MIT: Still Collaborating With The Pentagon? by Bob Feldman

Here we are reprinting an excellent report on the collaboration of MIT and the Pentagon done by Bob Feldman.  It is a model other universities should use in exposing their military connections.

located at:

MIT: Still Collaborating With The Pentagon?

by Bob Feldman

MIT was the 10th-largest recipient of U.S. Air Force contracts during the 1999 fiscal year. And, coincidentally, between 1993 and 1997, MIT Professor Sheila Widnall was the Clinton Administration’s Secretary of the Air Force. In addition, an MIT Corporation Chairman of the Board, Paul Gray, has sat on the board of directors of Boeing in recent years.

With $345 million worth of U.S. Air Force contracts, MIT presently receives a larger amount of Air Force contracts than does IBM or General Dynamics. And between 1996 and 1999 the value of MIT’s contracts from all branches of the Pentagon increased from $319 million to $357 million. (By comparison, in 1967 the value of MIT’s Department of Defense contracts was only about $95 million). The 40th-largest recipient of all Pentagon contracts in 1996, by 1999 MIT was the 34th-largest recipient of all Pentagon contracts. The 28th-largest recipient of U.S. Navy contracts, Charles Stark Draper Lab Inc. is apparently still institutionally-affiliated to MIT, according to the web-site which MIT shares with Draper. Draper Lab received $147 million worth of U.S. Navy contracts in 1999. The overall value of Draper’s contracts from all branches of the Pentagon was $166 million in 1999, making it the 82nd-largest recipient of all Pentagon contracts.

If MIT and the MIT-affiliated Draper Lab are considered as one entity, then MIT/Draper Lab would rank 23rd on the current list of largest recipients of U.S. Defense Department contracts.

As the 10th-largest recipient of U.S. Air Force contracts, can we assume that MIT is helping the U.S. Air Force prepare for 21st-century space warfare? Here’s what MIT Professor Sheila Widnall said on May 29, 1997 in a speech at The National Security Forum at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, when she was Air Force Secretary:

“[Air Force Chief of Staff] Gen. [Ronald R.] Fogelman and I initiated a redesign of the Air Force, or at least outlined its direction into the 21st century. This is laid out in our vision document, Global Engagement, and it is indeed an exciting vision. It’s full of vectors for change, with implications for everything we do. But I’m sure as future Air Force members look back, they will focus on a single sentence that reflects the consensus we reached about the integration of air and space capabilities. `We are now transitioning from an air force into an air and space force on an evolutionary path to a space and air force.’

“We are traveling toward the day when our Air Force will become one enormous network of sensors, command centers and shooters. In fact, we are already well on our way there. For example, we have already demonstrated the capability to get a direct downlink from our intelligence satellites on orbit, to the cockpit of one of our fighters with real-time data on the threats that a pilot will face in the target area.

“Or you can feed photos from our photo-reconnaissance aircraft into the cockpit of a fighter en route to the target area, so the pilot can have the latest update on target positions after he or she gets airborne. That’s all incredible, miraculous, but very shortly, it will be routine.

“Impressive though they are, these giant steps represent only a precursor to the progress that I expect the Air Force to make over the decades that lie ahead of us. Rapidly, inexorably, we are maturing into a space and air force. It’s inevitable. That’s where the technological opportunities lead us, that’s where we have to go to execute our responsibilities in the years ahead.

“Already we are nearing the ability to find, fix, track and target from space anything of consequence on the face of the earth. Beyond that, we are working toward the ability to perform those functions in near real-time. We are well along that path. When we get there, the face of warfare will be forever changed. That capability will move us to a new era of warfare, with consequences that we can hardly even project today…

“Right now the Air Force is charged with supporting [General Howell M. Estes III, commander in chief, United States Space Command] CINCSPACE in his mission of force application and space control…

“…Already we are reaping the benefits of initiatives like the Space Warfare Center out in [Falcon Air Force Base,] Colorado, and of including our space experts in the Weapons School at Nellis [Air Force Base, Nev.]. “I have visited the Space Warfare Center, and I have seen the miracles they are working at the tactical and technical levels…”

In December 1998, former Air Force Secretary Widnall was named an “Institute Professor” by the MIT Administration; and she is “one of the leaders in the creation of the new ROTC program” at MIT, according to a February 1999 MIT press release. An MIT professor since 1964, Widnall sat on the Carnegie Corporation of New York’s board of trustees between 1984 and 1993; and she was that foundation’s Vice-Chair of the Board between 1990 and 1993.

Presently, Widnall sits on the board of trustees of the Alfred F. Sloan Foundation, which is one of the foundations that funds the PBS-distributed To The Contrary show (which features a panel of rotating women political analysts, including a former co-host/producer of FAIR’s CounterSpin radio show). Former Air Force Secretary Widnall also has been a member of the Corporation of Draper Labs since 1988 and a member of MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory Advisory Committee since 1991.

In May 1995, the MIT News reported that MIT Lincoln Laboratory, “a research and development center operated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for the Department of Defense,” opened its new South Laboratory Building on Hanscom Air Force Base in Lexington, Massachusetts; and that Lincoln Laboratory “has been a key center of advanced electronic and military technology since it was founded at the request of the U.S. Air Force in 1951.”

According to MIT News, “the experience and expertise of the Laboratory are widely utilized by the Department of Defense in the areas of surveillance, identification and communications;” and “the Laboratory has been at the center of advances ranging from material and semiconductor device fabricators to missile defense, air defense, military satellite communications, and radar that can detect tanks or other targets hidden under foliage.”

Approximately 1,000 people are employed at the Lexington laboratory where most of MIT’s research work for the U.S. Air Force is being done. The director of MIT’s Space Grant Program between 1990 and 1993, MIT Professor Daniel Hastings, began serving as the U.S. Air Force’s chief scientist shortly before former Air Force Secretary Widnall returned to MIT’s campus in the Fall of 1997. According to a May 8, 1997 MIT press release, “Professor Hastings noted that the Air Force, the most technically intense branch of service, is `redefining itself’ from an air and space force into a space and air force.’ I will help them understand the nature of this transition,’ he said.”

In his 1985 autobiography, The Education of A College President, MIT’s president and/or MIT Corporation Chairman between 1949 and 1971, James Killian, recalled the origins of MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory:

“MIT’s success in war research had brought it great prestige in the corridors of the Pentagon and in the staff of the National Security Council. More important, MIT possessed a large reservoir of people experienced in thinking creatively about national security and in identifying deficiencies in our defenses for which these scientists saw remedies. This group constituted a kind of research establishment… “The group was repeatedly called on for help in the early days of my presidency…This led to the invention by ingenious MIT academics of the `summer study’ (some called it `group think’), an arrangement that made it possible for the Institute to sponsor ad hoc studies of great value to the Department of Defense…

“The name `summer study’ evolved as a result of the projects being undertaken mainly in the summer, when academic personnel were more readily available…The Cambridge academic community and the federal government provided the initiative for a number of these projects.

“Out of one of these studies came the initiation of the Lincoln Laboratory…” Writing in the 1980s, the now-deceased former MIT President/Chairman (who also sat on the Corporation for Public Broadcasting board of directors between 1968 and 1975) characterized the kind of research that has been done at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory in the following way:

“Thirty-four years after the decisions were reached to undertake the Lincoln Laboratory, it stands as a highly productive research center managed by MIT but located away from the campus. It thus is free to undertake classified research which would be unacceptable to the Institute were the laboratory located on campus.”

A book published by South End Press in the 1980s, Universities In The Business of Repression by Jonathan Feldman, characterized Lincoln Laboratory as “the central institution linking MIT to the military;” and noted that Lincoln Laboratory was “responsible for projects researching strategic offense and defense, military satellite communications, high-energy laser technology and advanced electronics. The same book also indicated that MIT’s Pentagon contracts increased by 47 percent between 1982 and 1986, during the Reagan Era.

The MIT Administration also, historically, helped the Pentagon develop its weapons of mass destruction by its involvement with the Institute for Defense Analyses [IDA]. As Village Voice reporter James Ridgeway noted in his 1968 book The Closed Corporation, “James R. Killian, Jr., chairman of the board of MIT put together IDA.”

On its website at , IDA noted that it “traces its roots to 1947, when Secretary of Defense Forrestal established the Weapons Systems Evaluation Group [WSEG] to provide technical analyses of weapons systems and programs;” and “in the mid-1950s, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff asked the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to form a civilian, nonprofit research institute.” IDA also reports that it recently “established the Joint Advanced Warfighting Program to develop new operational concepts.” With “a research staff of approximately 24 people, including several active duty officers representing the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Marine Corps,” that is “augmented by adjunct and consultants when necessary,” IDA’s Joint Advance Warfighting Program “serves as a catalyst for developing breakthrough improvements in military capabilities.”

In his autobiography, Killian (who was nicknamed “Mr. MIT” during his life) also recalled the role MIT played in the creation of the Pentagon’s IDA weapons research think-tank:

“The Department of Defense had established an agency known as the Weapons Systems Evaluation Group [WSEG] to undertake studies and analyses for the Secretary of Defense and for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“In 1955 I received a letter from then-Secretary of Defense, Charles E. Wilson, proposing that MIT undertake the formation of a nonprofit corporation that would have as its members a group of universities whose purpose would be to support with their expertise the analyses of WSEG… “In his letter the secretary requested that MIT `as a public service’ proceed with arrangements for the support of the Weapons Systems Evaluation Group. `The need for strengthening the WSEG,’ he said, `has been acute for many months.’

“I reported back to Secretary Wilson that MIT would undertake this responsibility and that we would proceed at once to invite a group of universities to form a consortium to operate the nonprofit corporation… “We at MIT proceeded at once to invite four institutions to join us: the California Institute of Technology, Case Institute of Technology, Stanford, and Tulane. Later seven other universities joined the original group. While considering the proposal to form a nonprofit corporation to undertake responsibility for WSEG, I consulted a number of scientists and of course the administrative officers of MIT. In the pre-IDA days, Professor Philip Morse of MIT had served as WSEG’s director of research. Among those with whom I talked was Harvard Professor of Chemistry E. Bright Wilson, who also had for a period been a member of the WSEG group. He described the urgent need to add scientists to the group, and he strongly supported the proposed organization that we were considering. Another person who had already accepted appointment to the staff of WSEG was Eugene Skolnikoff…He continued with the WSEG group after the new corporation was formed and later became a professor of political science at MIT and then director of the Center for International Studies.

“Among the MIT administrators who played a major role in the formation of IDA were Albert G. Hill, James McCormack, Jr., and Edward L. Cochrane. Both Professor HIll and General McCormack became officers of IDA and made major contributions in helping it discharge its responsibilities.

“At the beginning the board of trustees included a representative from each of the participating universities and in addition two public trustees, William A. M. Burden and Laurance Rockefeller. Later Burden was to become the chairman of the board, and in his autobiography, Peggy and I, he was to write that IDA `became one of the top priorities of my life, and it came about through my friendship with Dr. James R. Killian, the President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.’…

“IDA continues to discharge its mission in accord with the original plans that led to its formation.”

A person affiliated with MIT still sits on the IDA board of trustees in the 21st-century. The IDA web site indicates that MIT Professor Emeritus of Aeronautics & Astronautics Jack Kerrebrock is presently a member of the IDA board of trustees.

Ironically, the person who played a leading role in institutionalizing MIT’s collaborative relationship to the Pentagon during the Cold War era had, by working as MIT President Karl Compton’s Executive Assistant, avoided the World War II draft with a 3B “occupational deferment.” Killian received his deferment from his local draft board after MIT President Compton wrote, in a June 8, 1942 letter to Killian’s draft board, the following:

“Were he to be called to military duty, I and various of my other administrative colleagues, such as deans and heads of departments, who are also devoting substantial time to war projects, would have to reduce their contributions to the war effort to help carry the administrative responsibilities now handled by Mr. Killian. It is proper to point out, that among Mr. Killian’s administrative duties at MIT a considerable amount of his attention is even now devoted to the war in connection with the administration of war contracts for research, or for the training of personnel…I hope therefore that your Board may feel justified in classifying Mr. Killian under 3B for occupational deferment.”

Killian was not the first MIT President who sought to establish a collaborative relationship between MIT and a war-making department of the U.S. government. According to the 1920 book put out by the MIT Alumni Association’s War Records Committee in 1920, Technology’s War Record, “immediately after the severance of diplomatic relations with Germany, to be exact on February 5, 1917, President [Richard Cockburn] Maclaurin telegraphed to the War Department, placing our laboratories and staff at the Nation’s disposal for such work as the Institute might be considered best fitted to perform.”

During World War I–which claimed the lives of 120 former MIT students–some people with links to MIT apparently became involved in chemical warfare research. According to Technology’s War Record: “It will be noticed that the development of the Chemical Warfare Service was almost entirely in the hands of Technology men…It is true that the tremendous plans for gas warfare which were under consideration were never put in operation, but upon the other hand in all the great attacks launched by the American Army in the Fall of 1918, gas troops were present with Stokes mortars, phosphorous bombs, thermite and gases, and the American artillery although using ammunition manufactured abroad, were firing gas from the Edgewood Arsenal. There is probably no feature of the entire war which was so largely a Technology enterprise, and it is one of which Technology men may well be exceedingly proud…”

In more recent years, MIT’s Provost between 1985 and 1990, John Deutsch, held the post of Deputy Secretary of Defense at the same time MIT Professor Widnall was Secretary of the Air Force, before he was appointed CIA Director in May 1995 by Clinton.

Like MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory’s work, the MIT-linked Draper Lab’s work is described somewhat on MIT’s web site. Under a section entitled “Tactical Systems,” Draper reports that its “test of an Extended Range Guided Munition in 1997 represented the first successful launch of an integrated GRS/micromechanic IMU in a gun-launched system.” The MIT web site also notes that:

“Draper supports major Air Force and Navy fixed-wing and rotary aircraft through the insertion and integration of state-of-the-art technology into field systems.

“Draper integrated an embedded GRS/INS system and Mirror Support System for the A-10 Thunderbolt…

“Draper developed…an advanced…fire control system for the Cobra helicopter…

“Draper developed an inertial guidance, navigation, and control capability for a same-air parachute delivery system for the U.S. Army. Draper continues to provide systems engineering support to many Air Force and Navy initiatives.”

It’s possible that increased student and faculty resistance will develop to the MIT Administration’s 21st-century policy of collaborating with the U.S. Air Force in its preparation for Space Warfare. During the 1960s, resistance to MIT’s complicity with the Pentagon by MIT’s anti-war students and faculty apparently did increase after “MIT SDS put out a detailed twenty-one page pamphlet showing that the university’s involvement with defense contracts was so extensive it depended upon the government for 79 percent of its annual budget,” according to the book SDS by Kirkpatrick Sale. Yet in the absence of sustained anti-complicity protest on MIT’s campus, the MIT Administration doesn’t appear reluctant to have MIT continue to function as a U.S. Air Force research laboratory in the 21st-century century.



About elloborojo

Okay, as the subtitle states, this is a notebook from what I call a New Mexico diaspora (look up diaspora if you are asking). I was a former resident of New Mexico, now living elsewhere, but New Mexico is still my homeland. To get more in touch with your homeland one must be away from it. This is my attempt to understand it. I was a former anti-militarism activist in the Albuquerque area. Still believe that United Snakes militarism is the greatest threat to the world, as do the majority of the worlds population. Uncovered much information about the ties in New Mexico, but never processed it all. This blog is an attempt to do that. Also hope it may come of use to others with similar interests.
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