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point to policy changes, leaving aside for the moment the influence of science advice. The new order of federal R & D spending is :
Million Department of Defense
$ 6,875.3 National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
5,100.0 Atomic Energy Commission---
1,292.2 Health, Education, and Welfare-
942.0 National Science Foundation --
68.1 All other-
211.4 Total (including additional facilities) -
15,444.2 The most prominent feature of this budget, apart from its total, is the NASA appropriation. As already explained, this budget item was primarily a Presidential innovation and cannot be ascribed to a consensus of White House science advisers. Without the federal outlay for space the total would have been about $10 billion, which would represent less than a doubling in seven years. This rate of spending actually represents a slowdown as compared with earlier years when the doubling time was roughly four years. As we have seen, this paring back of R & D appropriations coincided with closer congressional scrutiny of research; the size of R & D funds clearly caused Congressmen to begin assessing science and technology in the light of other expenditures.
On the face of it, the two most obvious features of the R & D budget after scientists trooped to the White House to act in advisory roles were contradictions—a space program not of their choosing and a cutback in R & D expansion. But the stark statistics conceal the innumerable tugging and pulling of forces operating at many levels within the officialdom of government. For example, R & D defense expenditures are down for fiscal year 1966 as compared to preceding years. This reflects not just a thaw in the Cold War but a change in philosophy of the Defense Department in which key scientists were highly influential, both within government and without. The sufficiency and redundancy of strategic weapons systems allowed for cutbacks.
Probably this comparison of the federal R & D budget profile is too harsh a criterion to apply to the influence of scientists at the White House level. As the latest added ingredient of policymaking, science advice will probably take longer to evaluate and it may manifest itself in subtler ways than by showing up as budgetary changes. Nonetheless, the most effective means of control of R & D is at the budgetary level ; it is here that decisionmaking is of guillotine nature. Science advisers may give lofty advice and complex recommendations, but in the end the Bureau of the Budget must convert the words into deeds—into approval or disapproval of project or program funds requested by a government agency.
Evaluation of the effectiveness of the White House science advisers is difficult because of the low visibility of the work of the various individuals and groups attached to the Executive Office in an advisory capacity. For example, the White House does not issue any annual report on the status of science and technology. Presidential advisers are very discreet in exposing controversial R & D issues to the view of outsiders. Task force reports are rarely published ; even the names of consultants are held confidential. Furthermore, the President's science adviser serves a relatively short term of office and each one has his own method of dealing with problems. Since the White House represents a Grand Junction where the pathways of political power intersect, it is difficult to separate out the causative factors in decisions made by the President on matters scientific or technical
Then, too, the advice-taker must be considered as preponderantly more significant at the White House level than the purveyor of recommendations. The President may or may not take to heart scientific advice. He may find the scientists' jargon and syntax alien to his own as President Truman did when he was briefed in the late summer of 1949 on Joe I, the first Soviet nuclear test. A special group of eminent scientists transmitted and tried to translate the pertinent detection data to the President but there was a real gap between the parties. When Mr. Truman left office he expressed himself publicly as doubting the validity of the Soviet test. This was bewildering to scientists who examined the data and knew that it constituted proof of the Soviet nuclear bomb.
There is no need to detail the pre-Sputnik arrangements for injecting R & D advice into the Executive Office. Vannevar Bush's relations to Roosevelt were of an ad hoc nature. Truman had Mr. John R. Steelman, the economist-sociologist, as a White House counselor but he was not regarded as a powerhouse for science. Korea served to hoist some warning flags that science might need more highlevel attention and Truman established a Science Advisory Committee in 1951 under the Office of Defense Mobilization. But he had no official science adviser and no eminent scientist could claim a close relationship to him. Science was still not yet within the orbit of Presidential power.
It was during Eisenhower's second term that the shock wave of scientific events crashed down upon the White House and produced visible changes in the science advisory system there. A very large segment of the scientific community felt that a shake-up was long overdue and they welcomed the impact of Sputnik upon political affairs. Many scientists deeply resented the Eisenhower regime's blindness of the affairs of sciences which were discovered by security excesses, the Openheimer disgrace, the fallout scandal, the nuclear test issue, and a lack of sympathy for intellectualism. Although funds for R & D increased sharply under Eisenhower, they were aimed in the direction of a weapons culture, and the climate for science itself was chill.
The Soviet success with ballistic missiles shocked the American people and politicians who had lulled themselves into a reveire that the United States was the chosen land for scientific accomplishments. Although President Eisenhower personally downgraded the significance of Soviet technological triumphs, he was forced to give ground. In a nationwide television address on November 7, 1957, on the heels of Sputnik II and a wave of publicity over the orbiting of Laika, a dog, the President revealed :
I have created the office of Special Assistant to the President for Science and Technology. This man, who will be aided by a staff of scientists and a strong advisory group of outstanding experts reporting to him and to me, will have the active responsibility of helping me follow through on the program of scientific improvement of our defenses.
It is significant that this new office was oriented along defense needs. James R. Killian, president of the Massachusetts Insitute of Technology, was named as Eisenhower's science adviser. Not a scientist himself, Killian brought to the post a thorough knowledge of federal bureaucracy and a wide acquaintance with scientists and technologists.
The scientific experts mentioned by Eisenhower were organized in the President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC) and they were headed by Killian. The committee included on its initial roster the following: Robert F. Bacher, physics professor, California Institute of Technology; William 0. Baker, vice president, Bell Telephone Laboratories; Lloyd V. Berkner, president, Associated Universities: Hans A. Bethe, physicis professor, Cornell University ; Detley W. Bronk, president, National Academy of Sciences; James H. Doolittle, Lt. Gen., vice president, Shell Oil Company; James B. Fisk, vice president, Bell Telephone Laboratories; Caryl P. Haskins, president Carnegie Institution of Washington; George B. Kistiakowsky, chemistry professor, Harvard University; Edwin H. Land, president, Polaroid Corporation; Edward M. Purcell, physics professor, Harvard University; Isidor I. Rabi, physics professor, Columbia University ; H. P. Robertson, physics professor, California Institute of Technology ; Jerome B. Weisner, director, Electronics Research Laboratory, M.I.T. ; Jerrold R. Zacharis, physics professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology ; Herbert York, chief scientist, Department of Defense.
About half of the members could be called active in research and two-thirds confined their specialization to the physical sciences. Scientists on the PSAC task force generally represented two geographic areas, northeastern United States, especially Boston, and California.
It will be recalled that President Eisenhower suffered a stroke in November 1957. By February 4. 1958, he had recovered sufficiently to honor scientists at a White House dinner party. Some forty-nine couples, including many high-ranking officers, were feted at a white-tie-and-tails dinner which displayed gold service at the table and four wines with appropriate courses. The scientists had assumed new social status, but it remained to be seen how they would fare as advicegivers and decision-makers.
Killian and his cohorts faced a wide variety of problems in 1958–prioritv items in defense, a space program, educational demands for the future supply of scientists and engineers, "ugly ducklings” like the nuclear airplane and the nuclear rocket, coordination of federal R & D, fallout, and nuclear test policy. The latter, as has been discussed earlier, was an issue on which some committee members focused to bring about a reversal in U.S. policy. Unfortunately, the PSAC group suffered from the faults of a high-level advisory body. It could air the problem and make recommendations but it had no operating function. It was organized too late to encourage the research which could have swung the balance in favor of an effective test-detection system in 1958 when the Geneva talks were critical.
The PSAC experts soon discovered that politics was much more influential in government policy than physics. They found that they could reach general agreement, for example, on the matter of canceling the ANP project (Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion), but this was technical advice which was hard for a politician to swallow when the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy fought for its pet. For years Joint Committeemen like Senator Jackson and Congressman Mel Price had been gifted with a vision that saw ANP flying in a year or so; they seemed to have special intelligence of a competitive Soviet nuclear bomber. In the collision of science and politics over such an issue as ANP the obvious tactic for the President was to stall. Finally under President Kennedy the atomic airplane was canceled, but not before a billion dollars had been spent.
How political should a PSAC scientist be? Should he give advice on the basis of how he interprets "the national good”? Should he take an academic view of a technical problem or should he season this with a sense of political reality? It would seem that the name of the President's committee identifies the primary qualification of its members as scientific experts. Since they serve an advisory capacity, their environment can produce an awareness of political factors. The latter is easily imparted by good staff liaison work or by the simple fact that almost every PSAC member had a background of experience in dealing with bureaucracy. The President has his own political advisers and it would appear that the prime function of the PSA group would be to give advice on scientific and technical merit of various projects, proposals, and programs. The presence on the PSAC group of members like Detlev Bronk and Jerome Wiesner injected more than a few grains of political salt into the committee's deliberations.
The preponderance of physical scientists on PSAC raised the question of how representative it was of American science. Was not the committee overweighted against, say, the field of biological science? But this was not the basic question. Even if all the sciences were to be allocated membership on PSAC by some numerical relationship, there would still remain the same question which has been raised with regard to the National Academy of Sciences. How could PSAC claim to be representative of U.S. science?
The PSAC problem was even more vexing than that posed for the Academy because the latter had a multitude of committees and advisory groups and could be reckoned as more representative than a single eighteen-man committee. If we look upon PSAC as a potent priesthood of science, we may inquire into the means by which PSAC divines what the general assembly of U.S. scientists thinks about the state of science. The PSAC members are extremely stuffy about discussing their committee deliberations; I have had difficulty finding any scientists who have been solicited for an opinion by PSAC members. The committee holds eleven two-day sessions each year but only occasionally does the outside world learn what transpires in PSAC. Usually this communication takes the form of a published report of a task force, but these are few and far between. The first such was a brief report, “Introduction to Outer Space," dated March 28, 1958, which was fairly colorless as a policy statement but did contain one warning: "It would not be in the national interest to exploit space science at the cost of weakening our efforts in other scientific endeavors. This need not happen if we plan our national program for space science and technology as part of a balanced effort in all science and technology." Can one inspect the current R & D budget and find evidence of the balance which PSAC recommended? In fact, what kind of over-all balanced program did PSAC have in mind? There is no published record of any PSAC recommendation for such a program.
If the President's committee were to publish a recommended program for a balanced effort in the nation's research and development, then the scientists outside the White House could function in a democratic manner by individually appraising the programs and feeding back reflections on them to PSAC members, to scientists in government, and to Congressmen. There would be the possibility of discussing the issue in the nation's news forums and within scientific societies. Granting that the scientific community has no internal cohesion or mechanism for acting as a collective Solomon on the matter, it could nonetheless function in a diffuse democratic manner. Furthermore, competent individuals within our society would then be in a position to translate the technical issues into popular terms and thus to facilitate a more general discussion. In this way society at large would become acquainted with the goals and aspirations of science.
President Kennedy touched upon this matter when he said: “The question in all our minds today is how science can best continue its service to the nation, to the people, to the world, in the years to come.” It would seem that a basic first step should be definition and promulgation of the issues. This is perhaps not PSAC's responsibility, but somewhere in the White House, presumably in the office of the President's science adviser, the challenge should be faced squarely. An annual report titled The State of Science and Its Prospects for Society could serve as an excellent vehicle for exposing issues to public appreciation.
PSAC brings up the "national interest” and long-range policy for research in connection with its recommendations on high-energy physics. As expressed by Dr. Donald F. Hornig, chairman of PSAC under President Johnson: "It is in the national interest to support vigorous advancement of high-energy physics as a fundamental field of science.” This is a determination of a group of scientists, but how does society react to such a specification? As we have noted, Congress has wearied of the excessive fiscal demands of high-energy physics and shows a preference for projects which have more meaning for voters. Dr. Hornig recognized the problem, for he said: “.. if science is influenced by the democratic political process, if considerations other than scientific merit enter into our choices and decisions, it is up to the scientists to make clear to the layman what the bases for choice are, and what they understand by merit in basic research. In short, we must communicate a wider sense of the meaning of scientific research, its internal value system, and its value to the nation and its people.” This advice is well taken but the formula for successful dialogue is not revealed.
President Eisenhower's first science adviser, Killian, had his hands full trying to relate PSAC and himself to the pressing issues which reached the White House from the operating agencies of government. In attempting to put the federal R & D house in order, Killian saw a need for some coordinating body which would resolve squabbles among the various agencies and buffer PSAC against a flood of unwanted business. To this end an Executive Order was issued creating the Federal Council for Science and Technology (FCST). This Council is essentially a subcabinet composed of policy-makers from eight major government departments and agencies; it is both a clearing house and a lower tribunal for adjudicating the conflicts of the thirty-eight agencies which claim a chunk or a sliver of the R & D pie. The President's science adviser presides over FCST, and its work is divided among the following committees : A. Standing Committee.
(a) Panel of scientific personnel.
(c) Panel on laboratory astrophysics.
Problems unresolved by the Council or by the science adviser may be passed on to PSAC as the higher tribunal, but not necessarily the court of last resort. While issues get debated in committee, they are also handled by the interested agencies in devious ways. For example, enthusiasts anxious to promote an agency project may leak stories to the press in order to whip up public support or solicit aid from Capitol Hill. The problem of establishing the proper liaison between the White House and congressional R & D committees was a factor in the creation of the Office of Science and Technology (OST) under the direction of the President's science adviser. The OST was established June 8, 1962, and its first director was Dr. Jerome B. Wiesner, President Kennedy's science adviser. Thus Dr. Wiesner was the first adviser to wear four hats-one as the President's adviser, one as chairman of PSAC, another as chairman of FCST, and a fourth as director of OST. In addition to these roles, Dr. Wiesner operated as adviser to the Bureau of the Budget. For his many activities Wiesner needed a staff and this was provided in OST where he chose eleven men to cover various fields of science and technology. He realized that the committee structure of PSAC and
FCST was cumbersome. A committee is like a car without wheels; it will not go anywhere under its own power. It needs staff work, especially if the committee experts meet only occasionally for a day or two.
The PSAS-FCST-OST trinity gave the President's science adviser great power within the federal structure of science and technology, so much so that some Washingtonians muttered that he had become a science czar. Whether or not the noun had relevance, officials in the federal agencies knew that power in R & D matters had been congealed in the White House. Few would deny that this was now the seat of power. But the use of power was of low political visibility; both those within and without government were often in the dark about who really made decisions on R & D matters and how the process worked. The White House science affairs involved consultantships with some three hunderd specialists, but the roster of these men was held confidential by the Office of Science and Technology. An air of secrecy often surrounded the activities of the science advisory staff.
I was reminded of the parallel to Vannevar Bush's Research and Development Board (RDB) which had been his brainchild for directing military R & D in the early postwar years. Top-level committees populated by "weekend consultants" attempted to deal with the Pentagon's research and development programs, but the gap between the laboratory and the committees of RDB was too great. Furthermore, the military found ways to infiltrate RDB and to outmaneuver the Board. It was just not possible to make this committee system of R & D control work when the actual work was done in widely scattered laboratories. Thus RDB turned out to be a depressant instead of a stimulant to creative research in the Defense Department.
Imperfections in the White House science advisory mechanism will not, I believe, be resolved by patching up the present organization. Some of the defects are organic and go deep within the present makeshift structure. There is the very real question as to whether any group of part-time science advisers or fulltime lower-echelon assistants can piece together a wise national program in a privileged sanctuary isolated from contact with the public. As one reads the testimony of Wiesner, there is clear admission of the need for a vigorous interplay of the inner sanctum and the outer world, but he implies that this takes place adequately through liaison with Congress. Testifying before the House Select Committee on Government Research, Wiesner said :
“Our attempts to understand these changing patterns [of science and their impact on society] require the utmost effort and cooperation of both the expert, who can illuminate the choices and help to plot the right paths, and the layman, who in his own community and through his representatives must determine these overall objectives and their value. That is why the interest of the Congress in these areas is particularly welcome at this time. Your appreciation of the full dimensions and capabilities of our national involvement in science and technology will enhance the nation's ability to allocate its scientific and technical resources in ways that best serve national purposes." Since the average Congressman serves as middleman between expert and layman, this double communication from expert to Congressman to layman is a dubious relay operation.
From what has gone before, it appears that the limited exposure of White House science advice to the general public places a maximum reliance upon the good sense and qualifications of the new elite. When the few decide what is good for the many, government is shaken to its democratic roots. But our society is confronted with the enigma that only a relatively few are highly specialized and they talk in a strange tongue. The public is thus forced to back science on the basis of blind faith. It really has little choice and is so isolated from decisionmaking that it does not know that it has a choice.
Recent interchanges between scientists have highlighted the fact that scientists disagree on what is good for science, so there is apt to be even more disharmony over what is good for society. Confining the matter to the area of fundamental science, we find that scientists are confronted with the necessity for making decisions on science policy. Dr. Alvin Weinberg phrased the problem as follows:
As science grows, its demands on our society's resources grow. It seems inevitable that science's demands will eventually be limited by what society can allocate to it. We shall then have to make choices. These choices are of two kinds. We shall have to choose among different, often incommensurable, fields of science-between, for example, high-energy physics and oceanography or between