THE MILITARY ON CAMPUS
Rear Admiral Gene LaRocque (USN, Ret.)
Director, Center for Defense Information
MARKETING & OPERATIONS:
PROGRAM PRODUCER & SCRIPTWRITER:
17 May 1992
CONDITION OF USE: Credit “AMERICA’S DEFENSE MONITOR”
(Center for Defense Information).
(C) Copyright 1992, Center for Defense Information. All Rights Reserved.
Videotapes also available.
THE MILITARY ON CAMPUS
Features commentary from:
Dr. RUZENA BAJCSY
Professor, Computer Science Department, University of Pennsylvania
Director, GRASP Laboratory
Dr. BARRY COOPERMAN
Vice Provost for Research, University of Pennsylvania
Dr. STEVE FETTER
Associate Professor, School of Public Affairs, University of Maryland
Dr. SHERMAN FRANKEL
Professor, Department of Physics, University of Pennsylvania
Graduate Student, University of Pennsylvania
Member, Steering Committee, University Conversion Project
Undergraduate Biology Major, University of Pennsylvania
Director, National Coalition for Universities in the Public Interest
Dr. ROBERT RUTMAN
Professor Emeritus, Department of Biology, University of Pennsylvania
Research Fellow, Rutgers University
Co-Author, “Dismantling the Cold War Economy”
THE MILITARY ON CAMPUS
NARRATOR: These are the giants, the top Pentagon contractors for Fiscal Year 1991. The heavyweights of the military-industrial complex.
Weighing-in at over $8 billion in Pentagon contracts is number one ranked McDonnell Douglas.
At over $1.8 billion, number 11 ranked, Westinghouse Electric.
And at over $360 million, ranked number 51, is Tenneco Incorporated, owner of the Newport News Shipyard.
But wait. If we click back a few spots to number 44, we find an entry bigger than Newport News Shipyard that seems strikingly out of place. It is Johns Hopkins University, with over $404 million in Pentagon contracts.
And just behind, at number 45, with over $401 million in Pentagon contracts, we find the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
[“AMERICA’S DEFENSE MONITOR” program introduction.]
Admiral GENE LaROCQUE: Welcome once again to “AMERICA’S DEFENSE MONITOR.”
We can be justly proud of the role that our universi-ties and colleges have played in the history of this nation and, hopefully, in the future. Our universities have helped make this nation great because they have been in the vanguard of indepen-dent thought. Universities are great by degrees depending on how independent they are to operate in our society. Universities and colleges are not institutions which can be controlled.
Today our program is about something that is troubling in this area of independence for our universities. And that is the growing influence of the military establishment on our academic institutions. Our program is about that today and I’m sure you’re going to find it interesting.
UNIVERSITY OFFICIAL: “Advanced degree diplomas will now be presented to students in the School of Engineering.”
NARRATOR: Every year universities across America go through their rituals. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT, administrators and faculty in their rather distinctive gowns and hats lead the graduation ceremony.
At Penn, the University of Pennsylvania, students enjoy the arrival of spring, and catch-up on studying before final exams.
And whether it’s spring, summer, fall or winter, there is another important tradition at these prominent universities: research.
Dr. Ruzena Bajcsy is a leading computer science professor and director of Penn’s GRASP Laboratory. Dr. Bajcsy and her students are at the cutting edge of research on computer science and robotics. Being at the cutting edge costs a lot of money. Dr. Bajcsy and Penn must find this money somewhere. And like many American universities, Penn gets a lot of this research money from the military.
About 70 percent of all federal research and development money for computer science comes from the Pentagon.
Now Penn wants to build a $75 million Institute for Advanced Science and Technology for the work of its prominent scientists like Dr. Bajcsy. Needing money, they hired a Washing-ton lobbyist and got the Pentagon to agree to pay for half the building. In return, Penn agreed to do some ongoing military research there.
The project has aroused considerable student and faculty opposition and its future is uncertain.
Let’s look at the big picture for a minute. For Fiscal Year 1992 the federal government allocated almost $71 billion for research and development, or R&D. Over $44 billion of this is dedicated to military-related projects. That’s over 60 percent of the US federal R&D spending that goes to the military, either directly to the Department of Defense or to the military programs of other agencies, like the Department of Energy or NASA.
By contrast, Germany spends only about 13 percent of its research and development budget on the military. Japan, only about 5 percent.
It is research and development that leads to scientific progress and the creation of new products. For over 45 years, with American R&D, this has mostly meant the creation of new military products.
The high-tech US weapons so highly touted by the Pentagon in the war with Iraq that most Americans watched on their Japanese TV sets are the result of millions of hours of scientific effort and billions of dollars in R&D.
Steve Fetter studied physics at MIT and is now an associated professor in the School of Public Affairs at the University of Maryland.
STEVE FETTER: Tragically in this country we really have no industrial policy as a nation, unlike say Japan or Germany, where those countries may target promising technologies for government money and enhancements. In this country, we really don’t have that, apart from the Department of Defense. And so, every time the Department of Defense wants to pursue something or if we see something like super-conductors, high temperature super-conductors that appear promising, really the only mechanism we have as a society is to have the Department of Defense fund those promising technologies. But this really distorts the applications that are eventually developed for those technologies.
Instead of being developed primarily to benefit the civilian sector, they’re developed primarily to benefit military technologies.
NARRATOR: This emphasis on military-related research and development continues to trickle-down to the universities, where the research process often starts.
Many Americans think abstractly of the university as a place of disinterested, pure learning and research. Some prestigious universities are older than the nation itself; others were conceived by the so-called “founding fathers.” Ben Franklin started Penn. Thomas Jefferson created the University of Virginia. He looked to higher education “to develop the reasoning faculties of our youth, enlarge their minds, cultivate their morals, and instill into them the precepts of virtue and order.”
Not exactly what Jefferson had in mind.
Stanford University became the symbol of the ivory tower brought low. The stories of Stanford charging the government for a yacht and other luxuries became legend. Stanford, Johns Hopkins, MIT and many other schools are under investigation for abusing a billing system that allows universities to charge the government for so-called “indirect costs” associated with the implementation of a government contract. Much of the money in question is for military-related projects.
Another scandal has been the proliferation of what is known as “academic pork-barreling.” A Pennsylvania congressman tacked a $10 million Department of Defense grant for a college in his district on to the 1992 defense spending bill. Neither the college nor the Defense Department had requested the grant.
In Fiscal Year 1989, over 270 colleges and universities received money from the Department of Defense. Many more received money for military-related research from the Department of Energy, NASA and private companies that subcontract portions of military projects to universities.
The CIA and other intelligence agencies are also increasing their presence on American campuses. The National Security Education Act of 1991 provides money for language and regional studies from the Defense Intelligence College.
A high-profile research university has enormous costs associated with pursuing advanced science, so they look for out-side sources of funds. The federal government is the largest source of such funds. And within the federal government, it is the military that has the most money to give.
More than 60 colleges and universities each receive at least $3 million from the Department of Defense alone, not including other military-related sources.
Many university scientists and administrators also get paid directly by the military to sit on Department of Defense scientific advisory boards. Often these boards require that members have top secret security clearances.
Critics argue that this puts universities in a compromised position. Leonard Minsky is the outspoken director of the Coalition for Universities in the Public Interest.
LEONARD MINSKY: And we would say that higher education has been integrated into the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned about. We call it the “academic-university-military-industry complex.”
The money is simply out there as flypaper and if researchers stick to it, if graduate students stick to it, if undergraduate students stick to the flypaper, that’s what it’s meant to do. That’s what it’s meant to achieve. It’s meant to lick-up the resources in the university for military purposes.
NARRATOR: Perhaps the most visible military presence on American campuses comes through the Reserve Officer Training Corps, or ROTC, programs. The Army, Air Force and the Navy, which shares its program with the Marines, all have their own ROTC systems. All told, more than 64,000 students participate in ROTC programs, many on scholarships that pay for college in exchange for up to eight years of military service after graduation.
The services have also established Junior ROTC programs for high school students aged 14 and over. Over 200,000 students are enrolled in these Junior ROTC programs.
Leonard Minsky objects to ROTC, commenting here on the university programs.
Mr. MINSKY: It’s totally inconsistent with the university mission and mode of operation to have a military operation and military manners, basically, taught at the same time you’re trying to teach people to be critical and to think for themselves.
NARRATOR: Minsky thinks the much-needed scholarship money should be provided in other ways.
Mr. MINSKY: Obviously, providing money through ROTC is a way of inveigling kids into ROTC. Similarly, providing money to university researchers to do innocuous-seeming research is a way of getting them hooked on military monies.
NARRATOR: The uneasy university-military embrace has a long history. The relationship was born of the sensible notion that because the government gave generous grants to universities from taxpayers’ money, the universities should give something back to society, which they have, in spades. Many of America’s most remarkable advances in agriculture, medicine and industry have had their origins in university research.
In the crisis atmosphere of World War II, the military and the nation’s universities worked more closely together than they ever had before.
During World War II, the US Army funded the development of the world’s first electronic computer here in this building on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. The ENIAC, or Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, was funded so the Army could calculate ballistics tables more quickly and fire their artillery guns more accurately.
The culmination of the intense cooperation between the military and the academic science community during World War II was the Manhattan Project that designed and exploded the world’s first atomic bomb.
If the successful development of the atomic bomb was the high point of the teamwork between university scientists and the military during the war, in it lay the seeds of the strained relationship that was to come.
After the war, the brilliant physicist Robert Oppenheimer, known as the “father of the atomic bomb,” had his security clearance revoked for his opposition to the development of the hydrogen, or “H”, bomb. He became the symbol of an academic scientific community that had lost control of its creation.
With the onset of the cold war, American political leaders tended to equate the well-being of the nation with military superiority, and they spent accordingly. Military research money flowed freely to the universities.
Dr. Sherman Frankel is a prominent physics professor at Penn.
Dr. SHERMAN FRANKEL: And here was this huge military situation after the war with lots of money in the military, and it was very easy for the military to say, “fine, we’re going to start doing these things.”
NARRATOR: Research offices were established to fund research relevant to different military needs: The Army Research Office, the Office of Naval Research, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the renowned Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.
Research and Development is best understood as a three-step process divided into basic research, applied research, and development. Basic research explores fundamental scientific questions without focusing on a specific goal or product. Most of the research done at universities is basic research.
Applied research utilizes basic scientific knowledge with the goal of finding a way to create a new product or process.
The development stage uses the results of basic and applied research to actually create a specific product or manufacturing process, and to build and test a prototype.
Again, military-related sources account for more than 60 percent of all federal funds for R&D. These government funds are spent in different ways, including at government labs, at private corporations, and at universities. Within the military slice of the federal R&D pie, spending is skewed heavily toward applied research and development.
In Fiscal Year 1991 military-related government agencies provided about $1.2 billion directly to universities for research and development.
In addition to this is the approximately $2 billion of military money that went to university administered, Federally Funded Research and Development Centers, or FFRDCs. One of the most famous FFRDCs is the Los Alamos National Laboratory, managed by the University of California, which develops nuclear weapons. Another prominent FFRDC is the Lincoln Laboratory at MIT. Millions more military-related dollars go to universities through subcontracts from private defense contractors.
The effect of military money is felt so strongly in universities because of the way this money is concentrated in certain fields of study and at certain leading schools. Over
70 percent of all federal R&D money at Johns Hopkins University comes from the military. Much of it goes to classified research at their Applied Physics Laboratory.
The Department of Defense provides universities with close to 70 percent of all their federal research funds in computer science, almost 60 percent in electrical engineering and aeronautics, about 50 percent in mechanical engineering and materials science, roughly 35 percent in mathematics, and almost 20 percent in physics.
Dr. ROBERT RUTMAN: You really can’t serve two masters and nobody can say that, if you have a lot of research money coming in from defense, you don’t serve that master. You may not toddy before the master, you may not — there’s no whip-cracking, but you’re not about to take a position diametrically opposed to the interests of that.
And that doesn’t work by means of censorship, it doesn’t work by means of somebody calling up, the colonel calling you up and saying, “Hey, I’m going to cut your water off,” you know. No, it works by silent persuasion.
NARRATOR: Professor Emeritus Robert Rutman taught biology at Penn and is a thoughtful commentator on universities’ relationship with the military.
Dr. RUTMAN: Now the Army says, “That’s good basic research.” Yes, we agree that nobody prevents that from being good basic research, but it is not the research that would be produced flowing of itself out of the natural forces in society. It’s distorted and contorted and turned-off to the side. And then the community that does that research is turned with it.
NARRATOR: Department of Defense spokespeople declined to be interviewed on camera for this program. A written reply to our questions stated that, “University participation is central to DoD’s research programs. For decades, research at universities has produced significant research results across a broad spectrum of science and engineering disciplines important to national defense.”
The Department of Defense provided a document with a short list of examples of useful military products born from university research, but most of the examples has been deleted from the document before it was sent. When questioned, a Pentagon spokesperson said that the deleted examples, “could not be released at this time.”
When Ronald Reagan took office, the Pentagon budget jumped, the military portion of all federal R&D money shot-up and the military’s presence on campuses increased. Reagan’s decision to pursue the Strategic Defense Initiative, or SDI, poured money into R&D and into the academic science community.
Steve Fetter witnessed the shift from civilian to military projects.
Dr. STEVE FETTER: I can also give examples from a place I used to work, at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where in the late 1970s, that laboratory had done quite a bit of energy research. In the 80s, with the Reagan defense build-up, that money was turned off to a large extent, money was poured into the defense sector and you just saw scientists flooding from the energy programs at Livermore into the defense programs. And, in fact, I knew many scientists — I at that time had been working on magnetic fusion energy and many of the people that I knew and worked with at that time are now in the defense part of Liver-more working on SDI-related technologies.
NARRATOR: Joel Yudken is a research fellow at Rutgers University and the co-author of Dismantling the Cold War Economy.
JOEL YUDKEN: You’re always in this game of trying to get the money. And as a DARPA official himself once said to me in an interview, he said, “In Washington, it’s the golden rule: He who has the money makes the rules.”
NARRATOR: But Penn’s Dr. Ruzena Bajcsy, who we met earlier and who gets most of her research funds from the Pentagon, says she does not feel pressure from the military.
Dr. BAJCSY: And so, I don’t feel that the military funding determines or influences what we do research on. It’s more what we as scientists believe that is realistically solvable, and that’s what we propose and that’s what gets funded.
NARRATOR: The University of Pennsylvania is not one of the most defense-dependent schools. It provides a good example of the complexities of the university-military relationship.
Penn receives around $12 million a year in contracts directly from the Department of Defense, with additional military-related funds from other agencies and sources.
Dr. Barry Cooperman is the articulate Vice Provost for Research at Penn. He explains Penn’s attitude toward military research money.
Dr. BARRY COOPERMAN: Research costs money. And so long as the Department of Defense has as part of its mission statement to do basic research and so long as we can accept those funds without violating our policy of being able to publish everything we do research on here, as long as that’s possible and as long as the military funds basic research, I suspect there will be an involvement.
NARRATOR: Penn and many other schools have a policy prohibiting classified military research from being done on campus. Some schools, like Stanford, Johns Hopkins, MIT and others, simply moved all their classified military research to off-campus university institutions.
Surprisingly, though the cold war is over and military concerns are less pressing, Penn now plans to build a science center that will increase the amount of military research on campus.
Behind me is the University of Pennsylvania’s historic Smith Hall, slated to be demolished to make room for the Institute of Advanced Science and Technology. The Department of Defense agreed to pay for half the cost of the building. In return, as stated in the enacting legislation authorizing spending for the building, Penn agreed to do some ongoing military research there.
Dr. COOPERMAN: I would be very surprised if more than a quarter, to take an arbitrary number, of the total research dollars supporting programs in the IAST when it’s built comes from the Department of Defense.
NARRATOR: The proposed IAST has aroused lots of controversy and opposition.
Dr. RUTMAN: I think it will open the way to more defense contracts. The Army will have an institute here to which it can turn sort of as a — you know, one of the founders of it with the request that they take on certain additional projects for which money will be provided for.
NARRATOR: Julie Johnson is a graduate student at Penn and a leader of the nationwide University Conversion Project.
JULIE JOHNSON: I think it’s very much a mistake, particularly at this point in time, to link the scientific research program of the University of Pennsylvania to the military, since as a nation we’re presented with a historic opportunity to divert some of the money that’s been going to the military. I mean,
50 percent of our taxes have been going there. It’s time that we started addressing some of the other pressing issues that are scientific issues as well, such as cleaning up the environment, such as the repair of the infrastructure and, first and foremost, I think building a more competitive economy.
NARRATOR: Katy McCabe is an undergraduate biology major who wants to pursue a scientific career. She worries that resources are scarce for non-military research.
KATY McCABE: I know that a lot of professors have problems getting funding. The person I work for right now is having problems getting funding, but I think it’s one of the things you have to stick through. I think your ethics, according to science, must go first. That the reason why I want to do science is to help life, not to kill it.
NARRATOR: What can be done to reduce the dominance of military R&D on American campuses and in the larger scientific community?
Mr. MINSKY: We can separate the universities from the military very easily. It is really the will that is required. If we decide and we can get our congressmen to decide that military research on campus is wrong and that it subverts the purpose of the university and is damaging to the public interest, then it’s very easy to redirect funds through other agencies, and that will be the end to the military presence.
NARRATOR: Joel Yudken formerly worked as a military aero-space engineer.
Mr. YUDKEN: I was going to graduate work at the best university in EE and I was at one of the top companies, and boom, I went through a conversion. As I used to joke around, I was my own conversion project.
NARRATOR: He argues that universities, like many of the nation’s other defense contractors, must also convert their resources to new challenges.
Mr. YUDKEN: I think one question that people ask, “Well, if we switch from military to civilian making toasters” — You see, they only can think of toasters. They can’t think of these other incredible problems which are just as important and sophisticated and difficult as the military technologies, especially in this very interdependent, complex, global environment, that the potentiality and the stimulation for science, technology, the need for advances are going to be even greater than what we’ve had in the military sector.
Dr. RUTMAN: We have to get the octopus of the Department of Defense to relax its grip on the kitty for defense, so it can be put out to other purposes. Two-thirds of the scientists and engineers in the United States work for defense contractors or on defense contracts in institutions and universities, two-thirds. Nowhere else in the world is this true. If we want to beat the Japanese, if we want to beat the Germans in the economy, we better get these scientists and engineers working on economically useful things.
NARRATOR: In the past, fear of the Soviet Union led to a concentration of America’s research resources in the military. This year the US is still spending $44 billion on military R&D, even though the Soviet Union no longer exists. At this time of opportunity, the nation and its universities should get to work on the other pressing needs that have been neglected so long.
Admiral LaROCQUE: Well, it’s pretty obvious I think that the money that the Pentagon has been putting into universities around this country does have some influence on the universities. Just how much, no one is, for sure, certain. However, there is one certainty, and that is that the money that the Pentagon puts into universities is there for one purpose, and that is to improve the combat capability of our armed forces, to make our armed forces more effective, to develop more destructive and lethal weapons. Some might question whether or not that is an appropriate function for our universities and whether or not the universities’ independence is thereby jeopardized.
Until next time, for “AMERICA’S DEFENSE MONITOR,” I’m Gene LaRocque.
[End of broadcast.]
CONDITION OF USE: Credit “AMERICA’S DEFENSE MONITOR”
(Center for Defense Information).
(C) Copyright 1992, Center for Defense Information. All Rights Reserved.
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