Warning: This is a longer (6100 word) article giving detailed Cold War history.
Joseph Friedlander here in a guest article for Next Big Future.
Where did the future go? To a young boy born around 1935, seeing the war end with atomic armed B-29s over Japan, watching the movie Destination Moon in 1950, reading the Colliers articles in 1952,
UPDATE- Jerry Pournelle linked to this article from his Chaos Manor site. He said
“There is a long bit on McNamara and the Strategy of Technology http://nextbigfuture.com/2012/05/where-did-future-go-strategy-of.html which will be worth the attention of those interested in those subjects.”
Here is my (Brian Wang) summary of this article. Robert McNamara killed X-plane experimentation. Technological development needs a lot of trial and error with rapid build and test and modify iterations. By removing rapid development cycles the cost of technology has increased and the pace of technology has slowed. This has become a fundamental flaw in many US technology development programs. There is a lot of links and extracts from Freeman Dyson and Jerry Pournelle about the flaws in Technology Development policy which are traced back to what McNamara did.
and who heard the beep of Sputnik rebroadcast on the radio as he graduated college in 1957, the future was obvious—a race for the commanding heights of space, possibly with atomic survival as a prize. These were very paranoid times, and men driven by fear will work very hard and spend a lot to develop any weapons they need.
Every rocket nut knew that an upgraded V-2 launched from a future base on the Moon could deliver an (lightweight) atomic bomb to Earth—and many tech races were on simultaneously, to make rockets heavier, warheads lighter, planes faster, nuclear reactors more powerful, submarines deeper diving. By 1958 instead of 1944’s 1-ton chemical explosive warhead, or 1952’s lightweight 1 ton 20 kiloton atomic bombs—by 1958 a megaton warhead was possible within the weight constraints of the V-2. Had Scuds—Soviet evolutions of V-2s—been based upon the Moon, they could have shot such megaton warheads to Earth on a science-fiction style attack on the USA.
Lyndon Baines Johnson, later President, said that he for one did not want to go to bed by the light of a Communist moon.
It was an arms race, with a Eurasian continental power (The Soviet Union) pitted against an oceanic/air power (The USA) that truly did not want to get into large-scale land combat in Eurasia. And it had one of the rudest awakenings in a short time in the history of the great powers—in June 1949, America had an atomic monopoly, was on top of the world. By September of that year, the Russians had an atomic bomb, China went communist and America basically went into shock. By January 1950 development of the hydrogen bomb was authorized, by June 1950 Communist North Korea invaded US trooped South Korea, by October 1950 the US was in effect at war with Communist China, in December 1950 President Truman was making veiled nuclear threats, and by June 1951 the country was fully expecting an atomic war as a real possibility—just two years after the last days of the atomic monopoly. From my readings of history I think that was perhaps even a greater shock than the later Sputnik shock in October 1957, and it possibly explains the reaction to Sputnik—the USA was alarmed about surprises in the level of Soviet weapons building capability.
What we did, perhaps by instinct at first, but later with conscious attempt was to adopt what Jerry Pournelle and Stefan Possony termed a “Strategy of Technology”
Strategy of Technology doctrine involves a country using its advantage in technology to create and deploy weapons of sufficient power and numbers so as to overawe or beggar its opponents, forcing them to spend their limited resources on developing hi-tech countermeasures and straining their economy.
In 1983, The US Defense Intelligence Agency established a classified program, Project Socrates, to develop a national technology strategy policy. This program was designed to maintain the US military strength relative to the Soviet Union, while also maintaining the economic and military strength required to keep the US as a superpower.
The Strategy of Technology is described in the eponymous book written by Stefan T. Possony, Jerry Pournelle and Francis X. Kane (Col., USAF, ret.) in 1970.This was required reading in the U.S. service academies, the Air War College, and the National War College during the latter half of the Cold War.
My operational definition of the Strategy of Technology was to
tire out and one-up the Soviets by upgrading our weapons (hopefully) faster than they could.
The Soviets were getting very good at putting new generations of weapons into service (especially after the skill upgrade they absorbed from German craftsmen after their World War 2 victory—see 1957’s America, Too Young To Die! By Major de Seversky —
–after absorbing the German arms building skills the upgraded technical sector of the Soviet Union proved a determined and resourceful opponent in this new style of technological warfare. Able to cobble together forces able to challenge the US deployments, even if often inferior and patchy—on a comparatively tiny budget. (For an early series of surprises, the Soviet copy of the B-29, the Korean War Mig-15, jet fighters and bombers, early missiles.) Clever use of Soviet strengths (mastery of mathematics, Russian ways of looking at problems and finding workarounds for shortages of parts and lack of local autarky of production (self sufficiency)) kept them apace when they might easily have been out of the race.
Meanwhile in the US, massive amounts of defense spending after the Korean War started in 1950 supercharged the defense sector and lots of teams (especially in the aerospace companies) began to be formed and gain experience—great experience, form a tech ecosystem, and to build on each other’s successes. Meanwhile the government through NACA (predecessor to NASA) and various defense projects gathered expensive data the private sector could not afford to spend on its’ own, giving experience in supersonic and hypersonic flight. As the 1950s began, future super speed craft were visualized to be needle-nosed. As real data poured in, from test craft like the X-17 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_X-17
blunter nosed rocket craft appeared. (Like a reentry vehicle shield, the shape forces a shock wave stand-off of plasma, so that compressed mass of plasma takes the brunt of heat, not the vehicle). Until that discovery, speed was thwarted by what many called the ‘heat barrier’. (A different version of this still exists for long-duration hypersonic aircraft which if using liquid methane in an engine would have to use the cryogenic fuel for cooling the pilot’s cabin so the crew could survive…)
In 1953 the first test Mach 2 aircraft flew. Massive industry tech teams honed in the early Cold War (after the Soviet atom bomb test before Sputnik) were available and in place to take advantage of the money flood after Sputnik By 1963 this Mach 2 speed was not experimental but operational in thousands of airplanes, and men had flown to Mach 25 to orbit. By 1968 they had flown at Mach 35 to the Moon—but that was a result of stuff already in the pipeline. All in just 15 wild years. By then the Space Age was reaching its apogee but its momentum of political support was beginning to be spent.
From about 1954 (upgraded ICBM programs and the WS-201A program that utilized the new concept of the ‘weapons system’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1954_interceptor) to 1965 (peak NASA funding) the future arrived in a rush—
B-58, The Polaris nuclear powered ballistic submarine system, A-12, SR-71, Project West Ford
the F-103 Mach 4 interceptor,
nuclear airplane, (which arms control advocates laugh at as an impractical vision)
Project Pluto, (a nuclear cruise missile which arms control advocates dreaded as such a possibility as to be an apocalyptic symbol)
MOL (Manned Orbiting Laboratory)
Camp Century, (nuclear powered Greenland Base)
The experimental nuclear reactor at the South Pole Base,
The nuclear cargo ship Savannah, and many other amazing projects.
If you have not heard of some of those, there is a reason—some were cancelled. Some of these were wildly apocalyptic in nature, the technology being amazing (notice that I am not including things like rail based Minuteman etc because they are not unknown remarkable tech but operational refinements deployments of existing weapons once the Minuteman I was built by 1961.)
From the early 50s to the early 60s, powerful Southern politicians held positions in Congress—Lyndon Johnson himself was one of these in the Senate—and gave huge backing to military and defense research spending.
There was suddenly plenty of money, and the country was not yet drowning in rules and regulations—for example, Project Argus, a decision to investigate the effects of nuclear detonations in space was organized in FOUR MONTHS from decision to launch and detonation in 1958. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Argus
It required only four months from the time it was decided to proceed with the tests until the first bomb was exploded.
In another example of rapid decision-making in 1962, the famed LOR (Lunar Orbit Rendezvous) architectural decision to reach the moon with a lander/orbiter combo instead of a single ship was (after the appropriate groundwork was laid) decided in a single afternoon.
The US was simply more organizationally flexible then and things were not yet decided in academic style committees with endless peer review as now—people consulted, yes, but they also took decisions, quickly as under the stress of wartime—which was why the called it the Cold War.
Many of the patterns of the time influenced the doings and thoughts of those who lived then, of course.
There were beliefs, very widespread, part of the zeitgeist, that appears in my readings of the history of the era.
A feeling of liberal crusading against ignorant and benighted beliefs of out of touch out of date antedelivian and fearful traditionalists who just didn’t understand the complex new world we lived in. They didn’t mean to be so wrongheaded, but all decent folks –like the character played by Henry Fonda in 12 Angry Men
Or the character played by Spencer Tracy in Inherit The Wind, the spirit of enlightened liberal moral authority and principled outrage sweeping aside any consideration that those he opposed could be anything but wrong was overwhelming in those times.
In many circles it was taken for granted that all decent and intelligent people would instinctively recognize the need not to pursue wars to victory, the dangers of the new nuclear era we lived in, runaway arms races, and so forth. Often however the realization that every coin has two sides simply does not appear in many more liberal writings of that era. (That is my own reading of the history and sources—YMMV) (Examples might be the speculation that not pursuing minor wars to victory encourages unending brushfire wars, the speculation that excessive awe of nuclear weapons can encourage aggression –for example the fear of the West from Khrushchev’s 1956 threats during Suez crisis of “rocket war” led to the Allies backing off, which encouraged him to gamble, which arguably led to the Cuban Missile Crisis— the speculation that arms races are bad but a crushing Soviet superiority of say 10-1 might be worse, etc)—
Military and geopolitical realists like Major de Seversky (like John Mearshimer of a later date, say circa 1991) did not give a hoot about the uniqueness of the new era we lived in that upended all the rules, instead they said, friend, every era is unique and the old rules always apply (albeit sometimes with new twists) And if you don’t race you’ll fall behind– just the way it is. But these opinions struck liberals of the time as out of touch with the new realities of life in the atomic age.
It was fashionable among Northern liberals at that time to decry wasteful military spending,
Indeed Herbert York wrote that the defense tech boom enabled larger support coalitions that had a political snowball effect–
“This larger constituency in turn strengthened those forces in the Congress “which hear the farthest drum before the cry of a hungry child…”
A great description of the pace of those years is in the freely available online biography “Race To Oblivion” http://alsos.wlu.edu/qsearch.aspx?browse=people/York,+Herbert
By Herbert York, former director of ARPA, now DARPA.
and it was fashionable among Northern liberals at that time to decry interservice rivalry –but I am convinced that each of those three things were components of the lush tech environment then.
Things were approved quickly, and the jokes about the Navy wanting its own ability to conduct a private nuclear war with the Soviet Union notwithstanding, having more than one agency in deadly competition (i.e. funding could be lost if ineffectively trying to duplicate a weapon system and so on) gave the effective equivalent of competition even in a government-run model. It was not as efficient as an X-Prize award might have been (i.e. $1 billion prize for first company to privately land on the Moon, $500 million for the second company) but we must remember that this was only 30 years after FDR and LBJ was (before Vietnam got out of control) trying for a Great Society heavy on government service and public goods. Private endeavor—especially small business startups– was simply not as fashionable then, the talk was always of a ‘government-industry team’ of large glamorous organizations.
So formidable did these appear from the outside that the Frenchman Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber wrote of “The American Challenge”,
(the book) presented the United States and Europe as engaged in a silent economic war, in which Europe appeared to be completely outclassed on all fronts: management techniques, technological tools, and research capacity. Servan-Schreiber saw in this thesis the potential for a seminal book. He fleshed it out with reading keys and concrete proposals for a counter-offensive. The result was his international best-seller “Le Défi Américain” (The American Challenge, 1967). It sold 600,000 copies in France, unprecedented for a political essay, and was translated into 15 languages. book was instrumental in creating a resurgence of French nationalism and drawing attention to the importance of transnational cooperation in Europe.
“The American Challenge”, was the appearance of new worldwide multinational firms based in America that were simply outclassing provincial traditional European firms.
Back then the USA was a tech juggernaut. I am sure that it drove the Soviets crazy trying to keep up the pace.
To be blunt, not every wondrous technology is an effective weapon. (SAGE, the air defense was vulnerable to decapitation strikes, Jupiter was not as good an IRBM as Thor, etc) But remember I am not writing about defense policy so much as the historical results of clear-cutting a tech development infrastructure in the name of a more streamlined and rational process. What (as Herman Kahn noted) had been a 5-year cycle in revolutionary upgrades in technology (think B-17, B-29 and mods B-36, B-47, B-52, B-58, B-70) basically became a 15 year cycle—(think F-4, F-15, F-117, F-22). Eliminate wasteful interservice competition— was the idea–but there is a flip side to everything—wasteful monopolies with little competition to keep them oriented to reality…
A tangled tech rainforest may not look as neat as an ordered garden—but in a certain sense it is more alive, part of a spontaneous ecosystem of tech innovation. Technical exuberance or ebullience is contagious and a young engineer proving himself in one company can often get a job in another, establish a reputation, become part of a great design team, or even become a grand master designer like Kelly Johnson —
When the tech ecosystem of innovation is chopped down, those who had been sheltered there, found sustenance there, suddenly have no place to go. When masters can’t find work who hires trainees? And in 20 years there are no new masters so you import things and try to keep system management in house at least…
As Charles Hugh Smith is fond of saying, (I am paraphrasing here) efficiency is the opposite of robustness (i.e. you don’t have the resilience of multiple approaches to a problem, multiple resources—and the system, even if it still delivers, becomes brittle, vulnerable to stresses. By 1970 this was not so apparent. After 1986 and the Challenger disaster, it was easier to see.) Although as I like to say, ‘after the cuts, the system does work for less– while it still does work’. But eventually such tech clear cutting catches up with –not those who cut and received accolades for being budget-conscious—but their successors who confront an impoverished tech ecosystem.
The clear cutting began under officials of the Kennedy Administration. Notably former Ford Corporate VP Robert McNamara (who ironically approved the development of the 1961-1963 Lincoln Continental that Kennedy was assassinated in) who after JFK tapped him, became Secretary of Defense.
McNamara’s big thing was a rational quantitative approach to life. Know the numbers, know the data—and he was armed with the mysterious authority of one from operations research (he helped the Air Force serving under General LeMay in the Pacific—ironically to become SecDef over LeMay later.). Back then (1961-8) computers were a million times weaker than today but their reputation as thinking machines and their lent authority was super intimidating because few people actually had seen one but they had heard the stories of the great data processing centers and the wonders they could perform. So McNamara had a certain intimidating background to him as well as being personally quite intelligent.
The problem –in my view–was McNamara’s decisions were not always backed by as much hardevidence as he believed to be the case. There were moments (during the Cuban Missile crisis for example) when he was acutely aware of how little of the real situation on the ground he knew. There were other moments that he had no idea that his snap decisions based on the pieces of data he COULD quantify –were totally out of touch with what would later prove to be the facts about the whole picture. Part of life quantifies easily. Part does not. I am thinking of the TFX decision but other examples may be available to the student of history who researches his life.
(The decision to build the Tactical Fighter Experimental that eventually morphed to become the F-111 and FB-111 and McNamara’s belief that one fighter type could replace ALL other kinds of fighters in any role any time any place any range any contest—which is basically the same as saying that one man who had never designed a plane could super guess outcomes better than EVERY other plane designer.)
Jerry Pournelle on this:
The really crucial decision came when Secretary McNamara decided that the TFX should be both an air superiority fighter and an attack bomber. Once these roles and missions were mixed, the airplane was doomed. Such a multi-mission aircraft looks extremely good to the budget-minded. By assigning proper numerical values to various levels of performance on different missions, adding them up, and calling that effectiveness, you get a figure which — compared with the cost of producing several different types of airplanes each of which is optimum for a mission — makes it the best airplane you could ever buy. The TFX will remain a wonderful general-purpose craft until it fights the airplane that takes first place in the air superiority mission. In war, there is no prize for second place.
Freeman Dyson later wrote on the role of failure in technology development—notice the sheer improbability of a management consultant ‘lucking on’ the perfect distilled practical form of a new technology by ‘rational choice’ from a pile of green and white striped printouts—
The role of failure
You can’t possibly get a good technology going without an enormous number of failures. It’s a universal rule. If you look at bicycles, there were thousands of weird models built and tried before they found the one that really worked. You could never design a bicycle theoretically. Even now, after we’ve been building them for 100 years, it’s very difficult to understand just why a bicycle works – it’s even difficult to formulate it as a mathematical problem. But just by trial and error, we found out how to do it, and the error was essential ^ Interview by Stewart Brand, February 1998
. Wired.com (2009-01-04). Retrieved on 2011-10-07.
It may be extremely cool to be part of a government team of smart people picking winners but they are unlikely to be the right winners of a universe of possibilities almost entirely explored by people who arrive at conclusions from one starting viewpoint alone.
If I were trying to define the cult of management to a class this would be one example to use—the idea that numbers people armed with printouts (nowadays spreadsheets and PowerPoint) can run businesses they know nothing about and do it better than people who have spent a lifetime developing my craft AND do it repeatedly across different lines of business every few years. It is an amazing conceit when you think of it, but I certainly don’t blame McNamara for not being aware of it in its’ dawning years.)
The metaphor I would use for this in teaching a class is that changing the spreadsheet presented to senior management does not necessarily change the real business of life that the spreadsheet represents.
If you give detailed instructions people game the instructions. If you use metrics that are not organic to the work at hand people game the metrics. During McNamara and LBJ’s micromanagement of Vietnam, one metric used was sorties generated so some politicians with stars on their collars allegedly (looking for a source confirming this story) kept sorties numbers up by sending out fighters with one bomb on one wing and a concrete counterweight on the other—doubling the sortie numbers at the expense of fuel, risk, pilots and so forth. That is the kind of story that if true speaks volumes of the dysfunction of the Vietnam War on the American side.
In the 80s and 90s there was something called “decision support software” for management, and my wag comment was what it really was, was “decision rationalization software”, you decided what you wanted to do, and it armored you with a totally impressive set of outputs that you could use to show top management.
Not that at some level actual numerical analysis and quantitative research isn’t taking place– but I am guessing in relation to McNamara’s Pentagon that the real function systems analysis served was a badge of invincible authority which should shut up all debate. In the environment of unreality fostered by the analyst culture, making up data to support conclusions could be justified if presented as a band of scenarios, for example, and the disconnect from reality familiar to parodies of corporate culture amplified to new levels.
Background reading on the “Whiz Kids” including McNamara.
Whiz Kids: How 10 Men Saved America(and Then Almost Destroyed It)
An article about this tendency in high flyers: “Robert McNamara and the Vietnam-era whiz kids thought they had reduced war to an exact science.”
Documentary on McNamara’s times
Movie transcript of this documentary, the Fog of War
JERRY POURNELLE ON SOME OF THE CHANGES MCNAMARA MADE
Jerry Pournelle mentions that McNamara severed strategy from operations in a way, which had long lasting ill effects (and essentially began the “X Command/Y Command” structure we have today)
Prior to the McNamara Era, the JCS had the responsibility for strategic assessment, but that role was eliminated by the civilian ‘Whiz kids’ he brought into the Pentagon.
The economist in the Pentagon who wants everything reduced to a set of numerical values so that he can pick the minimax strategy has already confessed his ignorance of strategic realities, which cannot be given in numerical form.
In 1989 the decision maker is likely to be a Member of Congress, or, even more likely, a Congressional Staffer, whose expertise is more likely to be in political than strategic analysis. Micro-management and pork barreling by Congress has replaced the systems analysis by Whiz Kids in the Pentagon.
The task of the political decision maker — the civilian control of the military we hear so much about — is to set policy and see that the grand strategy of the United States is carried out, not to function as general officers in mufti and interfere with the proper operation of the services.
Secretary McNamara’s “whiz kids” believed themselves competent to make almost every military decision, and to do so while also holding the privilege of disassociating themselves from the resulting disasters they had produced.
In any event, such crucial decisions should be made at a level where there is likely to be an understanding of problems of national security, not, as was the case in the McNamara era, by low-level civilian scientists who have never been faced with real military decisions. The economist in the Pentagon who wants everything reduced to a set of numerical values so that he can pick the minimax strategy has already confessed his ignorance of strategic realities, which cannot be given in numerical form.
The strategist is, above all, an intellectual, but he is an intellectual of a different order from the scientist and engineer, or the average university professor. The strategist, unlike the scientist, deals with a world of secrecy, incomplete information, and real uncertainties which cannot be measured by statistical procedures. He lives in a world of intelligent opponents who seek to thwart him at every turn. He is concerned with the generation of plans which will be carried out by others, and he makes use of principles rather than scientific laws.
In 1989 the decision maker is likely to be a Member of Congress, or, even more likely, a Congressional Staffer, whose expertise is more likely to be in political than strategic analysis. Micro-management and pork barreling by Congress has replaced the systems analysis by Whiz Kids in the Pentagon.
. It is not civilian control to place untrained political appointees at every level of the services and require military professionals to submit all decisions to them before implementation. Such a system of political commissars was tried by the USSR with such disastrous results that we are unable to understand why the United States should institute something along those lines in our military development and procurement commands; yet that is precisely what has been done.
One more problem with the analyst culture that McNamara thrived in is the long lead times it built in—(when you have to route things multiple times back and forth before decision quick innovation is lost)
Pournelle on this tendency:
Endless reviews and meaningless analyses have driven lead times to inordinate lengths. Whereas in 1941-44 we were able to conceive, design, build, and deploy large numbers of new military aircraft within three years, this is inconceivable today.
This may be part of a larger tendency that I (Friedlander) have noted of increasing lead times and basically contempt for the organic productive process and productive efforts of technicians and craftsmen by corporate gamesmen who have no concept of the suffering and love and iterations that go into making a working product of quality—but whose power games and maneuverings as a key tactic often involve sabotaging projects and shutting down production capabilities (and workforce skill upgrade learning curves) often built up at heartbreaking personal cost.
Articles on Michael Maccoby’s corporate gamesman concept (various personalities vying for power in large organizations) from: Michael Maccoby, The Gamesman: The New Corporate Leaders (New York: Bantam Books, 1978)
We come next to the (controversial) issue of document and tool destruction as a deliberate means to block a weapon system from being built.
Or maybe not—
In Wilderness of Mirrors, a book on gun designer Gerald Bull, by Dale Grant, on page 79 the author mentions Bull’s term for the people (politicians or connected thereto) whose maneuverings to stop the Canadian Arrow Mach 2 jet fighter went so far as to order the tools, technical records, etc destroyed so a project cancellation is not reversible (Bull called these people “the torchers” but author Dale Grant (correctly I think) believes that though the tactic is real there is no government unit that does this systematically. Note that the official reasons given may not be the real reasons for the scrapping which happened within 2 months of project cancellation—all aircraft engines production tooling and technical data.
the Saturn V blueprints have not been lost. They are kept at Marshall Space Flight Center on microfilm. The Federal Archives in East Point, GA also has 2900 cubic
feet of Saturn documents. Rocketdyne has in its archives dozens of volumes from its Knowledge Retention Program. This effort was initiated in the late ’60s to document every facet of F-1 and J-2 engine production to assist in any future re-start.
There are stories out there that McNamara ordered the B-70 and SR-71 tooling
There are rumors that Cheney has done the same with the F-14. (In that case though the motivation would be to keep spare parts out of the hands of the Iranians who share use of the aircraft)
Comment on the “Why” of tool destruction http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1706952/posts
–if a real tactic it works because its’ irreversible and a massive roadblock in time and funding to get the program restarted again (as the B-1 was after President Carter cancelled it but the tooling survived and Reagan refunded it)
I (Friedlander) welcome any comments by readers to confirm or deny the use of tool destroying as a gamesman tool to win a shutdown of a weapons system — to force a program end—in the comments section.
Supposing it to be true just for this discussion though it is a perfect example of the unintentional effects of corporate and bureaucratic games on real people in real organizations developing new tech.
When you treat productive people like the heart of the enterprise as in a war that must be won—that all sacrifice for equally and with sincerity– you get extraordinary personal loyalty, effort and product quality. When you treat the productive people and process with contempt they get the message and cease doing more than they are being paid for. Things settle into the slowest pace consistent with not losing their jobs. Why bust a gut doing great work when some higher-up might order your tooling destroyed? It just kills morale to think about it!
We have seen that the lush tech environment of the late 1950s and early 60s had spawned a wonderful tech ecosystem that was sprouting up science fiction like developments on an almost monthly basis back then. But all good things must end, and by McNamara’s time as Secretary of Defense the future was slowly beginning to die. I am not saying he alone did this, I am trying to analyze what happened.
President Johnson had after his 1964 reelection become convinced that wasteful competition in space was consuming more and more resources (actually, based on the cash flows, this decision must have occurred early in his second term, about 1965). (Vietnam was consuming far more than the space program, but could not be budgeted—it took what it took, thus Johnson was pressed for money to fund it and his other preferred programs.)
LBJ for example ordered a stop to massive production of nuclear materials (the US could build 7000 nuclear warheads in a single year back then, about 20 a day)
LBJ also had fear of being caught in an arms race with weapons like Fractional Orbital Bombardment Systems –and permanently orbiting nuclear weapons, which theoretically would allow striking any point on Earth (from any direction) with very short warning times (I have seen the figure of 30 seconds mentioned—though with sufficient yield theoretically a detonation directly overhead would give zero warning time)
Here is an article documenting the staff work in 1966 that shut down the Space Race—offering the Russians an Antarctic Treaty like bank on nuclear weapons and land claims in space http://www.thespacereview.com/article/401/1
was an orbiting nuclear arms race: (from the Wikipedia article)
Military nature of orbiting satellites
The match-cut spanning four million years
Another holdover of discarded plot ideas is with regard to the famous match-cut from prehistoric bone-weapon to orbiting satellite, followed sequentially by views of three more satellites. Kubrick initially intended to have a voice-over narrator explicitly stating these were armed nuclear weapon platforms while speaking of a nuclear stalemate between the superpowers…Multiple production staff aided in the writing of Jerome Agel’s 1970 book on the making of the film, in which captions describe the objects as “orbiting satellites carrying nuclear weapons“
In the backstory, the vast space infrastructure, which I have estimated at 300,000 tons of lift weight per year http://nextbigfuture.com/2011/02/heinlein-style-spaceflight-with.html
was catalyzed by an orbital arms race, the need to maintain in orbit not merely thousands of tons of nuclear warheads but also their hangars and release systems and the maintenance flights for those. (Much of this is subtext from my reading of the story and Clarke’s other writings.) In 1967 the US hit peak stockpile, 31255 nuclear warheads. Maintaining half of that in orbit with human weaponeer crews could easily use 30,000 tons a year of lift capacity.
President Johnson signed the Outer Space Treaty of 1967.
But “No bucks, no Buck Rogers.”
Without those twin goads of fear (downside) and prospect of gain (upside) the motivation to spend money to employ geeks to build and operate technically marvelous aerospace systems from the public sector evaporated—especially in regard to lunar settlement.
When the moon-landing program was winding to an end (starting with completion of the Saturn V run of 15 rockets in 1968—canceling the second run of improved Saturn V– and cancellation of the last 3 lunar missions in1970).
The aerospace companies began letting people off overtime, then even letting them go. President Nixon knew that to be reelected he needed California and its aerospace workers, which eased the decision to build the space shuttle in 1972. But many aerospace engineers were laid off in the change of systems, and there were many bitter comments about being recipient of ‘Nixon Fellowships’ (i.e. driving a taxi because there was no aerospace work). The roots of those cuts however often extended back to the LBJ and JFK eras.
That was the beginning of the end of the First Space Age.
POSTSCRIPT—The Decline of US Tech after the aerospace tech ecosystem clearcutting–
The Project Socrates team a little over 10 years later noticed widespread deterioration in US competitiveness
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Project Socrates was a US Defense Intelligence Agency program established in 1983 within the Reagan administration. This classified program, founded and directed by physicist Michael Sekora, was designed for the purpose of identifying the root cause of the United States’ declining ability to compete, changing the way that American companies conducted business, and restoring a competitive edge to the United States
According to Project Socrates:
“(B)ird’s eye view of competition went far beyond, in terms of scope and completeness, the extremely narrow slices of data that were available to the professors, professional economists, and consultants that addressed the issue of competitiveness. The conclusions that the Socrates team derived about competitiveness in general and about the U.S. in particular were in almost all cases in direct opposition to what the professors, economists and consultants had been saying for years, and to what had been accepted as irrefutable underlying truths by decision-makers throughout the U.S…
In the early 1980s, it was becoming apparent to some people that the US was losing its competitiveness. However, the Socrates team saw that what amounted to “one-liner” explanations of the reasons for the US’ declining competitiveness (e.g., “Japan, Inc.”, “A non-level playing field”) -which were widely distributed and fully accepted- were too superficial …
To determine the source of the US competitiveness problem, Project Socrates assembled an all-source intelligence system which enabled the project to examine competition on a global scale. The combination of deep intelligence and digital data provided a bird’s eye, holistic view of all forms of competition worldwide…
Project Socrates identified 5 key mental shifts which had to take place in order to restore the United States’ competitive edge…
Decision-makers must revert back to technology exploitation as the foundation for their decision-making.
The exploitation of the technology is the most effective foundation for decision making for the complete set of functions within the private and public sectors that determine US competitiveness….
Nothing much came of all this, of course.–JF
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