was that an on-and-off thing or was it limited to a one-time deal?
A couple of times maybe-I don't remember.
But then finally, in 1967 I think, you become a member. At least from 1967 are your first JASON reports with your name on them.
What were those-do you have the names?
Yes. I should have. I have them here. The first was from July 1967, "JASON Review of STRAT-X Report." That was Christofilos, Dashen, Garwin, Herbst, Kroll, LeLevier, Lewis, Treiman, Watson, Blankenbecler. In the same year, "JASON Laser Summer Study." That was Garwin, Kroll, LeLevier, and Townes. And then one by you alone [also 1967], "Mechanism for the Production of Submarines of an Observable Wake." I was hoping, but I don't know if you want to do that, to go through these so that you could comment on them. Of course, the problem is not only memory but also classification in these cases.
In the STRAT-X there was a big government report which was organized really very well and had a number of teams. I forget who the leader of the study was-a person who commanded a good deal of respect. They looked at questions of land-based and sea-based ballistic missiles. I guess STRAT-X considered also ballistic missile defense; maybe not. So there were the prospects for MX missiles at that time-essentially MX missiles. Especially on the sea-based side the proposal there-unfortunately which was not followed by the Navy-was for an Undersea Launched Missile System (ULMS). That had MIRVed missiles in canisters which would lie horizontally next to the submarines in the water and canisters would not be accessible during the entire deployment of the submarine. But it would at last free the submarines from having to have a diameter of the pressure hull about as big as the missiles were long and making different missiles for submarine deployment than for land deployment. Land-based missiles might be 70 feet long and sea based missiles might be 45 feet long just for that reason. That was really a good idea and Sid Drell and I later worked on it with other people in JASON in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In fact, we published our article in Technology Review in 1981 on the sea based missile system which used small submarines for such things. We nicknamed our system SUM, for "Small Unknown Missile Submarine. [PAUSE]
OK, we were talking about the JASON review of STRAT-X report.
Right. So you know, we had big missiles, and I looked at penetration aids and things like that and the big submarines with the "wooden round," the canisters of the missiles lying in the water, and so on. We did a review and wrote our view of it and what not.
That was a commissioned piece?
Yes, I got paid for that.
Yes, but I mean the agency came to you?
I don't know if that's actually how it happened. It may be like many of these things where we said, "How can you have a report like that without having our input-we ought to look at it," and they may have grudgingly said, "OK." Some of these things have to be fought hard that way but I don't remember about that. [Added 6/18/92. In fact, Sid Drell negotiated this directly with Bill Perry, DDRd in the Carter Administration, obtaining from Perry a letter stating that Drell and Garwin were sufficiently knowledgeable about Soviet anti-submarine warfare capability that their study should not be criticized on those grounds.]
How often happens the one and how often happens the other? Can you say anything about that?
We don't fight very hard very often. That happens rarely. Sometimes we'll have ideas and when they come to us and say they have these six things they'd like us to do, we say, "Well, there's this thing and this one has something in common-the one we want to do has something in common with that other one and we'll do a better job and here's why it is important." A case in point are the lasers-Charlie Townes is, of course, the inventor of the laser and we looked at various things that lasers would be useful for: ABM and various other things, fog clearing and what not, imaging. We essentially wrote a state of the art on what could be done. There were some high power lasers available in those days. In fact, astonishingly high steady powered-at that time AVCO had a 600 kilowatt gas dynamic laser. They had just been invented and it was a new way to most people of getting lasers. Instead of electrically pumping them or pumping with other lasers or whatever, you would prepare a population by the dynamics of burning and gas flow and cooling. Some of the degrees of freedom would be cooled more rapidly than others, so that you would have a population inversion. Carbon dioxide is a very good system adaptable to the gas dynamic laser. The question was, "What can be done?" and "What's the ultimate in gas dynamic lasers?" and "What's the beam quality?" and "What are the other applications?" I looked at that. Then we looked at-and I remember doing this myself-if lasers were going to be used for ABM, what kind of counter measures could be used? What kind of corner reflectors or whatever would do a good job against these lasers? There are things that can be done there. And, what kind of Stealth could be used (before the word was invented for this purpose) against lasers? So we wrote a paper. It wasn't the be-all and end-all of lasers but it was just current.
On the submarine wake, it was just something which I had observed so I did a simple calculation to show how it would come about. Unfortunately these topics come and go in sensitivity. Something that was perfectly reasonable and obvious then may have been more highly classified later on and they didn't tell me about it so I can't talk about that one.
They seem to be at least three very different studies, the origins of which are very different. The first one sort of a limited commissioned piece. The second one a state of the art kind of report. And the third one a problem or an idea on your part. Is this the variety of the kind of reports that come out of JASON or could there be more or less? How representative are each of these?
When you say "are," it has been developed more since. Sometimes people will have a little idea. For instance, Will Happer-who is going to be the new Assistant Secretary of Energy or maybe Undersecretary for Research and Development...
-he decided, yes-
... is a very ingenious person and he'll occasionally write a JASON paper just because he happened to be thinking about a problem and he'll have an answer to it. It may have been provoked by exposure to some problem but nobody asked for that particular solution. I have many of those. For instance I have a number of unclassified papers. One is called "Fish Ragu"-to give a submarine a little battery-operated fish that swims out from a hanger on the submarine deck and will swim along with the submarine at high speed. It will only swim along with it for half an hour before it needs to be replaced by another fish while it's getting charged up. But at low speed it will swim around all day and could be used for all kinds of things, like going up to the surface and listening to the radio there and then sending the information down on megahertz acoustics links which cannot be heard at any significant distance because of attenuation. You can go out and you can check the submarine radiated noise and do useful things as sonar auxiliaries. That was long ago I guess.
When it came time to do our little small submarine strategic study in the late 1970s-how to deploy the MX-it turned out that one of the big problems is communicating with submarines. So this fish (communications fish) is one solution and another solution was to throw out individual buoys connected by fiber optic line which would float up to the surface and you would pay out the line as you went. There would be so many of these around that just because somebody saw a buoy doesn't mean there is a submarine attached to it and all that. These things build up a legacy in the literature but also in people's heads if they are around long enough.
I had another one, for instance, "bombs that squeak." A lot of what you see is a big demand for bomb damage assessment and what not. People wanted to make reconnaissance-strike nuclear aircraft, the main purpose of which was to go over the Soviet Union and see which places did not have our bombs exploding on them so they could deliver a nuclear weapon. Well, all you really need to do is to observe our own nuclear weapon explosions. You know exactly when and where they are supposed to happen and so you only need to look to see whether it did happen and to confirm the location to hundreds of meters. In fact, we have that now on the nuclear detection system-formerly IONDS-which is deployed among other satellites on the GPS satellites. But if you really wanted to know to within meters or tens of meters accuracy you could fit each nuclear weapon with a high-explosive powered generator of microwaves and give each a coded pulse and have a special set of little satellites such that the position of the explosion could be determined by time difference of arrivals-sort of an inverted global positioning system. That would help a lot, obviously, if you require 95% probability of destroying a target and your weapons are only 80% effective-then you need to send three weapons at a target. And you're still not sure of having destroyed it. Whereas otherwise you need 1.25 weapons; that is, you send the first and if your detection system doesn't show it exploding within the desired distance you send a second. But the .8 means you need 1.25 instead of three. So that's a very big multiplier. There are little ideas like that that you tend to write up and send to an appropriate sponsor although it's not clear that they do any good.
Have you ever followed up the action on those suggestions? Are they appreciated or acted on?
Well, rarely. Mostly they may get into people's consciousness and so I notice that the hockey puck connected with fiber optic line is being proposed by other people, but who knows that had been first there either. That's not the point.
I mean it's the added communication problem of having the people in power appreciate that this actually works.
Sometimes people in power do, but people at working level rarely do unless it solves some problem that's holding them up. There is the Journal of Defense Research which is a very useful publication in my opinion (and which I helped to create) but it's classified. You can't publish an unclassified paper in it. As a matter of principle, I am against classifying things that shouldn't be classified. Although you could write something a little bit classified just in order to get it into the JDR and have people read it-have it indexed. I don't like to do that.
No. As I said, it seems that you became a member in 1967. I don't know if you have any independent memory or documentation on that or whether you accept that assumption. At the Steering Committee meeting on 10 December 1967 you were referred to as a prospective Steering Committee member. So you rose fast in the ranks in JASON it seems. Do you remember whatever that means-to be a prospective Steering Committee member?
The Steering Committee is the organization that nominally runs JASON and the "chairman" of JASON is the chairman of the Steering Committee but actually so long as he is doing a reasonable job he is left to do that. Then the Steering Committee elects a new JASON chairman every once in a while. I wrote the Constitution; I think I wrote two successive versions of the Constitution. To be a the prospective Steering Committee member just means that they're looking for people who look as if they will be reasonable Steering Committee members. There is no candidature involved!
Right. I just hadn't seen the term previously-is it part of the Constitution?
I mean, are people tried as Steering Committee members?
No, it's not probationary. It just means that we're thinking about it and next time we come in and elect Steering Committee members this is a prospect, so let's think about it-that's all. The reason that it was possible for me immediately to become a Steering Committee member is that I'd had all of this involvement whereas many people have had no contact with the government or classified matters when they are brought in as JASON.
So it was more or less natural.
But earlier on Herb York says in his book, you just couldn't have a project without Garwin!
There's a number of actions here coming out of that Steering Committee meeting, two of them referring to you. This may be too specific for you to remember but it says "1) when possible with R. Garwin write J. Foster about IR ASW matter.
About infrared anti-submarine warfare. Well, there always is the recurrent threat, rumor or whatever that you can see submarine wakes by observing the surface of the water with infrared. So probably Johnny Foster was persuaded by somebody or approached by somebody who said our strategic submarines are vulnerable as a result and so I wanted to do something about it.
Yes. The other one was, "2) talk to L. Alvarez about greater participation or inactivation."
That's been something which I have pursued really all my life. It may be wrong but if people don't participate then they can be a liability to the organization because they're carried on the list and who knows. In fact we have a senior membership category. That's at a time when Luis Alvarez was really going back into physics and he had good reason not to participate in these things. In fact, he had been much involved in Washington independent of JASON and went back to retool himself and to do great physics. In fact, there were other people who never came and I fired a couple of them, either as chairman or as designated hitter.
That became more or less routine after awhile, that kind of keeping track of JASON's activity. I have the sense of that when I see the papers.
For two reasons. Some people were doing too much in the sense that they were billing too much time and several of the people who did that didn't produce very much as a result. That's just a matter of resource control. You don't spend all your money on people who just charge you most-you spend it on what you get most from.
It might be unpleasant to approach people like that.
It's not much fun. That's right. Then there was Nick Christofilos who was a demon for work and he billed more time but he also had more ideas. We just worried about his health.
OK-not about his ideas! In 1969 there is a report of Garwin, Kendall, McDonald and Lewis about "Air Traffic Control" which is clearly-well that is not an ARPA piece, right?
No we did that for the Federal Aviation Agency. We probably got a special contract by approaching them. Hal Lewis and Henry Kendall I think are both pilots. I had been head of the Military Aircraft Panel and the Aircraft Panel in the White House and we had begun to move into air traffic control there. I thought it was something that JASON should know more about. I think Hal Lewis was on my Air Traffic Control Panel in the President's Science Advisory Committee. There was more detailed work to be done and I had thought of these floating airports. A floating airport is not an easy thing to build because it has to take a million pound airplane anyplace. My floating airport was really going to float in order to provide the buoyancy but it shouldn't sink when an airplane came onto it. So it was multiple caissons, a "tension leg approach" that is moored by cables into ocean no matter how deep. And we actually spent (maybe the only time in JASON history) $25,000 on external contracting to study how you to build such a thing. We had a very good firm; Paul Weidlinger Associates. They studied the fabrication of a floating airport. I probably have a copy of that around.
This was in connection with this?
It was a subcontract from JASON.
Yes, because JASON generally didn't carry things that far towards the development stage or anything like that?
Was this the first report? There couldn't have been many reports outside of defense before that time. I could check that.
I don't remember but probably not. We were always looking to broaden our fields and our base of support.
It could have something to do with the Vietnam thing too, of course.
The Air Traffic Control?
There were JASONs who were more reluctant to do defense work after the Vietnam debacle.
I see. No, we were doing Vietnam at that time so then Hal Lewis, Henry Kendall and I were all involved in that.
Yes but it was beginning to.
I don't think that's the...
No, not a cause and effect. Right. Then that was in September 1969.
[tape blanks out] ...Vietnam. And in 1966 JASON had this summer study in Santa Barbara and at the same time some other people-Jerrold Zacharias and others-were having a summer study on the east coast. That was called JASON East and I guess IDA simply provided the administration support for it. A few people, I guess, went from the west coast to the east coast. I did and talked to them. The people on the east coast-Jerrold Zacharias and others-were concentrating on a barrier across the demilitarized zone-that is a high technology barrier with infrared night viewing devices and barbed wire in mine fields and things like that. The JASON West-that is JASON and Murray Gell-Mann and others-had looked into the tribal nature of the conflict in Laos and what was politically going on and whatnot, and lesser mortals were looking. So I gave a lecture then. You say 1966 and that I wasn't a member of JASON in 1966.
You could have been, conceivably. I cannot disprove it.
It doesn't matter. But I certainly did spend time at the summer study at Santa Barbara and I remember various people were. So I gave lectures about various kinds of munitions, ordinary bombs and cluster munitions and fusing and mines, and various things that people didn't know about because they had been working mostly in strategic technology and ABM and anti-submarine warfare and whatnot.
So people wanted to do something and they decided that among all the constraints, what they could do was to provide a means to prevent the infiltration from North Vietnam into South Vietnam through Laos, assuming that somebody would stop the marching across the demilitarized zone between North Vietnam and South Vietnam, which seemed to be a relatively easy thing to do. Of course we weren't allowed on the ground in Laos. This whole thing had to be done from the air and that involved a proposal to put in sensors-all of which have become well known-which were acoustic sensors for detecting people and seismic sensors for detecting the passage of trucks and whatnot. There were also some other maybe infrared sensors or imaging sensors, but all of these would be dropped by airplanes. They would have their own batteries and radio transmitting antennas. Some of them would hang in trees. Some of the seismic sensors would plunge into the earth and they would leave a detachable after-body, which I believe I invented, which would have its antenna looking like a plant or something like that, whereas the seismic sensor would be a meter or two down in the earth in order to get better coupling. Then the idea was that there would be an orbiting aircraft-that is an aircraft which wasn't going anywhere but just flying at...
... 40,000 feet and simply serve as a relay so it could look out 100-200 miles on each side and receive signals in the VHF from these sensors and then relay them by microwave-directed relay down to a central on the ground which we placed in Thailand at the Nakhom Phanom airbase there.
You were actually there?
I visited in 1968 but-
Kendall I think I spoke with?
Yes, Henry Kendall went on the same trip. That's right. Sensors don't keep anybody from coming through, so the idea was that you would have such an effective capability of striking trucks or whatever in response to sensor indications that they wouldn't come at all. It's like a perfect mine field or a fence; there's no sense coming, you won't get through; so you don't hurt anybody. And of course nobody gets hurt if there isn't any defense. There is an optimum defense where it doesn't do an awful lot of good against keeping people out but it causes a lot deaths on the way in. You don't want to have that particular one. In order to be most effective, one needed to have the strike aircraft under the same command as the sensors. The Air Force isn't organized like that. The Air Force has an intelligence officer and then they have a tactical air control center and there every day they brief their strikes. Here you are getting minute by minute information. So, we devised such a system and we asked the Secretary of Defense-Gordon MacDonald and some others who were quite close to the Secretary of Defense who was interested in this study...
...to study this, to set up a joint military civilian activity to study it urgently within the next six weeks. Instead he decided to implement it-to create a system. He got Dodd Starbird-Alfred D. Starbird-an army general, put in charge of this thing which had the cover name of Defense Communications Planning Group and that had a scientific advisory committee, on which Henry Kendall and I and some others served. The problem-most things went pretty well-was that they insisted on using large Lockheed Constellation aircraft with people in it, so they could do the sensor detection in the air which never made any sense at all since there was no technical risk associated with the microwave relay to the ground. Pretty soon we didn't fly that big aircraft. We flew, as we imagined, the little aircraft-Beech or something. We had proposed to have a drone aircraft but I don't think they ever flew it unmanned, but at least there was only one person instead of 18 or 30.
The microwave analog link went down to a computer at Nakhom Phanom which did real time fast Fourier transform for instance, on information coming from the sensors and provided locations and orders for strikes. It took a long time before one could get the strikes commanded in real time and in fact it probably wasn't until Starbird was replaced by Jock LaVelle, an Air Force General, who I guess went from DCPG to the theater, that one was getting real time strikes. So there was a lot of munitions development and things like that. JASONs were much involved in laying out this program. I know Bill Nierenberg takes particular pride-although I don't recall him as one of the major contributors but he certainly was a major talker.
He's written a little history of it too as has MacDonald. Did you get involved in these problems through JASON? Through that 1966 summer study?
No, I brought to the 1966 summer study all of the information and ideas that we had been working on in my military aircraft panel and PSAC Vietnam panel and some other things. I was just mostly a wise old man for them.
That was not part of JASON East?
That was JASON West. Then I went to JASON East and told them about that and helped them with some things. When it came time to implement these things then I helped. Then I was on the DCPGs scientific advisory committee. In February 1968 we were going over to Vietnam to see how things were and while we were in the air the Tet Offensive broke out and they wouldn't let us go to Saigon. Instead of going to Saigon and then to Nakhom Phanom and elsewhere, we went only to Thailand. It was not JASON, but somebody said that here was this group of people who were going over to see about the use of nuclear weapons! I only found out about this across the Pacific on the way back. It caused a big fuss. The Secretary of State eventually denied this.
Yes. But it was actually implemented?
Oh yes. Absolutely. And in fact, many of those sensors and this means of doing business were very much in evidence in the Persian Gulf. The Army took seriously the electronic battlefield and the question of relays. However, this was more an air war so it has more to do with some other things and not so much JASON.
But there must have been some developments in between of course in regard to smart weapons.
Well, we had laser guided bombs in Vietnam that were first used in 1969 I believe.
There is another document here from 1970 where you evaluated a laboratory for the Secretary of Defense, it seems-or at least the Department of Defense.
I did? Which laboratory?
That is actually my question because I have been unable to identify it. There is one Porton who got the report. You can look at the report and maybe it rings a bell with you. I don't know how important it is but since I have the document it would be nice to know what it means.
That's interesting. I am not sure I visited that laboratory. I think Henry Foley was a person who was reviewing Army laboratories and I may have looked at some of the material and offered that. It was probably as a result of my PSAC experience that I had these views that I thought they ought to put into a report.
JASON had these kinds of evaluations.
Yes, we were asked to evaluate some laboratories.
But the name Porton doesn't tell you anything either?
No. Was he Assistant Secretary of the Army?
It says just Robert Y. Porton and doesn't give anything else. Then we come to 1972. In September 1972 there was a report in two volumes. One unclassified and another secret which was called "Effects of Various Arms Limitation Options on SSBM survivability." You are noted as the chair of that study and the others were Berman, Callan, Case, Flatté, Munk, Nolen, Richter, Weinberg, and Zachariasen.
Everybody was considering arms limitations for other things and we questioned whether the Navy shouldn't have some. The Navy is very resistant to arms control agreements. We looked into it and tried to understand the reality, what one could do maybe to limit the number of attack submarines or the capability of attack submarines or surveillance systems or to provide sanctuaries-that is regions where an ASW would not take place-or to provide free transit for strategic submarines in times of war but not nuclear war. So we looked at these things. We didn't find anything that was really very important. I guess we considered agreeing to a standoff of strategic submarines 1500 miles or kilometers from the capital of the other side.
There are some things there that may be persistently ignored to the extent that most people are unaware of them, and one is that you could enforce such a standoff without ever interfering with the freedom of attack submarines to go any place. That is, the Navy has the view that if you keep strategic submarines 1500 nautical miles away from the capitals then all the attack submarines would have to get permission to go in. But that's not the way it works. You use a sampling, tagging, and sealing approach so that the strategic submarines can be called one at a time randomly to surface, within half a day, and if they are inside the prohibited area then they will not surface but the other side will be counted in violation. Besides, it's very embarrassing to be caught with your strategic submarines in this area. You might even get sunk and then you wouldn't have anything to complain about because you're violating a treaty. Such a scheme, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with tactical submarines. That's really one of the approaches which could be useful, not so much for improving the survivability of strategic submarines but improving crisis stability.
This was nothing that was asked for by the Navy then?
Well you can't say?
No, I don't remember.
Conceivably it could have been you who brought these people together to discuss this particular thing. JASON was open for that.
And there wouldn't be a question. You might even have done it with Navy money.
Who were the other people involved?
It was Berman, Callan, Case, Flatté, Munk, Nolan, Richter, Weinberg, and Zachariasen.
It may have been Steve Weinberg and Richter who wanted to see about arms control in this context. I was clearly the person who knew most about it so they probably elected me chairman or twisted my arm.
I am going to talk to Weinberg for the first time next week.
Weinberg is once again a JASON member.
He's back? I didn't know that. So he might be coming through La Jolla as well.
I don't know but I hope so.
You're not coming through?
I am. I will be there on the 30th of June.
I will be coming on the 1st actually. Then in June 1973 there is Drell and Garwin, "Comments on `Lulejain and Assoc. Int. Tech. Report.'"
It's just probably some silly report, I don't know. I believe that was probably some people who had worked with Bob LeLevier. I don't remember. It wasn't anything important.
That might be good to know too. Then in June of 1974, "The Evidence for Detection of Kilohertz Gravitational Radiation."
That's not a classified report.
No, that's not classified at all-completely unclassified. It is listed as a JASON report.
That's a mistake. It shouldn't be. I don't know how it would get listed as a JASON report.
Maybe this was something you did at the summer study or whatever.
No. This is a physics report of work done at IBM with my colleague Dr. James L. Levine.
The last one I have, is listed under the 1975 although it says 1976. It's "D-Star Direct Sea to Air Refueling."
Do you have a copy of that?
No. But it's unclassified.
I'll give you a copy. At great distances, we have this wonderful aerial refueling system. That means you have to fly the airplanes, refuel halfway and whatnot. Fish eat on the way, they don't fly the whole way although some birds fly the whole way without additional fuel. Why not have gas stations? The problem is most airplanes can't land on carriers and so the question is, "Suppose we don't have carriers, suppose we just have ordinary tankers-merchant ships-is there a way to refuel airplanes from merchant ships?"
I worked out at least one-way; it turns out there are many ways that have been looked at before. This one way is for the airplane just to go around in a pylon turn the radius of a few thousand feet while it has a hose connecting it to the tanker via a swivel joint and whatnot. I looked at what were the requirements, how you would capture a lifeline with a hook and plug it into your refueling tank and what kind of pumps would be required-a perfectly reasonable thing to do. But you would have to train all of the pilots to do this or give them an automatic pilot which would do the maneuver for them. It's not your ordinary maneuver. Every pilot knows how to do a pylon turn but in wind and dark it may not be the easiest thing. So the next step is to ask whether you have a few dedicated airplanes on your ships that will do this in order to fuel themselves and then fly up and do ordinary aerial refueling, which is a lot easier for the normal pilots to do. It was sort of interesting. I'll give you that. Do you have "Bombs That Squeak" or anything?
I don't remember, I have to admit. We went through a lot of material.
That's in 1981.
You were chairman of JASON, I think between Frieman and Nierenberg-is that right?
No, I think I followed Nierenberg-no, you are right. It was between Frieman and Nierenberg.
Nierenberg was followed by Happer.
That's quite right. The JASON chairman had a three-year term but I wasn't really liking it very much so I left after two years.
What were the years? Was it before 1975? Probably not.
I don't think I say in here. [Checking on the computer]
Watson was before Frieman probably, right?
I don't know. It's hard to remember.
I have the documentation on a database. I have the disks but I just don't have the computer. I am planning to buy that tomorrow.
What kind of computer?
I'll buy a laptop to bring around.
You don't have the disk there?
I don't have it here.
Because I've got computers!
I know that, yes. Is there anything you want to say about your chairmanship? How were you elected chairman in the first place? Was that just a rotating thing? Hal Lewis indicated to me that he kind of....
It's not rotating. There are certain people who are fit to be chairman and people who are not fit. They usually elect the ones who are not fit. Seriously, the Steering Committee just looks around and sees who is willing because it's a lot of work. I don't think it pays anything extra-maybe $3,000 or something extra to be chairman but not a lot of money. A lot of work, a lot of worry and I think the vice chairman in recent years has played a much more important role than in my day.
What were your main responsibilities as a chairman? What was the additional strain?
Well, there is really no organization in JASON. I guess we created a program committee and a membership committee. The program committee then had two people assigned to each of the agencies. I don't remember whether that was created in my reign or whatever. Then you have an office director-director of the JASON program office-and the secretarial staff. You have to put together the summer study and make sure the people are getting their work done and make sure the reports that have been promised have been drafted-the authors have done their job-that they're out for review to other people, and unfortunately these routine things often don't get done very well. People don't prize, in my opinion, highly enough efficient staff people. I've had some differences of opinion with my colleagues on the relative merits of the office manager-it's usually been a woman-compared with JASON project officer who has been a man and sometimes I think we've kept the wrong one when there's been some kind of dispute between them.
I tried to get people to evaluate, as we have a membership committee, so JASONs are up for re-election by the Steering Committee as members every three years. We have a rather formal review of their performance. When somebody is coming up for review, the membership committee then talks to the other JASON members about them and sees that they've been contributing, that they have sound analysis and reasonable work habits, and we look at what they've done in the last three years and make a recommendation as to whether they should be continued or not. My view was that we ought to hire anybody who was better than the average already in JASON. In order to do that without increasing the number we had to let people go. We should let at least 10% of the people go each year, for instance, in order to do that. I thought that people might be asked to do a self-evaluation because I noticed that people really are their own worst critics and they ought to sit down and ask what they had done, what they could have done better. This was universally disliked and never implemented.
But you were chairman only for two years you said?
And JASON was at SRI at the time, right?
That's right. I guess it was just after that that they were advertising. Bill Nierenberg was the person I guess who conducted the competition and MITRE was going to charge less overhead than SRI. MITRE has a much bigger operation in the Washington area and so has a lot more to offer us than SRI did. I think that's been a very good change.
The reason that we left IDA in the first place was not because of antipathy really on either side but because of the (Senator Mike) Mansfield activities during the Vietnam war. Mansfield had a very clever staff person and in order to reduce the size and influence of the military establishment they put ceilings on the expenditures of the Federal Contract Research Centers, like IDA and Rand and Applied Physics Laboratory and so on. JASON was getting a million dollars a year that was spent by IDA, but the money came to them for the support of JASON. However, with this new ceiling on expenditures it didn't matter where the money came from; the IDA program for the Joint Chiefs of Staff would have been reduced by this million dollars a year because they had to spend it on JASON. IDA didn't ask us to leave but we knew it wasn't the right thing to do to stay with them.
JASON was part of IDA by some definition, of course.
That's right but it had a different existence. We're administratively attached to these other organizations and the permanent staff are employees of MITRE, SRI or IDA.
The new rule did not apply to the SRI, which is not on FCRC?
That's right, not an FCRC. I don't like bureaucracy, I am not particularly good at it. I worry more than people should who are managers and I have many other things to do. If I am not essential in such a role I try not to do it.
You accepted it, at least.
I did it for a while.
Yes and Nierenberg came after you, you are saying?
I have two questions which are more for my own guidance than for the historical record. First of all, I told you I was going to seek out people with experience with JASON from outside JASON on this trip. I would love to have any suggestion you might have for people, either lower level with hands-on experience or higher ups or whatever kind of people would be useful from that perspective. And second, when I do the history of JASON during the first fifteen years, being unclassified, I still think it would be good to do one project or a set of projects in a little more detail than what JASON generally worked on-to follow a project from the inception through the work on it and to the implementation of the advice, if it was implemented, or at least how it was followed up in the agency that requested it. My second question is what would be a good project or a good set of projects to follow up in that respect?
Let's start with the first. There have been some people who have been both inside and outside JASON. For instance, Ed Frieman is one of those. He was in the Department of Energy. Then there are people-Joel Snow has been in the Department of Energy for a long time. I don't know if he is still there. He's a younger person.
Yes, he's from after the first fifteen years-right?
That's right. So you're not looking for younger people.
Not at this stage, no.
So you want DARPA. Charlie Hertzfeld is a person. He has been director of research and engineering and I guess now he is working in the White House.
With Bromley. I spoke with him today actually.
He's willing to talk. I'll get together with him in Washington.
Then there are people who have had the job of giving JASONs projects-they've been Navy people. You ought to talk with some of the Navy types about their Navy sponsors. Walter Munk would be a good person to ask about that. I've done a lot of work on the intelligence side but you can't get people to talk about that.
That's probably a lot harder. Navy is hard enough probably but it might be worth a try. John Foster?
John Foster would be a good person and some other ARPA direct... [tape runs out]
... I was mentioning George Heilmeler.
Yes but maybe my two questions are related in the sense that there are people who have been involved with specific projects.
So you are interested in a particular project?
One is the instrumented battlefield. That's the Vietnam experience.
Which is probably untypical in a lot of ways.]
And another, for instance, is the MX. We did a lot of MX basing studies in parallel with other people. We have the JASON solution which is our small submarines. Do you have our published report on that? There were secret reports too.
If you have one there...
I'll give it to you.
Do you have them on disk?
These are only the published reports, the unclassified reports.
I just have a listing of them and then I go pick them up. Things that I have written at IBM I have on the disk, but no classified material and no JASON reports. We've worked more recently on SDI. Early on we did a lot of work on ABM, on discrimination.
Goldberger to Wheeler, 30 July 1958, Wheeler's private papers.
Charles Townes papers, Berkeley.
Katcher to Garwin, 1 April 1963, JASON Records.
Sidney D. Drell and Richard L. Garwin, "Basing the MX Missile: A Better Idea," Technology Review (May/June 1981): 20–29.
Minutes of JASON Steering Committee meeting 10 December 1967, JASON Records.
Robert Y. Porton to Joel Bengston, 13 March 1970, JASON Records Garwin, 6/24/91, p. 32