TAPE 1, SIDE 1
MR. WEBB: When I picked up these books I was thinking about the question that you asked me the first day you came, "We want to know more about how it was that you could come into NASA and make a go of it."
DR. DEVORKIN: So the books that we're talking about now are The Pattern of Responsibility, 1 by McGeorge Bundy, It All Depends 2 by Harvey Sherman, and then two or three others. These should help us to understand your management style and your value in understanding how to weld together very large groups of people to get jobs done. Is that a good assessment?
WEBB: Well, it is from the record. These are quotations that I didn't write. They are from books that have been published in the recent period. In addition to the ones you've mentioned, here is Eric Bergaust's book on Wernher von Braun3 in which he has got three references to James Webb.
DDEVORKIN: Could you go back to page 234 of the McGeorge Bundy book that I have here in my hand, and read into our record what he says about you, and comment on it?
WEBB: Well, this book I have in my hand is the hard cover edition of Eric Bergaust's book on Wernher von Braun.4 His first reference is on page 398. He talks about the failure of the Vanguard and the situation that existed at that time, as follows: "The critics had a field day. The public was confused, and the trade press editorialized that the program was off in the wrong direction. Still nothing dampened NASA's drive to move on. The space agency then had a new administrator, James E. Webb, and he was determined to drive the Mercury program home to a successful completion. Test mishaps and failures were old hat to von Braun. They occurred in any rocket development program. There is no need for despair," and so forth. That's the kind of reference you find many, many times. Let's see if there is another one here. 442 --
DEVORKIN: You feel these are useful references, to better understand your role in NASA? Especially out of Bergaust?
WEBB: Well, I did not know until maybe two or three months ago that after I left NASA von Braun and Tom Paine tried to get Congress to accept a mission to Mars composed of two space ships with six men in each spacecraft. My policy has always been to make sure we did Apollo well and learned as much from it as we could. We had to learn the capability to operate out in space. As Levine points out in Managing NASA in the Apollo Era,5 we didn't have a long range plan because we didn't have another mission, such as landing on Mars, because we knew the fact that we were planning one would leak to Congress and cause us to lose the support essential to finish Apollo. Well, I think Paine had an obligation to try to move from Apollo as we succeeded into another era of NASA. And NASA has proved that it could survive. You not only finished Apollo, but you finished the lunar flights with the Saturn 5. You've seen the Skylab, the Space Lab, the Shuttle. I mean, these have all been very successful things that show NASA had the capability to plan such post-Apollo projects, even though we did not formally plan a major post-Apollo mission.
DR. TATAREWICZ: When was it that von Braun and Paine went to Congress? Was this after you left NASA?
WEBB: Yes. It was within the first three, four or five months after I left NASA. According to this book, of which the final chapter is entitled "On loan to Washington," that's what he says von Braun was doing. My only point is that if you pick up this book on von Braun, if you look at Jim Killian's book Sputnik, Scientists and Eisenhower,6 you find references to me which again are worth looking at.
This is the lecture I gave for the 50th anniversary of the General Accounting Office.
MS. EZELL: This is "Improving Management for More Effective Government," 50th Anniversary Lectures of the U.S. GAO. It's also mentioned in Allan L. Dean's piece. Very laudatory.
WEBB: Oh yes, Allan Dean. Well, he simply points out that I had a lot of experience in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration that showed that the use of a good many consultants on a wide variety of problems could advance the program. This was apropos of the question, could you run the program with recommendations by consultants? In Harry Sherman's book, there's a note that I wrote in my own hand that also refers to this.
But these are just books that I pulled off of my library shelves, and I wanted to raise with you the question of, do you want them? Are they valuable?
DEVORKIN: Yes, they certainly are, with notes such as page 118 in Harvey Sherman's book which you just mentioned. That's a very interesting comment.
Yes, we're certainly interested in the books, and we'd like to have them not only for the collection but for immediate follow-up in our work on the oral history. The oral history process itself may seem to be at times a bit random and shotgun, but we often want to go back later and fill in gaps as we evaluate it. Even though the original record of the oral history will be this kind of shotgun approach, after we re-evaluate and edit it, we would hope it would be smoother.
Maybe what we should do is say for the record, that yes, we are very interested in these books and would like to take them away with us for our research and use, as well as to deposit in our collection. But right now, let's go back to the theme that we planned for this session, and talk about your first year as NASA administrator: how you were first approached, the first view that you had of NASA and its programs, and the directives that you received for the long term programs that Kennedy was generating. Joe, I think you have prepared a sequence of questions?
WEBB: Before you leave the books, I only brought you down these three or four. I have about 25 or 30 books that have various active references to the program, as well as the NASA Historical Series and books like the JPL history that was done by their historian. We have a large number of references to the relationship that I had with Pickering and so forth, and it's very interesting. I think I showed you the letter I got from Bill Pickering two or three months ago, in which he said that he'd finally come around to the conclusion that I'd made an important contribution to the program. He hoped I'd come to the same conclusion about him, to which I wrote back and said I had.
DEVORKIN: Exactly. I can say unequivocally that anything that touches on your years in the program, your value to the program, and the management style that you employed during those years is very valuable to us. We would like to preserve that collection intact to help us better understand it, and also to save it for posterity.
WEBB: What about the NASA histories themselves, like IMPACT?
TATAREWICZ: Have you written in your copies?
WEBB: Well, I don't think I've written very much in them. In some of them, I have. But in that one I don't think I have. It's got a number of references to the problems we faced in the early days, and to my own participation in some of the decisions.
There's one other thing I wanted to do before we get very far. I think I spoke in too much shorthand in talking with you the first time we met, about the post-Apollo fire and the problems that were created there and the solutions that were generated to get the program back on track. You remember I stated that I checked every two weeks with Sam Phillips and with George Stoner from Boeing, and did that primarily to make sure that there weren't any obstacles being put in their way, that they weren't encountering anything that would slow them up. I made the statement that really the program was run out of our office.
That's really not what I mean. What we had, with respect to this fire, and was a burned out spacecraft and three men, on the ground, and the necessity then for going ahead and flying again. So we had to fix whatever was wrong and be sure that we had a system that would work.
Doing that required not just the administrator's office on a telephone line, it required all of NASA. It generated activities all around. What we did in essence was to leave the organization intact -- Seamans as General Manager, George Mueller as Associate Administrator, Gilruth Director down at Houston, von Braun at Huntsville, and so forth -- and to siphon off from that large operation a number of things that because of the fire, couldn't be held on a routine, normal way, by any of these units.
For instance, the North American contract had run out in December, because we weren't sure that a couple of those doing work, were really doing all the things that they'd promised to do. They promised in June to put the work into work packages. By December, the end of the contract, they'd have work packages or items we could put in the new contract.
DEVORKIN: Is this Rockwell you're talking about?
WEBB: Yes. They were on a month to month basis at the time of the fire, which indicates that something was amiss with respect to both the contractor and NASA.
Well, it wouldn't do to try to take the whole top side of NASA and say "Now we're going to fix Apollo and let everything else stand aside." The whole ongoing constellation of ships had to keep going like a convoy. So we lifted certain things having a great deal of work out of that large structure.
Bernie Moritz was a lawyer with a great deal of procurement experience. He was Assistant General Counsel. So we moved him out of the legal department and made him Assistant Administrator for Special Contracts, Negotiation and Review. We lifted the North American (Rockwell) contract out of the organization, and said to Moritz, "You have to handle this contract just like the contract manager, and you've got to in a sense be the administrator for this contract. You're got to figure out what we should pay for the past work, and how much the company should take for what it has done. You've got to then go up and testify to Congress. You've not only got to monitor this closely and sign the new contract with North American under which they continue, but you've got to justify it publicly. You've got to become Mr. Apollo Contract Manager."
TATAREWICZ: Now, he reported directly to you on this?
WEBB: That's right.
TATAREWICZ: So the monitoring of the contract was taken out of the manned spaceflight division or directorate?
WEBB: Well, Moritz let the Manned Space Flight Office continue to do a lot of the work. But he had to be satisfied with it. He had to set the standards and make sure that they were going to get the job done on time, and that he could publicly justify how we were handling it.
TATAREWICZ: How did the Manned Space Flight Office feel about this? Were they in favor of this arrangement?
WEBB: No, but they were anxious to get flying again. I mean, every week and every month that passed -- and remember there was over a year's delay -- put a great deal of pressure on that organization.
DEVORKIN: Did Mueller have another plan for how to do this, or did he agree with yours?
WEBB: I think he agreed with it because he had to get the program moving, and he could see that the normal command of myself, Seamans, Mueller and the rest of the top people in Manned Space Flight weren't enough to convince the powers that be when we were ready to fly again and that we wouldn't have an accident on the second flight.
But the point I want to make is that we took the configuration control out from under the normal organization, and moved it to Sam Phillips, who then reported directly to me. George Stoner from Boeing Company also kept in touch with me. That doesn't mean that they didn't report to George Mueller. They were responsible for keeping him satisfied and getting all the benefit they could from him, but they were responsible for telling me that there were not obstacles put in their way that would slow them up.
So I don't want to say it was run out of my office. That really isn't so. It was monitored out of my office with the special arrangement that we lifted out the contracts for Mr. Moritz to handle, with the title of Assistant Administrator. That meant he was reporting directly to Bob Seamans and to me. Then on the configuration control we had Sam Phillips, who immediately issued orders that none of the production line capsules were going to be modified without his approval.
In other words, somebody down the line couldn't decide that, well, we'll succeed by the third flight so we'll begin to modify the fourth capsule, the fifth capsule for something else.
Do you follow me?
DEVORKIN: Yes. Let me ask two questions. First of all, how did you know to choose these three people?
WEBB: Well, I knew the organization. Moritz had been the attorney who sat with Seamans and me through most of our decision making process in the selection of the contractor. Our system was to have the Source Evaluation Board report to the three of us with our staff, which would include Moritz and anywhere from six to twelve people. The Source Evaluation Board would present its findings, and there would be a question and answer period. So we all were apprised of the same facts in that session. Those on the Source Evaluation Board and supporting them, and those on the top side concerned with selecting the contractor, had the same facts. We knew he knew our way of evaluating contractors.
DEVORKIN: What were his qualities that made you think that he could get this job done?
WEBB: Well, you didn't let me finish. Having gone many, many times through this careful probing of the work of many Source Evaluation Boards, and requiring them to report in numbers and not adjectives, Seamans, Bernie Moritz and I would retire to the administrator's office or conference room, and the first thing we would ask ourselves and Moritz was, what is the competitive range? What does the Source Evaluation Board analysis reveal about the competitive range? Any of the companies that were not within the competitive range, we knew we were not going to choose for negotiation. So we wanted to know the one, two, three, four companies that were within the legal competitive range and could be considered.
Moritz was responsible for advising us on that, always within certain specific legal parameters. We didn't just decide it ourselves in each case. We would turn to him and say, "What's the competitive range?" So we knew the high quality of his judgment.
Then we would begin to discuss among the three of us, in his presence, what's the best thing to do for NASA in this situation? So he had been intimately involved with us on many many procurements.
DEVORKIN: Great. You said one thing that fascinated me: the board provided numbers and not adjectives. Did I hear you right?
WEBB: Yes, the Source Evaluation Board's instructions always were to report in numbers. Adjectives are slippery things. They had to rate each contractor on a scale of usually one to ten, but the Source Evaluation Board was free to choose any scale it wanted. They knew that as we appraised their work in reaching an evaluation on which to base a decision as to which contractors to negotiate with, we would be judging whether those particular NASA employees were adequate to do this job, and whether they had chosen a proper means for distinguishing between proposals.
So we had a self-policing system, in that the facts about the procurement were known all up and down the line after the Source Evaluation session with the administrator. Then while Dryden, Seamans and I were judging the Source Evaluation Board and the end result of their work, then we crossed over and went into the room to decide who was to get the nod for negotiation of the contract, then all those people who knew the facts were judging us, as to whether we made the right decision for NASA. You follow me?
DEVORKIN: Yes. You know, there's a phrase used for ad hoc teams that are created to solve immediate problems. We've heard this term "tiger teams" a number of times now in context of Space Telescope and other large NASA projects. Was this a tiger team, in your mind?
WEBB: It wasn't a tiger team but it was close to the same procedure. The tiger team is primarily concerned with muscling through a solution to a problem. If an engine isn't working properly, you've got to muscle through a solution that can be relied on and do it quick. But they're overriding a lot of the procedural situations in order to get something done. It's the red line system that the Air Force uses, where they can bypass certain decisions right up to the top commander. Schriever could do that on missiles. Missiles are a different thing -- less complicated equipment -- and they had to have some different form of organization.
The tiger team is used primarily in getting decisions on hardware that's urgently needed. This procedure is usually used with respect to hardware and configuration control, inspection, and getting extra people temporarily into the organization. So the first thing that happened after the Apollo fire was, 50 Boeing people showed up at the North American plant to look over what North American was doing for NASA.
TATAREWICZ: Had you ever in the past used a similar approach to solve a particularly tough problem? Is this a fairly successful way of approaching a problem?
WEBB: This wouldn't have been possible with a commission. This was possible because I was a sole administrator. I knew the law. NASA had Dryden and Seamans -- outstanding people -- who had worked in this field of engineering and management, and the three of us could consolidate our views of the situation. All three of us were flying the flag of administrator.
TATAREWICZ: What other possible solutions to the Apollo 204 problem had you considered and rejected? Were people arguing that you should do this or do that? What were the kinds of courses that you rejected?
WEBB: I can't remember all of that.
TATAREWICZ: There was nothing significant enough to have really impressed you?
WEBB: Well, sure all kinds of people. George Mueller said "Just turn me loose and I'll be ready to fly in a very short period of time!" But you couldn't do that. I mean, the whole prestige of this nation, the position of advanced technology in our military services, was dependent on solving this problem, rather than leaving it unsolved.
TATAREWICZ: Did North American say that they could handle it on their own?
WEBB: Yes. The standard procedure when Lee Atwood, President of NAC ran into a really difficult situation -- and I'd known him for many, many years, long before I came to NASA -- would be he'd give me special assurance that he would personally go down into the engineering rooms and see that a solution was provided. But this had gone far beyond that.
TATAREWICZ: What was North American's initial reaction when they found out that a lot of Boeing people were going to be showing up in their plant, to police their work?
WEBB: Well, they didn't like it. But they realized something very important, namely, that the only place they could get a substantial amount of subcontract work was Boeing, because Boeing had the Supersonic Transport. So it turned out that they could team up because they both had a mutual interest in the Supersonic Transport work. But Boeing was the contractor.
DEVORKIN: They already knew each other, I'm sure.
WEBB: Oh yes. They'd been heavy competitors. By the way I put in the box for you today a copy of the Government Commission on Procurement, four volumes, indexed.
DEVORKIN: I don't feel we have anyone in the department who is a specialist on such things.
WEBB: You could get a consultant. You may well find someone who would do this free.
TATAREWICZ: There is an associate of mine -- he's a source of mine as well -- who you probably know. His name is Bill Greene. He was with the University Affairs Office for many years, and set up the computer monitoring system for the university program. He is now in the Procurement Office of NASA.
WEBB: Bob Seamans came to see me yesterday. He was in town for a geographic meeting. There's a tragedy about his papers. He had over, I think, something like 400, 500 boxes -- I don't want to say tons, or truckloads -- anyway, they were moved to his office as Secretary of the Air Force on a weekend when he wasn't there to oversee the job. The door was locked so the workers just dropped them down on the floor. The trash people came along and thought it was trash, and took it away, so they lost it all.
DEVORKIN: That's unbelievable!
TATAREWICZ: You have three historians whose hearts are wrenched.
WEBB: That's what happened. Now, he says that he's done some reconstruction for MIT. He says he would be glad to see if he has some papers and so forth that he could put in with these. Stark Draper, who was head of the Draper Lab, has given his papers to the Smithsonian.* He was the one who did the guidance system for the lunar trip and many other very important things in aviation. Seamans told me yesterday that Draper has had a heart attack and a stroke, but is slowly coming back to the point that he can come to the office now if he has to, if someone helps him. He told me that he is coming down here for some meeting he's (See Appendix 1) determined to go to. He really is one of the most important minds in the country, and has been for a while. I've known him since I was Treasurer of Sperry, when we were manufacturing equipment for World War II that came under his purview.
But when you start thinking about contracting, you immediately go to the question of, why was Draper given the contract and not private industry? There are all kinds of reasons why it had to be done the way we did it, and it was successful, that we could talk all afternoon about.
TATAREWICZ: We have identified the selection of the mission mode for Apollo, and also some aspects of the associated values and requirements that go with that kind of a selection of mission mode, as a topic that we'd like to spend an entire session on at some point.
WEBB: Well, Seamans and Draper would be the ones to talk to about it. I only know generally about the considerations: whether you'd have radar; how to control it -- the astronautssaid "leave it to us, we can control it. And besides, we don't need all this equipment;" and the decision to really automate it and develop out of it this fly by wire system that all the big modern military and civilian planes ultimately had.
TATAREWICZ: One of the questions that I wanted to ask today how much acquaintance had you had with Hugh Dryden and Seamans prior to NASA?
WEBB: None with Seamans, but I had a long acquaintance with and respect for Hugh Dryden. I had been chosen from the National Civil Service League to come to Washington, when I lived in Oklahoma, to present the Distinguished -- I've forgotten, I think it was a Rockefeller grant of $10,000 -- to Dryden. I presented it to Mrs. Dryden and I have the photographs somewhere in these things that I've given you, of her receiving this from me, long before I was administrator. This is back around 1959. I had not known Seamans until I arrived here, but I'd known Dryden a long, long time.
DEVORKIN: Seamans had been in the government and had been around in industry related activities, as you just pointed out.
WEBB: He worked for RCA and I'm sure he served on a lot of advisory committees. I'm sure he knew the NACA very well. But I did not know him.
DEVORKIN: But your relationship with Dryden does go back?
WEBB: It goes back a long ways, into the time when I was Director of the Budget.
DEVORKIN: Could you give us a sort of an overview of that relationship; how it developed and how you worked with him?
WEBB: I can only say that I knew him and respected him as a responsible man of character and knew his ability as a manager. I knew that the NACA was through him asking for substantial sums of money to modernize their facilities after the war. I had to deal with that as Director of the Budget. I told you that I went out and walked through some of these tunnels? I saw the ones on the West Coast. I went down to Langley. I think I went out to Lewis, I can't remember.
DEVORKIN: Did you have any discussions with Dryden during the period of time you were considering the offer to take over as Chief Administrator?
WEBB: Yes. Dryden was, I think, disappointed that he was not chosen as the first administrator, rather than Keith Glennan. So he was keenly interested in who the second administrator would be, especially if he was going to remain as deputy. His name didn't enter into any of the discussions that I had with Jerry Weisner on the telephone, or with anybody in the White House other than the chap who became ambassador who I discussed things with. He later became an ambassador in South America. He was the guy handling aviation issues on the White House staff. So I talked to him, to Weisner and to Lloyd Berkner. In any event, when I arrived at the office of the Vice President for my appointment, at 9:30 on Monday morning -- I got the message on Friday, I had made my own investigation -- Hugh Dryden was sitting in the Vice President's office on the sofa, and the Vice President had not yet arrived.
That was the first time I knew that he would be considered. So I immediately turned to him and I said, "I don't think I'm the right person for this job because I'm not an engineer and I've never seen a rocket fly." He said, "I agree with that. I don't think you are either." I said, "Well, can you tell the Vice President?" He said, "I don't believe that he wants to listen to me on that."
At just about that time Frank Pace showed up. He had been my successor as Director of the Budget. I brought him in out of the Post Office to the Office of the Budget; I was one of those involved in his going over to the Army to be Secretary of the Army.
I said, "Frank, Hugh and I have been talking about this job." I told him it had been offered to me and said, "I don't think I'm the right one, and Hugh doesn't either. What do you think?" He said, "I don't think you are either." He was building the Atlas missile.
I said, "How about you telling the Vice President? You had an appointment first. We'll just step out, and when the Vice President comes in, you can talk to him."
That's what we did. Hugh Dryden and I stepped into the other office, and Frank talked to the Vice President. It wasn't very long before he came out in quite a hurry with his coat tails flying behind him. The Vice President just wouldn't listen to him. Just wouldn't talk to him.
DEVORKIN: When the three of you were in the office -- Pace, Dryden and yourself -- before the Vice President came in, was it a relaxed and humorous kind of atmosphere as you were saying these things?
WEBB: Oh sure. We were just good friends.
DEVORKIN: It wasn't stifling?
WEBB: Oh no, not at all. It was all in good humor.
DEVORKIN: But you were serious?
WEBB: Oh yes.
TATAREWICZ: Later Clark Clifford and Phil Graham, according to some accounts, arrived.
WEBB: When we were standing outside the Vice President's office, I noticed Phil Graham over in the corner was looking out the window. He was standing there. See, I had not gone in through the door to the Vice President. I'd gone through the inner door; somebody had picked me up and taken me in there. And while I was in there, Phil Graham had come in.
So when Frank came out, I went in and the Vice President said they wanted me to accept, so he wanted to take me up to the President and so forth. But he obviously had other business to do, so I went out to wait for him. I said to Phil, knowing he knew the Vice President and the President very well, "Phil, I've got to get out of this. How can I get out of it?" And he said, "There's just one man in town can get you out of this, and that's Clark Clifford."
So the Vice President by that time had assigned one of his aides to me, the wounded veteran who was Assistant Secretary of the Army for a while -- well, I'll think of it. I went up town with this aide to his office, and called Clark Clifford and said, "Can you get me out of this?" He said, "Ha, ha, I've been recommending you. I am not going to get you out of it."
EZELL: Why did you want to get out of it?
WEBB: Because I didn't think I was the right person to do it. They had gone through 19 people. There had been a very great controversy between the scientists on the one hand, as described by Killian in his book, and the Vice President on the other, who wanted a broadly based administrator and someone that he felt that he had something to do with the appointment of. There was quite a conflict as to who it should be. When you step into something after they've looked at 19 people of which not one of them could take the job -- and they're all big and important people -- you look pretty hard.
DEVORKIN: So you didn't know until that point that Clifford had been recommending you?
WEBB: No. I didn't know until Phil Graham told me.
TATAREWICZ: How did you know the details of what was going on in the search for the NASA administrator? Were you traveling to Washington from Oklahoma very frequently at this time?
WEBB: Oh yes, I was. In fact, when I was called up at this luncheon on Friday, I had just come in Thursday night from Omaha. I had been looking at some farm equipment companies that were trying to interest me in becoming director. I'd traveled there from New York, and from Washington to New York, so I'd made the circuit. And naturally people like scientists and government administrators like to tell you what's going on when you come to town. The most potent instrument of power that Van Bush had during the war was the fact that everybody who came to town on the scientific side wanted to have breakfast with him. That way he could find out what was going on. The fact that he was close to the President was one of the central factors that helped to create and perpetuate his power. He had the ability to get things approved beyond the legal structure, in which he didn't have line responsibility.
DEVORKIN: You mentioned that you were considering taking the presidency of a farm equipment company?
WEBB: I just said that there was a farm equipment company that wished to talk to me about the possibility of becoming a director. This went on all the time. I was already director of four or five companies.
DEVORKIN: That's right, so you weren't actively looking for a big change?
WEBB: No, I was president of one company and active director of a number of companies, and, in fact, I was president of another small corporation in Boston called Educational Services. I had an office in Boston as well as in Oklahoma.
DEVORKIN: And all of these were active and ongoing responsibilities?
DEVORKIN: Obviously you felt you would have to drop every one of them if you took the administrator's job?
WEBB: Yes. Also I was serving as chairman of the Municipal Manpower Commission, which was funded by the Ford Foundation and Sloan Foundation. We were looking at the problem of, what is the requirement for personnel to keep our American cities from deteriorating?
EZELL: When you got that phone call during your luncheon, had you been considering at that time such a major change in your life, as getting back into government administration?
WEBB: No. I had already finished my contract in Oklahoma, and had gone from a full time business basis down to a half time business basis. I was chairman of the board. I brought Jammie McWilliams in, who had been with me in the State Department, and he was made president.
So I was beginning to back away from the formalized general manager, president, type of job, and spending more on public service, like Educational Services, the Municipal Manpower Commission, and several other advisory committees on which I served. They are on that list that I gave you. I had moved my family here to Washington just a short time before. They were in Washington while I was in Oklahoma.
TATAREWICZ: Your family was here already?
WEBB: That's right, because for the Municipal Manpower Commission I had to maintain an office here and manage a staff.
DEVORKIN: So that was at least something that worked in favor of the decision?
WEBB: That's right. I mean, it removed an obstacle. It would have been an obstacle if I'd had to move.
DEVORKIN: I hope they paid for your transportation. Was that part of the deal?
WEBB: Well, no. I think that had basically been done by the Municipal Manpower Commission when they brought me here.
TATAREWICZ: Logsdon mentions in his book on the Apollo decision that in early January you had traveled to Washington and you had discussed these matters with both Wiesner and Zacharias. Perhaps through them you had gotten a pretty good idea of what was going on in the search for a NASA administrator?
WEBB: I don't know what Wiesner and Zacharias told me. I knew what was going on.
TAPE 1, SIDE 2
DEVORKIN: You came to Washington for Kennedy's inauguration?
WEBB: I had been here several days at the time of Kennedy's inauguration and had talked to many of my friends in the government. I had maintained an interest in aviation for a long time, so naturally we talked about aviation and space. I was well aware that there was a conflict as to who would be appointed. But I didn't at that time think that I would be involved in any way.
DEVORKIN: Well, was there a meeting then that we can identify?
WEBB: I can't remember.
DEVORKIN: On the day you went into the Vice President or into the President's office?
WEBB: Oh, on that day. I got a call over at the Navy Department, where this assistant to Johnson had already been appointed Assistant Secretary, and had been given an office. I think it was in the Munitions Building, maybe Navy, I'm not sure. He and I went to lunch, and I called Clark Clifford from his office. We got back to his office and got the call from Johnson saying that the President would see me at a certain time. Johnson wanted to meet me then and introduce me to the President. He did and then departed, and so I talked to Kennedy, just the two of us.
TATAREWICZ: Had you discussed any of this with Johnson directly before the meeting?
WEBB: No. There had been a previous indication of interest on the part of Johnson and Senator Kerr at Palm Beach in December, I think it was, about my coming back into government, possibly in the Treasury. I told them that I was really not interested, that I'd already done a tour of duty in the Treasury.
TATAREWICZ: In between the time that you flew to Washington on that Friday night and your Monday morning meeting, you've told us several times that you did your own investigation. Could you go into a little more detail about whom you saw and the kind of investigation that you did over that weekend?
WEBB: I don't think I can give you very much on that. It's a long time ago and I've been in a lot of things since then. I just wouldn't want to trust my memory as to who I saw or didn't see.
EZELL: You said you'd maintained your interest in aviation over the years, even while you were in Oklahoma doing other things. What about the space side of things?
WEBB: I was not involved in that until I became the administrator. I was involved just as a person reading about Sputnik, and seeing the swell of thought about the improvement of education in Oklahoma which Sputnik sparked. I was president of the Frontiers of Science Foundation of Oklahoma, which had been helped by Vannevar Bush, Mervin Kelly, Bill Baker and the Secretary of the Nobel Committee from Sweden, Lee DuBridge. We were a very active group of businessmen in Oklahoma, who were working to improve education. They had started to work before Sputnik, but Sputnik gave an impulse to the movement.
TATAREWICZ: What was the importance of space for you at the time of Sputnik?
WEBB: I can't speculate on that. I mean, I was clearly involved in education. This was related to both what the government had to do and the improvement of education generally -- graduate, postgraduate, pregraduate, high school. I was involved in that in Oklahoma and in Boston, and with the Science Foundation, in that part of the money for the Educational Services was put up by the Science Foundation. The officials there were not happy with the administrative setup of the scientists, or educators running it. They wanted someone who had a more systematic approach to things, and of course they knew my reputation as Director of the Budget. They basically said that they didn't see how the work could be carried on unless someone like myself came in to furnish that. I was asked to be president by the MIT people who sort of held an umbrella over Educational Services.
DEVORKIN: Did your experiences in Educational Services influence the way you developed a university relations program later on?
DEVORKIN: Did you have oversight on Harvard Project Physics and PSSE Physics?
WEBB: Well, Educational Services was doing the physical sciences study committee physics program. They came up with a book called Physics.
DEVORKIN: Did you actually look deep into --
WEBB: I was president of the company that was spending the government's money. It was a corporation under the umbrella of MIT, and all the people working on that project were paid under our payroll.
DEVORKIN: I see. I didn't realize that that was the way it worked. I thought the Harvard Project Physics was strictly Harvard's -- I didn't know there was an umbrella.
WEBB: Well, the mathematics was done by a fellow named Beagle who I think was from University of Chicago, Illinois. And the biology one, I can't remember his name.
DEVORKIN: Holton, Rutherford and people like that were involved in the physics side of it.
WEBB: Well Stan Friedman, who later died, and Zacharias were the two principal MIT people on the physics project.
DEVORKIN: I don't want to take ourselves too far away though from your first year. Let's talk about the fact that you were in the meeting with Kennedy; that is discussed in Killian's book and other places, is it not?
TATAREWICZ: No, not Killian's. Somewhat in Logsdon's book, and somewhat in some other accounts. But not much.
DEVORKIN: Do you have any questions on details of the meeting with the President? Is there anything that we could flesh out at this point?
WEBB: It's pretty well known. I mean, I'd made it clear to everybody that I was not the right person, that you needed a scientist or an engineer. Kennedy said, "No, there are great issues of national and international policy involved in this space program. I want you because you have been involved in policy at the White House level, State Department level."
EZELL: Did Kennedy convince you?
WEBB: He walked me around through the corridors and told Pierre Salinger to call in the press and announce it right away. Which he did.
TATAREWICZ: Obviously this was after you had said 'yes'?
WEBB: Well, how could you turn down the President of the United States when he says, here's exploration, reaching outward from the earth, which involves great national and international policy questions? "I want you to handle it because those are the policies that interest me in my job as President."
DEVORKIN: Can you recall how explicit he was about the issues that faced international policy regarding space? Did you talk about what we would talk about today, Star Wars or things like that?
DEVORKIN: So he didn't talk in specific terms about programs, what had to be done at that point? He just stated that he needed a man he could trust?
WEBB: He had apparently been briefed by somebody, that I was a person who could do a good job for him, and that I was reticent about taking the job. So it was clear that he wanted me because he thought I could do a good job. He wanted me for the reason that he stated, policy. Now, whether that was really overriding with him or whether he just used that as his strongest argument,I'll never know. I just know that he did not call up Wiesner or Johnson or anybody else and ask them to go with me over to have my picture taken and announced. He personally took me in through the back corridors of the White House, into Pierre Salinger's office. We lit up a big cigar there with Salinger, and Kennedy said, "Call in the press and announce it."
He left through the back door. The press came in the other door.
DEVORKIN: I think you have some questions about the week after that, Joe?
TATAREWICZ: Yes, I have what seem to me to be some very obvious questions here. You come to Washington. You spend a weekend checking things out. You're reluctant. Suddenly in the course of a few hours you're administrator of NASA, or designate. What do you do? Who did you call? Did you call your wife and tell her?
WEBB: Oh yes, I called her just as soon as I got out of Pierre Salinger's room. I called to tell her, and she had already heard it on the radio!
DEVORKIN: Amazing. Well, we can't ask you what was going through your head at that moment.
WEBB: No, it wouldn't mean anything anyway.
DEVORKIN: Understood. You must have taken some direct action to gain information, to talk to people. Did you see Dryden again after that?
WEBB: The first thing I did, when the President really made it clear that he wanted me to stay, was I told Kennedy that I wanted to have Dryden as my deputy and he agreed to that. Then I wrote him a memorandum that very afternoon from somewhere, reminding him of it, and Dryden was appointed. You see, Keith Glennan had left town, and Dryden was acting administrator but no one had designated him acting administrator. He hadn't heard boo from the White House. So my first effort was to straighten that out -- to get a clear line of authority -- because I was not the administrator. I wanted him to be made comfortable where he was very uncomfortable, being acting administrator and not even having been told by anybody that that was his responsibility.
And when you're flying rockets, anything can happen any day. You can have a catastrophe any day -- or success.
TATAREWICZ: How did you handle the couple of weeks before you were actually confirmed and officially empowered to be administrator?
WEBB: Well, the first thing I did NOT do was go and have a government office designated for me. I said, "I will not put my foot in the government office as a person of any standing until I am confirmed. I just maintained the position that I might not be confirmed. I was not in any way reaching out beyond the fact that I had been nominated by the President.
The second thing I did was to talk to a great many people I knew who were interested in this project, and learned a great deal more than I had known, and had some talks with Hugh Dryden about the way we'd work together.
DEVORKIN: You talked not only about the way you would work, but what were the major problems to tackle? How did that develop?
WEBB: I can't even remember that now. The problems as they developed were so different than you might have anticipated at that point.
DEVORKIN: Did you call for any kind of assessment as to the present status of all the programs in NASA at any point here?
WEBB: Well, I'm sure I took steps to get myself brought up to date. But I'm also sure that I didn't try to learn the details of the boosters. I looked at the organization.
EZELL: What kind of organization did you inherit?
WEBB: Well, you had a flight section under Abe Silverstein that had a great deal of power, and Homer Newell was reporting to Silverstein. I changed that fairly promptly and brought a lot of people into change, too. I wanted them to recognize space science and applications, and not have them dominated by the flight schedule. I wanted them to put the effort on science andwhat ought to be flown, rather than spending their time trying to get along with the flight people.
DEVORKIN: How did you go about accomplishing that?
WEBB: Well, you've got to remember that NASA was much smaller then than it became. It was about a one billion dollar operation. A great deal of money was going into wind tunnels and shock tubes and all kinds of electronic analysis, computer work and so forth. All I had to do was just show up, and people who were working with these problems brought them up. I had to either involve myself in the decision or make it clear that someone else had the responsibility. That was the first thing I had to do.
DEVORKIN: How did Seamans enter the picture?
WEBB: He was there as general manager, having been appointed by President Eisenhower. So he just was in the central office right in the same area where Hugh Dryden and I had our offices. He just stayed in his office and kept working.
DEVORKIN: Did you meet him through Dryden? Did you call him in?
WEBB: Oh, I just can't even remember.
EZELL: I think you said last week that when you took over the Bureau of the Budget you inherited a very fine staff.
WEBB: I did.
EZELL: Did you feel the same way at NASA?
WEBB: I did. I did. The people who were there were very, very able.
DEVORKIN: Did you bring in people for your personal office staff?
WEBB: Yes, I brought Nina Scrivener, who had been Mr. Staats' secretary when he was Comptroller General. She'd been with the operations Control Board in the White House, and she's the only person I brought in with me.
TATAREWICZ: So she was with your from the start at NASA.
WEBB: That's right. Still works with me 2 days every other week.
TATAREWICZ: You said that you didn't want to maintain a government office until your confirmation, so that leaves two weeks in which you were administrator-designate, before you could actually officially take hold. Did you spend that time getting to know people like Seamans and Homer Newell and Abe Silverstein?
WEBB: I don't know. I have a feeling there were many of them I met after I was confirmed administrator. To begin to canvass them and get to know them would have meant that I was sure I was going to get confirmed. I wanted to take no action, having seen this contest and having passed over 19 people. I didn't want to get involved in that. I wanted to know, either they're going to confirm me or not. If they're going to confirm me, I'll go to work. If not, I still had a lot of other things to do. I was president of a company in Boston, chairman of a company in Oklahoma, chairman of the Municipal Manpower Commission. I owned a small office building in Washington -- I had an office there -- so I just used my office there and went on about my work.
TATAREWICZ: You stayed in town for this couple of weeks?
WEBB: I can't even tell you that. I don't remember.
DEVORKIN: How did you close out your other responsibilities? Did that also occur at this time?
WEBB: Well, after I was confirmed, I just resigned from those things that I should resign from. I resigned as a director of McDonnell Aircraft Company only after I'd been confirmed.
DEVORKIN: Did any of these cause any personal anguish in terms of leaving projects unfinished?
WEBB: Well, McDonnell was a rapidly growing company. I would have made a great fortune there if I had stayed. I had a very simple approach: I wanted to be an administrator in the fullest sense of the term. Obviously with respect to McDonnell, if I was director I must not participate in any decisions relating to them. But I wanted to gear my work with Berkner and Dryden, so that at the earliest possible time, I could play my full role. We agreed that for six months I'd stay out of any decisions affecting McDonnell, I wouldn't enter into decisions, and there were very few of those.
TATAREWICZ: Lloyd Berkner was chairman of the Space Science Board. Of course, he was in very frequent contact with NASA from the inception of the board in the summer of 1958, on through the first several years of the board. Did you ever discuss your potential appointment as NASA administrator with him?
WEBB: Oh yes. He was one of the first men I got in touch with, when I got to town, after the Friday afternoon call. I called him from Oklahoma and made a date to see him as soon as I got to Washington, and spent as much time with him as he had over that weekend.
TATAREWICZ: Did he want to see you as administrator? Did he encourage you?
WEBB: He had been one of the men considered, but he had turned the job down, under the conditions that existed. There were several people who would have taken the job if the conditions had been different, but they didn't want to buy into this contest. Lloyd was always an activist. He wanted to be right at the center, where things were happening. I would say he encouraged me but let me know that there were real difficulties there, and let me know what some of the difficulties were as he saw them.
TATAREWICZ: Do you remember what they were?
WEBB: I remember some of them, but I'm not going to put those on your record. A lot of them involved personalities.
DEVORKIN: If not personalities, did he talk about oversight responsibilities of the various panels, PSAC as opposed to the others within NASA?
WEBB: I don't remember that.
DEVORKIN: That would have been a logical thing for him to have been concerned about.
WEBB: I don't think he was as concerned about that as he was by the fact that there ought to be a substantial increase in the program. He was concerned that science ought to have an important part in it, and it ought to be set up so that the scientists and the universities could work happily within the program. They ought not to feel that any good idea they submitted to a NASA center would be stolen by some government person and flown and they'd never get to do the science themselves. He was very strongly of the opinion that you had to create an atmosphere of confidence on the part of non-NASA scientists: that they would get a fair shake on the quality of their experiments; a fair shake in setting the priorities for who would get to fly and who would not get to fly.
TATAREWICZ: A particular bone of contention between the board and NASA, early in NASA's existence, was when the board wanted to more or less perform the functions of what became the Space Science Steering Committee, in terms of evaluating proposals and so forth.
TATAREWICZ: There were also the issues of the relative emphasis on manned space flight and engineering in NASA or unmanned space science. Are these the kinds of things that Berkner would have brought up to make you aware of some of the problems?
WEBB: I'd been along time friend of his for over 20 years; I had flown with him, and we had been involved in various things.I got him to come to the State Department to help us set up the Scientific Attache' Program overseas. He came in and spent a full year as administrator of the Foreign Aid Program in order to get it straightened out. He and I had worked very closely together. If he thought something was important, I'd help him with it, and vice versa. So he did everything he could, I'm sure, to help me get into a situation where I could hit the ground running.
TATAREWICZ: One of your first activities as administrator -- you were sworn in on February 14th -- was to start a review of the internal planning at NASA and the Eisenhower budget, which had to be decided on very quickly because you had to determine whether to ask for any changes in the NASA budget before it went to Congress.
Do you remember much about your first days?
WEBB: I remember mostly that when I took the oath, I stated that we would try to be as innovative and forward looking in administration as we were in science and engineering. That was the concept I had of the job.
TATAREWICZ: As innovative in administration as in science and engineering?
WEBB: That's right.
TATAREWICZ: So you approached the NASA appointment from the beginning feeling that you would be innovative in solving management problems?
WEBB: That's right. The scientists in places like the Science Foundation and most other places were not known for their orderliness in administration, and I wanted to make it clear that that was the flag I was going to fly under. We had Dryden and Seamans on engineering and Homer Newell on science, and other people involved in science, but the general thrust of our effort was going to be to do whatever we did in an orderly administrative way, that would command confidence and encourage people to fund the programs rather than to look askance at them.
TATAREWICZ: Did you find the existing organization lacking in that kind of orderliness?
WEBB: Keith Glennan was a very orderly, systematic, engineering type of person. He had had McKinsey and Co. in and they had developed a whole plan for the organization of NASA. He had a shelf, five feet long, of books prepared by McKinsey and Co., as to how all this ought to be done. I made one simple determination, which I have made at other places too. It was that if we couldn't build NASA in administrative strength through our indigenous efforts, or people we could recruit, we weren't going to get it done. We'd never get it done through consultants. So I did not continue this arrangement with McKinsey, and began to build strength to look at this carefully and thoughtfully in NASA.
DEVORKIN: This had been your experience in the past.
WEBB: Yes. I knew that big companies like IBM would hire one of these big management consulting companies, not on the basis of continuation but to do one job and say, "We'll talk about the next job after you do that." I also knew there were other people like George Merek, who was a good friend of mine and the first industrialist who offered me $100,000 a year to work for him. He had Alec Smith from McKinsey and Co. who spent one day a week with him. He worked through all his programs with Alec Smith. Alec Smith was as important to him as any other single person. So I knew both ways of doing this, but I didn't think that NASA could expect to get management consultants that would really give us the strength we needed.
DEVORKIN: When did you know that you had the free hand, as free as anyone can expect it to be, to expand as rapidly as this, in this order? Did you know that very day when Kennedy strong armed you?
WEBB: No. I went more than three months later and asked for a sum of money to move forward on the Apollo spacecraft, on the big boosters, the Saturn 5, the engines particularly, and things for tracking data, and got only half of it. I got money for the booster and for some of the facilities but not the spacecraft.
EZELL: This is the March 22 meeting.
WEBB: If you look in Logsdon's book, page 99,7 you'll find there the copy of the memorandum that I used for that first talk with Kennedy in requesting the money. I think that gives you as much of the concept as I had at that time.
TATAREWICZ: At the time that you took over, there was some uncertainty about exactly what direction NASA was going to go. Certainly there were elements of the agency who wanted very much to move on with Apollo very rapidly. Other elements in the agency wanted to do different things, and they didn't think they were getting a clear sign from the administration. Some people have described Kennedy during these months as initially confused or as lacking a direction where to go in space. When you conducted this first review of the NASA budget just after being appointed, did you have an expansion in mind?
WEBB: No, I had in mind serving the people who were there, who could make the most convincing cases of what was good for the country. I did very soon make a decision that we would stay with manned spaceflight and I announced it. I made three speeches within about three weeks' time in which I said, "We're going to really do the things necessary," including I think a Space Station at one point, which disturbed the Air Force to no end.
DEVORKIN: It disturbed the Air Force. How did that get back to you? I assume you didn't wait to read it in the newspapers.
WEBB: I don't know. Everybody talked about those things.
EZELL: Speaking of the Air Force, right after you came on board the Air Force was encouraging NASA not to go ahead with the Mercury Atlas flight that was scheduled right away, because the first flight had been a disaster, and you accepted the advice of Gilruth and others that we should go ahead with that.
EZELL: Did you know instinctively that their advice was something you could trust?
WEBB: No, I knew first of all that they were honest men and were giving the very best advice they had as to what was the right thing to do. Secondly, I knew that if I turned their advice down and took advice from outside of NASA, I would have a very hard time building the confidence of the staff. Everything they said made me feel that it was safe to follow their advice.
DEVORKIN: That's brought up in one of the documents that you gave to us, "Ten Lessons I Learned from James E. Webb," by Robert Porter, dated February, 1985. It says that this happened several days before the launch, and you had no more warning than that the Air Force was trying to convince you. Is that true?
WEBB: Yes. It was very close.
DEVORKIN: Just very, very close to launch time.
WEBB: It might have been one day or two. It might not even have been three or four.
DEVORKIN: Did you sense when you made this decision and decisions like it that it supported the internal staff? You knew you could never really get a really competent staff based on the thought that you didn't trust them?
WEBB: Well, I thought that I was being tested, too. All those elements were in it, not just any one thing. You might remember that the Mercury capsule was the biggest load that the Atlas had ever been asked to carry. It was a heavier load than the builders of the missile were ready to see it carry. They were very concerned about this very heavy load. We had to have the weight in order to fly a man.
DEVORKIN: Could I just interject a question about this document that I'd like to have in the record? Robert Porter in here does not fully identify his relationship with you. He worked for you?
WEBB: He worked in NASA, in the Technology Utilization Program. He was very active on the foreign side. He had, I think, been to the CIA at one point. He was very interested in earth sensing satellites, and he left NASA at one point to become president of a satellite corporation. He formed the company.
DEVORKIN: Okay, that puts this in good context. Were there a lot of literally split-second decisions like that in your first few months, or first year of administration?
WEBB: I don't remember any that were quite as split-second as that, although there were lots of split-second decisions. If you have a rocket sitting down there and the count down is going and you see something that looks a little questionable, you've got to make a decision: either stop the countdown or go. We were accustomed to doing that. This was what we regarded to be our business. At NASA we regarded the ongoing thrust of the effort -- the confidence that the men who were making the decisions would be supported -- as being one of the most important elements in the organization.
EZELL: Another booster-related decision concerning the flight of another unmanned Redstone before Shepherd's flight, was a decision you were faced with just a few weeks later.
WEBB: We were faced, through the Mercury thing, with the fact that a lot of the people concerned with Mercury wanted to fly one more flight using the backup capsule. But there wouldn't have been a backup to that, and Seamans and Dryden and I felt we ought to take those men and put them over on Gemini because that's a way we could learn much more than we could from a Mercury flight. But Shepherd was very anxious to make that long distance flight, since he had been the first. But he did not get an orbital flight.
TATAREWICZ: Was that your first direct contact with von Braun?
WEBB: I saw him within a few days of becoming administrator. He came up from Huntsville for conferences at the Dolly Madison House so I went in and talked to him.
TATAREWICZ: Huntsville had not too long before become part ofthe NASA family.
WEBB: That's right.
TATAREWICZ: They had done so under a kind of tug of war that was going on. Were there still strains from that?
WEBB: No, von Braun had to be convinced that we really wanted him to do the job, that we would back him up and that he really had support. I think all of us at Headquarters convinced him of that.
TATAREWICZ: One of the first things you did in your first ten days was sign with Gilpatric an agreement confirming a joint national launch vehicle program. You agreed that the Department of Defense and NASA would not begin development of another booster without written knowledge of the other.
WEBB: That's right.
TATAREWICZ: Was that an easy agreement to work out?
WEBB: No, it was a little difficult. Gilpatric had been with the Air Force when I was Under Secretary of State. I knew him well. I tried to get him to come over and replace me as Under Secretary of State at one time, so I knew him well. He, I thought, knew the whole setup, including the NACA setup, well enough to write a contract that would be fair and do-able, that you could work under.
The draft he sent over was not that, so Dryden and I spent until about 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning that night rewriting it. We sent it back over to the Pentagon building the next day.Then we negotiated that.
TATAREWICZ: What did you find objectionable in the draft he sent?
WEBB: NASA didn't have complete freedom to use its own resources. There was a control of the launch facilities and so forth. I don't remember the details, but it was a question of whether or not we were really going to be the boss in our own shop, or whether we had to go to the Air Force on everything that we wanted to do -- even if you wanted to drive a nail in the wall to hang a picture.
TATAREWICZ: There had been some difficulties with Explorer 1, and the use of the Cape facilities early in the program.
WEBB: We wanted to go ahead and get the job done. We didn't want to have to spend our time arguing with officials in the Pentagon about what we could do and what we couldn't do on the land we were buying.
DEVORKIN: Was your rewritten document then accepted?
WEBB: Well, we did negotiate out our differences and it was signed. It was a reasonable and fair agreement, as signed.
TATAREWICZ: One of the first briefings that you got from Seamans involved major NASA programs. There were three parts of that which were to become very important. One was the development of the Saturn. Another was the development of the Nova. Thirdly there was the initiation of Project Apollo, and planning for a manned lunar landing. That's a lot of ambitious programs to be hit with.
WEBB: My job was not to select just one or two programs out of the whole mess, or weed out or add to the ones that were there, but to apply a carefully examined position that involved the President of the United States in whatever we did. So my attitude in all of this was, I was learning and I was not just saying yes or no, and that's finished. I tried to create a steady stream of decision-making documents and points of contact, so we could know when we had to make a decision -- like a PERT Chart -- and know clearly what the decision was, and encourage the people to come up with new ideas.
So I had freedom not just to say yes or no to what was going on before, but rather to learn and participate within the process of continuing to go forward with these programs. Any one of them could have been stopped if it ran into an insuperable obstacle.
TATAREWICZ: How did you get your guidance from the White House, in terms of which direction to go? You had conflicting directions being recommended by different parts of NASA.
WEBB: I figured it was my responsibility to keep going until the President stopped me, and to have a program that he would want to approve rather than disapprove. I didn't go over there every day and ask for guidance, but what I did was let him know every really important matter that affected him as President, usually over the telephone, or I'd go over and see him. He would always answer the phone. I had no problem with contacting either Kennedy or Johnson. I'd had a White House pass for a long time. I had one at that time. I could walk in the White House without an appointment, and tell the appointment secretary, "Slip me in between the next two appointments, I'll just take one minute." I was not just an administrator of some low level program. But I didn't abuse those privileges, either.
DEVORKIN: Is there any kind of watershed period in your first several weeks or months as administrator that can help us understand how we were shaping the vision for getting the job done?
WEBB: I think that I would take it in reverse. I would think the thing you may do is take the 1961 reorganization plan, 1963 reorganization plan, work backward from the first one in '61, and say what had been agreed to in the period since the new administrator came on? How is this different from what went on before? You can assume that I was preparing, with Dryden and all the other people there, to do that, and that both Dryden and Seamans were 100 percent behind what we were doing. In other words, all three of us approved that reorganization. That was the result of what we did. I don't think it would be productive to try to give you 15 different alternate options. I don't have the details anyway.
DEVORKIN: Possibly we can start the next session by talking about the reorganization, if that's all right.
WEBB: All right, but I don't see that this is getting us very far, really. I mean, what we did in the way of reorganization is there. It's been discussed thoroughly in one administrative history for five years, and then Levine has done a second one for ten years, and put these things in pretty good perspective. He's pointed out certain very fundamental things, like that we did expect our people to be big broad people and more than just engineers. We expected them to think about the totality of their jobs, including dealing with the public, dealing with Congress. Now, those are the fundamental things. Just how each segment fitted in, I don't really believe is worth the time it would take to try to get it correct. My view would be different from somebody else's that you'd talk to.
DEVORKIN: It's your view that's important right now.
WEBB: I know, but I think I've given you enough to tell you what my point of view was. The fundamental philosophy that brought us to the 1961 reorganization and my answer to those who criticized us by saying "You didn't do a perfect reorganization, you're going to have to do it over again," was that we needed to have the people report to Seamans, so that he could keep us informed on a daily basis. That way we could follow closely what the different top people in the centers and at Headquarters were doing.
We were testing the people and learning about them, and at the same time we were working toward the basis of facilities that we were building. We were building three billion dollars worth of facilities to add to one billion. We didn't want any one center to be all of NASA. We didn't want any center to be a duplicate of NASA. We wanted specialized things, like Lewis and Huntsville and Houston.
That's what I told you. That's the basis of the decisions that we made. I told you that they worked out. We didn't make too many mistakes with the people. Most of the people that we chose were very, very capable. And if they weren't, we changed them or they changed themselves. In lots of cases they changed themselves.
DEVORKIN: I think there are plenty of things we could talk about within that marvelous summary.
WEBB: Yes, but that's just gossip. The thing you want to give the next administrator or any student is what I just said. I mean, what good does it do to say what's running through your mind that afternoon, if in fact you found out that they were not very viable things and there was a better way to do it?
Maybe I'm wrong.
1 McGeorge Bundy, The Pattern of Responsibility, (New York: A.M. Kelly 1951).
2 Harvery SHerman, It All Depends, (University of Alabama Press 1966).
3 Eric Bergaust, Wernher von Braun, (Washington, DC: National Space Institute, 1976).
4 Eric Bergaust, Wernher von Braun.
5 Arnold S. Levine, Managing NASA in the Apollo Era, (Washington, DC: NASA SP-4102, 1982).
6 James Killian, Sputnik, Scientists and Eisenhower, (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1977).
7 John Logsdon, The Decision To Go To The Moon: Project Apollo and the National Interest, (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1970).