National security

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with George Paulikas, retired Executive Vice President of the Aerospace Corporation. Paulikas describes his birth country of Lithuania and his family’s experiences in World War II and the convoluted path that brought his family to the United States in 1949. He recounts his teenage years in Chicago and his undergraduate education, at the University of Illinois, first at Chicago and then Champaign-Urbana where he majored in engineering physics. Paulikas discusses his graduate research at UC Berkeley where he focused on plasma physics under the direction of Ken Watson, he describes his first job at Aerospace as a member of the Space Physics Laboratory, and he explains the historical origins of the corporation, and its key mission to assist the U.S. Air Force in the planning, development, acquisition, and operations of national security space systems. Paulikas describes his ascent at Aerospace as Lab Director and the emphasis on basic research that ensured his integration with the broader space physics community. He explains the circumstances of being named Vice President of the Laboratories, then Vice President of the Development Group, where he focused on planning functions future Air Force systems. Paulikas describes Aerospace as a Federally Funded Research and Development Center and he discusses some of the major projects at the corporation, including the Manned Orbiting Laboratory, the Space Transportation System, the creation of GPS, and its involvement in Reagan’s SDI program. He discusses his subsequent role as Senior Vice President of Programs and his focus on getting space launches right before he was named Executive Vice President. At the end of the interview, Paulikas reflects on how Aerospace responded to the end of the Cold War and its increasing emphasis on space exploration, and he emphasizes his pride in his record of mentorship.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Admiral Kirkland Donald (Ret.), U.S. Navy, and former Director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion program. Donald recounts his upbringing in North Carolina, and he discusses the heritage of military service in his family. He explains his decision to pursue a career in the Navy, and he describes his time at the Naval Academy where he focused on ocean engineering. Donald talks about his long service working in submarines and he explains his decision to enter the Nuclear Power School. He explains the work of the Naval submarines as part of the overall U.S. national defense strategy before and after the Cold War, and he recounts the series of promotions leading to him becoming Director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program. Donald reflects on the development of technology over the course of his career, and at the end of the interview he shares his views on the future prospects of U.S. global leadership.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview dates
July 17 & 19, 2020
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Sean O’Keefe, Professor at the Syracuse University Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. O’Keefe describes moving around as a child when his father worked for the Navy. He discusses his undergraduate work at Loyola in New Orleans, and he explains his interest in pursuing a career in public service in the post-Watergate, post-Vietnam era when there was much cynicism about working for the government. O’Keefe describes his participation in the Presidential Management Intern Program and his work for the Department of the Navy and after that, for the Appropriations Committee on Capitol Hill, where he worked on budgetary policy against the backdrop of the Cold War in the 1980s. He describes his work at Comptroller for the Department of Defense where he worked on identifying budgetary waste at the Pentagon. O’Keefe describes the scene at the Pentagon during the Gulf War, and he discusses the opportunity that led to him becoming Secretary of the Navy. He describes his career prospects outside of government after George H.W. Bush lost re-election and the opportunity leading to his professorship at Syracuse University, where he mentored students in public service leadership. O’Keefe describes being named NASA administrator in the administration of George W. Bush and some of the challenges he encountered coming from a defense background. He discusses the tragedy and his strategy in dealing with the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, both in terms of lessons learned from the engineering failures, and the grief that he shared with the families of the astronauts who died. O’Keefe describes some of the ways he attempted to turn the disaster into institutional opportunity at NASA and its impact on the Hubble space servicing mission. He describes his decision to become Chancellor at Louisiana State University, where he focused on building up the school’s endowment, dealing with Hurricane Katrina, and working to keep LSU graduates in the state. O’Keefe describes his tenure as CEO of Airbus North America before returning to Syracuse to teach in his current position. At the end of the interview, O’Keefe reflects on what he has learned about organizational leadership over the course of his career, and what he tries to convey to his students as they prepare to become the nation’s next generation of leaders.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Ambassador C. Paul Robinson, retired as President of Sandia Corporation. He discusses his advisory work since retirement, and the various ways he has remained connected to Sandia. He recounts his childhood in Memphis and his early interests in physics, and he describes the opportunities that led to his graduate research at Florida State University. Robinson describes his thesis work under the direction of Robert H. Davis, who headed the nuclear accelerator laboratory, where he worked on alpha particle scattering on Calcium 40. He describes his interest in pursuing postgraduate work at Los Alamos, and he explains how the academic and the national security sides of the Lab worked to mutual benefit. He describes the Lab’s early work in internal fusion and laser-induced chemistry, and his steadily rising responsibilities at the Lab, including that for the design and certification of nuclear weapons. Robinson discusses his work on nuclear strategy and policy, and he explains the difference between mutually assured destruction and maintaining a second-strike capability. He explains his decision to leave Los Alamos in 1985, and the circumstances leading to him becoming Head of the US Delegation and Ambassador and Chief Negotiator during nuclear testing talks with the Soviet Union. Robinson discusses how the end of the Cold War reformulated U.S. nuclear weapons policy, and the circumstances that led to him joining Sandia. He conveys his pride in Sandia’s leadership work on technology transfer and applying supercomputing toward energy security. At the end of the interview, Robinson reflects on what he has learned in his career in U.S. national security policy, and he speculates on the threats the U.S. faces in an uncertain future.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Videoconference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Michael Anastasio, Director Emeritus of the Los Alamos National Laboratory.  Anastasio recounts his childhood in suburban Washington DC and he describes his early intellectual pursuits in math and science.  He discusses his undergraduate experience at Johns Hopkins, where his original plan was to learn enough physics to teach it at the college level.  He explains his decision to pursue a graduate degree at Stony Brook, where he worked under the direction of Tom Kuo in the nuclear theory group on the effective interaction in many body systems. Anastasio describes his postdoctoral research in Europe, where he worked on the meson exchange theory for the nuclear force.  He discusses his year at Brooklyn College, and he describes that circumstances leading to his work at Livermore Lab.  Anastasio recounts his work on nuclear weapons stockpile issues in the “B Division,” and how Cold War security policy affected the laboratory’s mission and focus.  He explains his increasing responsibilities as a division leader and then associate director at Livermore, and he discusses his work as scientific advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Energy for Defense Programs.  Anastasio explains the impact of September 11 at Livermore, and he describes his tenure as director, where he was focused on maintaining the long-term viability of the lab.  He describes the circumstances surrounding his decision to become director of Los Alamos and he reflects on the differences and similarities of the challenges of this new position.  At the end of the interview, Anastasio describes the ongoing relevance of the research at Los Alamos in both nuclear weapons and basic science.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, Steven Koonin, University Professor at New York University, recounts his childhood in Brooklyn and his education at Stuyvesant High School, which he credits for providing an excellent education in math and science. He explains his decision to pursue a degree in physics at Caltech, where Willie Fowler supervised him, and where he focused on nuclear physics. Koonin discusses his graduate work at MIT, where he studied under Art Kerman and focused on Hamiltonian variational principles for quantum many-body systems and on the study of nuclear motion. He explains the opportunity that led him back to Caltech for his first faculty position without going through a postdoctoral experience first. He describes his interest in then doing a postdoc in Copenhagen, where he had more opportunities to collaborate on theoretical nuclear physics than at Caltech. Koonin describes the pleasures of teaching quantum mechanics to undergraduates, he describes the impact of personal computing technology on his research in the mid-1980s, and he discusses his contributions in extrapolating nuclear reactions to get astrophysical rates. Koonin discusses his involvement in national security issues including the Strategic Defense Initiative as part of the JASON group, and his advisory work for the Department of Energy and DARPA. He describes his administrative accomplishments as vice president at provost at Caltech and the institutional advancements that he fostered in biology and high-performance computing. Koonin explains his position to take a position at BP as chief scientist where he had a mandate to push the company to pursue alternative energy resources, and he describes his decision to accept Steve Chu’s offer to run the Office of Science at DOE during the first Obama administration. Koonin describes his focus there on exascale computing and high-energy density science, and he discusses his long-range interest in climate science and some of the inherent challenges this field presents in both the scientific and political realms. He describes his decision to accept his current position at NYU, and at the end of the interview, Koonin describes his goals in founding the Center for Urban Science and Progress. 

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Richard Garwin. AIP has several interviews with Garwin already on record; the discussion here focuses on Garwin’s interest and work in recent years. Garwin describes his involvement in pandemic research generally and the Covid-19 crisis specifically. He discusses his involvement in advising on bioterrorism, and he reflects on the import of his research in the realm of national policy. Garwin describes the strength of the United States today in the world arena relative to earlier parts of his career, and he describes his involvement in the creation of the hydrogen bomb. He discusses the current status of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, and he discusses the prospects for ongoing nuclear security in the face of threats from Iran and other U.S. adversaries. Garwin offers his views on the ongoing threats from climate change and terrorism and the challenges facing America’s energy future. He describes his work for the JASON national security advisory work, and he reflects on some of the individuals that he considers heroes. At the end of the interview, Garwin reflects on the singular genius of Feynman, and he reflects on the life of his wife, Lois, who died in 2018.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews John Browne, former Director of Los Alamos Laboratory. Browne recounts his working-class childhood in Pennsylvania. He discusses his early interests in science and the influence of his father, who was an electrician. He explains his decision to attend Drexel, and the factors leading his commitment to major in physics. Browne describes his graduate studies at Duke University, where he worked on techniques to create a feedback system with an atomic beam and a molecular beam. He discusses his decision to join Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and then Argonne National Laboratory. The bulk of the interview concerns Browne’s tenure at Los Alamos where he worked on the weapons program and diagnostic testing. He discusses his promotions at Los Alamos and his increasing communication with the DOE on policy relevant issues. Browne discusses his decision to accept the directorship at Los Alamos and the numerous security and accounting issues he had to deal with, which included the major security breach involving Wen Ho Lee. He discusses the creation of the NNSA and the impact of September 11th on Los Alamos and the national security world generally, and in the last portion of the interview, Browne describes his ongoing work in consulting and professional service.

Interviewed by
Elizabeth Paris
Interview date
Location
unknown
Abstract

Elizabeth Paris interviews Wolfgang Panofsky, Director of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center from 1961 to 1984. In this interview, Panofsky discusses the design and construction of particle accelerators and colliders at SLAC, especially the SPEAR (Stanford Positron Electron Accelerating Ring) collider, and his work with Gerard O’Neil, Bernard Gittelman, Carl Barber, and Burt Richter. Panofsky describes his influence on science and national security policy as a member of the President’s Science Advisory Committee, his role in the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and his involvement with the Atomic Energy Commission and the Congressional Joint Committee on Atomic Energy.

Interviewed by
Bruce Wheaton
Interview date
Location
Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory
Abstract

Family background, early education, and science-technology interests in California and Oregon; Willamette College and radio electronics; contacts with E.O. Lawrence; career as graduate student at University of California, Berkeley, 1942-1949; war work at Berkeley Radiation Laboratory and Los Alamos; security; attitudes toward Trinity test and Hiroshima; postwar political involvement; big machines and general comments on postwar physics.