Interviewee: Mr. James E. Webb

Interviewers: Drs. David DeVorkin, Allan Needell, and
Joseph Tatarewicz

Date: April 12, 1985


DR. TATAREWICZ: I wanted to go back to an earlier point in the interviews that we've been conducting. We talked some about the situation as you found it at NASA when you became administrator. What I was wondering was, when in your own mind did a lunar landing become the reasonable goal for the agency? I'd like to deal with this in two parts. In your own decision process, when did you personally feel that this was the goal to pursue? Then, how did you go about doing any convincing that needed to be done?

MR. WEBB: Well, in the first place, you are aware of the various conferences that went on between President Kennedy and Vice President Johnson and various parts of the Budget Bureau and White House staff, that at one point the President in a sense said, "I want to really know what I can do, if anyone can tell me what to do. I don't care if it's the janitor who tells me, if he knows. In a sense he didn't care where this information came from, as long as he got a clear indication of what to do.

Now at that point, as I recall it, Johnson got a committee of three, which included Mr. Brown from Houston, a chap from Columbia Broadcasting Company, who was in on many of these things -- I'll think of his name in a minute -- and the head of the American Electric Companies. It was known throughout the space industry that he had this committee, and he began to call in people like von Braun and Schriever and all the people that he thought could make a contribution. He had Senator Kerr and Senator Bridges and at other times the Speaker of the House, I think, and maybe the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee. Anyway, he had a representative group of people in the government that had to sort of work together to get big things done. He spent about three days of querying these various witness that he called in. Ed Welch, I think, did mechanical arrangement for him for the Space Council. And I was there, listening to this, but also being called on to testify from time to time. Dryden and Seamans were also there.

It was perfectly clear from the very first hour that he was pressing for some decision that he could take to the President. I was not pressing for a decision that would not have strong political support and which we could not successfully perform, or couldn't deliver successfully. So I was holding back for those three days and finally, after about the third day, Johnson really pressed me very hard. There had materialized out of this discussion the concept that in order to go and land on the moon, you had to develop certain very large capabilities. You had to develop large boosters, of which you'd use either one or two, either for rendezvousing near the earth or rendezvousing out around the moon. You had to develop some big equipment, competent spacecraft that could take men out and bring them back, that could land and take off from the moon, and so forth. This was a very large task which would tax the American industrial system as well as our government laboratories, and government scientists and so forth. It was such a big thing that the Russians very probably couldn't do it in that time scale. So we developed the concept of saying to President Kennedy, "We believe we can do this, and we believe they cannot do it. Therefore this is the first real new forward thrust in space where we can be reasonably sure we will be first. They already have a head start, and they will be first in almost everything else up to that point, most likely. So this is sort of the turning point between what a large effort the American industrial system can put forth with its freedom to move around against the Russian's more or less constrained and government-operated bureaucracy."

So we centered on this as the first thing we could say to him: We can do this ahead of them, and it will be an important way to develop a major operating capability in the United States. If you can go out there, and land on the moon and come back, and if you do it in an operational way time after time, you've shown that you can do anything you have to do in space."

NEEDELL: Can you recall what General Schriever's position was? Was he the only military input in this?

WEBB: No. They had Levering Smith, I think, who had been in the Polaris program, and I think Rayburn, who had been the head of the Polaris program. Anyone who had any visibility in the country with respect to space was asked by Johnson to come in there.

But having developed the concept that the lunar landing was the first project we could assure the President that we could do and do ahead of the Russians, or at least had a reasonable chance to do, then came the question of pressing me even further. "Are you willing to undertake this? Are you ready to undertake it?"

I finally said, "Yes, but, there's got to be political support over a long period of time, like ten years, and you and the President have to recognize that we can't do this kind of thing without that continuing support. The one factor that's come out of all the studies we've made of the large systems development since World War II is that support is the most important element in success. If the people who are doing it really feel they have strong support, you have a much better chance of getting it done."

I stopped just short of final commitment, at that meeting, which was finished in the late afternoon. Walking back with Dryden and Seamans across Lafayette Park to what was called he House Madison where our office was then, I said to Bob who was then general manager, "Are you ready to take a contract to land a man on the moon." He thought about it, and he said, "I think I am. "So it was at that point that I made up my mind that I was going to tell Johnson, and did tell him -- I don't know whether I did it on the phone that afternoon or whether I did it the next day -- that we would support that.

TATAREWICZ: What were the other projects which were discussed within that group and rejected?

WEBB: I can't remember all of them, but my God, there must have been 15 or 20. There were all kinds of ideas floating around about what you could do.

DEVORKIN: Space projects?

WEBB: Yes, space projects.

TATAREWICZ: These were all space projects --

WEBB: -- that would make us look good against the competition of the Russians, and would accomplish something important.

DEVORKIN: Was the Space Station considered?

WEBB: Yes. Our decision was that if you selected the Space Station as your objective, and started to build the rocket to carry that Space Station, you might run into trouble when you couldn't carry quite that weight. You'd reduce the weight of the Space Station, and you then would look like you had a failure.

The lunar landings could not be fudged. You either did it or you didn't do it. There just wasn't any if, and, or but.

    Again, this could have been an ambiguous situation with respect to the Russians. I mean, if we had selected the Space Station, and found that the rockets we were developing couldn't quite carry the weight, then you would either cut down the weight of the Space Station or start on another rocket. But all of it would indicate that you were not steadily progressing toward the objective. And remember, there were a lot of critics. Abelson, editor of SCIENCE, was putting a critical editorial in almost every issue. You had a lot of people saying, "Gee whiz, this will take all of the engineers in the country. There won't be enough left to serve the automobile industry ."

There were just all kinds of people thinking, "what is this crazy thing about going to the moon?"

So we wanted to make it very clear that the objective was clear -- it couldn't be fudged -- and we could do it. We were going to do the planning and organize the effort to do that particular thing.

NEEDELL: How much weight was given to the question of the usefulness of the capabilities you would be developing for other purposes whether for the military, industrial or what not?

WEBB: A good deal of though was given to that. You found that approximately the same kind of rocket thrust that would take a manned vehicle to the moon and back, would put roughly the same weight into synchronous orbit -- if I remember, it was about 90,000 pounds at that time. The Saturn was developed to have more thrust than that. But all the way through that whole period of years when we were developing, we had to keep books not only on the money but on the time at which things would be delivered. Any piece that was late delayed the whole project, which cost a whole lot of money.

In connection with the lunar lander, we had two very major periods when we went through a weight reduction program and forced the Grumman people, along with our best people, to reduce the weight of that spacecraft. So you had this constant jockeying of how to make the rocket lift more, and how to reduce the weight of what it had to lift.

TATAREWICZ: We were also interested in discussing some procurement issues today. This brings up one of the points --

WEBB: Let me point out that after we decided that we would go for this goal, I wrote Vice President Johnson a letter, I said, "I want you to know I'm all for this, I'm ready to go but I must repeat to you that this will require the long term support of you and President Kennedy. There can't be any doubt about that. Otherwise, you will find McNamara and me running like two foxes in front of two packs of hounds, the Press and Congress, and we'll surely be pulled down."

DEVORKIN: Let's follow that up a bit. What assurances did they give you, and how assured did you feel at that point?

WEBB: Well, especially having been Budget Director, I knew enough to know that an assurance today doesn't bind the President tomorrow. In all of my dealings with him I made this clear. After the fire, for instance, when I discussed with him how we would handle the investigation, I made it clear that he could have any kind of investigation he wanted. He was being urged, you know, to get a bunch of outside experts; scientists and engineers wanted to get in.

I said, "Look, we've got to find out what happened, fix it, and be able to fly again. NASA can do that better than anyone else. But you are entitled to have any kind of investigation you want. I'll cooperate with any kind of investigation.

He said, "All right, I want you to do it."

I said, "There's just one condition, and that is, you are entitled to change your mind on this kind of thing. The President must never be in a position where he can't change on this kind of thing. The only thing I specify is that if you you do change your mind, tell me first, so I can handle myself properly."

Do you follow me? There's never been a time when I felt that the President was committed. There might have been an insuperable obstacle that we ran into.

DEVORKIN: Until that obstacle came, the President had to be committed. There was a certain amount of support -- if for image purposes only, is that correct?

WEBB: What we did, each and every year, was to go down to Congress with a full and complete explanation of the program -- where we were, where we were going -- and keep the basis of support, not on the President's commitment but on the fact that the project had been undertaken. We'd spent so many billion dollars, we'd progressed so far, and the sensible thing was to go ahead.

Now, he had to recommend it each year in his State of the Union Message and in his Budget Message, but I don't think you can say that there is ever a commitment on this kind of thing to go all the way to the end with the President, because things may change that he has to take account of.

So I did not feel that he was committed. I felt that he had given us the authority to start. It was up to us to go as far and as fast as we could, and bid for his support by doing a good job.

NEEDELL: You felt that in a sense the process was worth something, whether or not the end changed, down the road?

WEBB: That's right. Supposing in the Gemini program we had run up against some reason you couldn't rendezvous, for instance. We still would have had the Mercury behind us, we would have had a lot of the Gemini behind us we would have a lot of know-how with respect to the Titan rocket.

    We would have had a lot of experience with respect to liquid hydrogen as a fuel in the Saturn rocket. So my concept was, you keep going and you learn as much as you can. You keep going to the end and do the landing, unless you run into an insuperable obstacle. Then you must have planned the earlier parts of the program so that you've learned what you need know from that part of the program, and have not just failed to do the one thing you started out to do. I was out after an operational capability in space.

NEEDELL: As a manager, from a political point of view, that must create some kind of problem in that you'll be going for continued support to go the next step. If you've been very, very careful to document and insure that each step along the way justified itself by its own accomplishments, you might run into the problem of giving those who wished to cut it off the ammunition they needed to argue against your own purpose.

WEBB: Well, it wasn't exactly like that. We were supporting and presenting the whole program, but we had more in the back of our minds than we emphasized in public. That is, the fact that if we did run into an insuperable obstacle, we already would have gotten our money's worth out of what we spent. And you must bear in mind that I had another policy that I followed with almost no deviation. That was that Congress had to be responsible, just like we and the President had to be responsible. We would present to them the budget that we needed. and when they had acted on that budget we would take it and spend it, but we would not come back for a supplemental.

They'd hand you this, "hush, darling." They'd say, "Gee, this is about three or four hundred million dollars less than you need, take it and get going and come back in three months and we'll give you another one."

I felt that we were going before committees of the House and Senate every year, and the budget process every year, and we couldn't do more. But I felt further that it would be rather unwise to give in to that kind of a practice. So I made it a rule, "We will not ask for a supplemental. Mr. Congressman, when you decide that you want to make a cut, that's what you're going to live with, because we're going to make the cut."

DEVORKIN: There were Congressmen who wanted to make a deal with you?

WEBB: Oh yes. "Take the heat off of us now, we'll give you some more later, but just take the heat off of us now."

DEVORKIN: How did they respond when you refused to play that game?

WEBB: Well, I don't think you can say "they". I mean with 435 members of the House and 100 members of the Senate, there were almost that many different opinions about it.

DEVORKIN: Were there any Congressmen in specific who were particularly vocal in trying to get you to take a cut in those years?

WEBB: Oh yes. There were lots of them who were pressing us, to go faster like Jim Fulton from Pennsylvania, King from Utah, and others. After the Russians flew Gagarin, Fulton said, "What are you holding back for? I'm ready to go. Send me!"

One of the girl reporters came over and said, "Send him! And let me do the countdown, it'll be a fast one!"

DEVORKIN: That's great! Well, this brings up how one was going to get to the moon and return. Was it an absolutely insuperable problem that you could not politically have a solution of leaving someone on the moon, hoping to resupply him?

WEBB: Oh no. I took the view all along that you just can't guarantee success. In fact when the British press came over here, they said, "Suppose you do get men to the moon and you can't get them off?" I said, "They will die and we will send another crew." That's the only attitude you can take about it. You can't guarantee the success of a thing like that.

TATAREWICZ: Yet there was a plan that was discussed, and I'm unclear --

WEBB: Oh, there were lots of plans. First of all, there was one plan just to launch 100 Titan rockets with payload which could be in earth orbit, where we would build a giant spacecraft and send it off. But can you imagine launching 100 Titans in order to build one spacecraft, and the difficulty of what would happen if one of them failed and all that?

What we were doing, first of all, was building a very efficient giant booster that would use liquid hydrogen as a fuel in upper stages. We were continuing with a procedure of development. The previous development had been to build one stage, fly it three, four five or a dozen times, get perfected, then build another stage and put it on top of it. We knew we could never do that in the time scale we had to work in. George Mueller made a very great contribution to the success of this project in proposing and being willing to take the responsibility for all-up systems testing. That meant that you were going to put the rocket completely together. The first time you fired it off, it was going to be complete.

DEVORKIN: That was certainly radical. I'm curious as to how you reacted to it. How did he convince you that it was possible? I assume the decision was up to you.

WEBB: Well, I don't think that's exactly right. I think the decision was primarily the responsibility of the technical people and the general manager in NASA. It was up to me to either accept and ratify it, to look for a different way, or to say let's try again.

DEVORKIN: Did you have an independent line of technical advice that helped you make a decision?

WEBB: No. Well, we were in touch with all the people in the aerospace industry. We had contracts with them. We knew them. You'd call them on the phone any time you wanted. I could talk to the president of any company on the telphone.

DEVORKIN: Was there any one person or group of people who helped you make this decision other than George Mueller?

WEBB: Well, Seamans and Dryden, and at the OART, Ray Bisplinghof. He was Associate Administrator for the Office of Advanced Research and Technology.

DEVORKIN: Do you recall how they decided that this would work? Is this something that's been recorded?

WEBB: At some point, but I don't know very much about it. You see, basically my attitude was just like it was about selecting the moon as a target because it was clear and unambiguous. Either you did it or you didn't, and we could do it. In connection with using hydrogen as a fuel, I was perfectly prepared to let them proceed, watching it carefully and ready to change if we ran against an obstacle that we did not anticipate. So I wasn't trying to make absolutely sure that everything was going to be perfect. I was encouraging them to reach out and try new things.

DEVORKIN: When you're faced with making a large decision on a technical choice, how to do something, do you have a mental check-off list? Is there a basic threshold above which you have to be taken before you can make that decision?

WEBB: I regarded those decisions as being one of a kind decisions. There's no set check-off like the take-off and landing check-off on an airplane. I judged more by the men: who are you going to believe? In whom are you going to put your trust? That's what Kennedy did with us. Same thing. He said he was going to follow us, in NASA, instead of the other people.

NEEDELL: Realizing that you had larger concerns than just simply completing one mission, how did you evaluate the situation when some claimed that too much financial or engineering resources were being put into one goal, that it would damage some other activities? How did you monitor that, or did you feel that wasn't your responsibility?

WEBB: Oh no. What we did was, first of all, to study all the statstics that anyone had; the National Science Foundation had some statistics and we made our own analyses in some of the engineering schools. But basically we then began a postcard reporting system with our contractors. Every time they did a certain thing, like hire an engineer, ten engineers, they'd send us a postcard. Also technology utilization: every time they developed some new thing that was worthy of possible wider use, we had them send us a postcard. We began to tabulate this kind of information. We had a computer setup out here near Silver Hill which we upgraded constantly with respect to all the factors that related to these decisions. Down at Huntsville, von Braun followed, my recollection is 40,000 different parts in the Saturn rocket every day, both as to time and cost, so that he could run down the list. You could go in this little control room, and you could see whether the rocket was overweight by X pounds, and therefore its weight had to be reduced without reducing its power. You had to re-design the parts so as to make them lighter. Johnson Center down at Houston had the same thing with respect to the spacecraft. They were following in intimate detail where each vehicle stood, whether it was number 1, number 2, or number 3, and particularly with respect to weight.

TATAREWICZ: Were these kinds of reporting systems in place already when you joined NASA?

WEBB: No, No, we put them in for the purpose of following these big vehicles. Nobody had ever built a thing like the Saturn rocket. The general rule was, if you're going to build a space engine you had better build it ten times bigger than the last one. Now, that's quite an engineering task to undertake. The Atlas rockets were, I think, 180,000 or 188,000 pound thrust, but the F-1 engine was a million and a half.

DEVORKIN: Right, a big scale-up.

WEBB: Yes, a scale-up of ten. In other words, we weren't looking for small incremental advances. We were looking for major strides forward. The general rule was, with major pieces of equipment like the engine, you make it ten times as powerful as the last model that you fly.

TATAREWICZ: As far as the reporting, the tracking systems and the information go, where did you go for the pieces of these things? How did you assemble them?

WEBB: Well, first of all, I didn't assemble them. I relied on Bob Seamans as general manager, George Mueller as the program manager, von Braun as the center director and Bob Gilruth as center director. I relied on the contracts, like North American on the second stages of Saturn and on the spacecraft, McDonnell-Douglas on the third stage, and Grumman on the lunarlander.

    In other words, we were were relying on those people to tell us when they ran into a problem. And they did. Then we'd organize a task force to get in to solve the program.

At least once a year I had a report on each major project. Bob Seamans had many more that that. We had a control room which we used for these reporting, and people came from all over NASA, from all over the country if they were involved. For instance we were building a giant tracking station, and people came in from where ever they were. Bendix was running part of it. The Bendix people came in, and we spent about a day reviewing where we stood with respect to each item on that program. My concern, as the overall responsible administrator, was to see from these program reviews how well these people were moving. But there was an awful lot of information that just came in, by telephone or otherwise. When they ran into a problem, they'd report.

DEVORKIN: Could we talk about the Nova for a second?

WEBB: All right, go ahead.

DEVORKIN: A technical choice that you had made was to pursue the Nova but very early in the process of defining the whole program there was --

WEBB: That was as firm in my mind as the Saturn. We never built a bigger one. I asked for the money to build Nova and to buy the land down at the Cape that would permit us to launch Nova, as a means of going forward rapidly if we found the Saturn wouldn't do the job. It wasn't commitment to use Nova. It was an alternative.

DEVORKIN: The brute force direct ascent - descent type program was the alternative then.

WEBB: There were lots of alternatives! JPL had something like 30 million pound design that they proposed. Proposals were coming in from everywhere.

DEVORKIN: Did you have any talks with people like Dyson, who were proposing, was it called the Jupiter or was that Orion. The nuclear lifting?

WEBB: Oh yes. I talked with Teller. Teller came in, telling me this ought to be done.

DEVORKIN: Was Teller advocating the nuclear lifting?

WEBB: Yes.

NEEDELL: Not as a substitute though for the Apollo program?

WEBB: Well, it's a method of lifting heavy weights, which is what we were all talking about. What they do is just every once in a while drop a small atom bomb off behind which pushes the thing forward.

DEVORKIN: Did you ever seriously consider that?

WEBB: Well, I thought about anything that people like Teller told me, but I never got anywhere near the point of saying to the President, "Here's a possibility."

DEVORKIN: To what degree were those proposals worked out? Nova, Orion, things like that?

WEBB: It depended on their attractiveness. I mean, those that immediately appeared to you were worked out. The lunar orbit rendezvous appealed to Seamans the minute he really got in close touch with the chap down there at Langley who broke through to Seamans with a communication. Then you looked at it real carefully and real fast, and you got the best brains you had working on it. But if it was just something that was proposed like the 30 million pound vehicle by JPL, you sort of put that on the back burner for a while because you had other more important things that were pressing you.

DEVORKIN: Did you have any scenario in mind for how you were going to know if Saturn wasn't going to work? Again were there threshholds or were you simply listening to the people you trusted?

WEBB: Well, I was working very hard to support those who were building an organization that could fix any difficulties that occurred. We had three engine failure on an early Saturn V and still ran the fuel through the remaining engines and performed the mission. Now, when we designed the Saturn we first designed the four engine Saturn and finally added a fifth engine, just like you have an extra tire that you carry in your car. If one engine failed, you could shut it off and run that fuel through the remaining four engines and still get about the same amount of thrust as you would have gotten out of the five engines. But over a little longer period of time.

    We were constantly working on that.

TATAREWICZ: You talked about the need for stable, continuing, political support outside the agency in order to accomplish this. I suppose equally important was continuing support from within the agency, that all the people in the agency would indeed rally around Apollo as a goal.

WEBB: No, I was asking the President and the Vice President for continuing support, but that didn't mean I expected them to give 100 percent all the time. It meant that I wanted them to join with me -- I was pressing hard and representing them -- and the same this is true inside. I mean in order for somebody to get a new design started, they had to run through the gamut -- the orderly procedures that you'll find in our books -- that were headed up by Seamans.

In other words, we didn't criticize an engineer who came and said, "I've got a better design than the one you're building." We encouraged that kind of thing. But we didn't invest a lot of our assets in it until we were quite sure that it was, in fact, better.

    We didn't put anybody in a straitjacket. We didn't say to people, "All of you support this, or else."

DEVORKIN: There must have come a time when you had to really lock in a particular design and a particular scenario.

WEBB: Well, what time is that? I mean, here Grumman is building the lunar lander, and it's overweight. The first flights that went out there didn't carry the lunar lander because they were still working through this problem of cutting weight.

    You just can't make a general rule about that. You have confidence in yourself and in your organization to solve whatever problems can be solved. Those that are related to the things you know about, like hydrogen as a fuel, you make pretty sure that you can solve in some way. You may not know exactly how you're going to solve it.

DEVORKIN: In the case of the weight and the Grumman problem would you go back to all-up testing? Did they seem to work against one another? The way the Saturn program, the Apollo program, worked, was so modular in its very design of leaving as much as you could behind as you moved out into various stages, that it lent itself to something that wouldn't be all-up testing. It lent itself better to modular testing in the stages that were developed to test the vehicle.

WEBB: There's one thing about that: time. There wasn't time to do it and it would cost you a lot more. Every time you delayed the program a year, it cost you a billion dollars.

TATAREWICZ: It wasn't ever the case that a first stage was launched, with nothing but dummy second and third stages?

WEBB: See, these were all tested and the engines were run. One of the greatest problems was the ascent engine and descent engine on the lunar landings. Remember, right up to the last were were designing a different injector than the one that we were using, because we didn't have enough confidence in the one that was being used. Finally we worked these difficulties out and decided to use the one that we had in the vehicle. But all along we were building a second design of an injector.

Now, were were not sure you could cluster these big hydrogen engines, so we were building a very large engine in the aerojet field that had a million and a half pounds thrust of hydrogen. The other hydrogen engines were those that came out of smaller rocket developments from the war. But they had about 15, 20 thousand pounds thrust, and here we were beginning to develop a rocket of a million and a half pounds thrust. When we found that we could cluster the smaller engines in sufficent quantities, we cancelled the contract for the development of the M-1.

NEEDELL: We have a large file on the M-1 rocket at the museum.

WEBB: That's quite a thing, to develop a million and a half pound thrust hydrogen engine!

NEEDELL: Going back to this question of procurement, given all of the various pressures and goals of the agency -- that is the development of an overall capability to all up testing, the time scale, and all those other things --- how did you go about deciding on the contractors, on who would get what, how much cooperation and control there would be, how much internal oversight there would be?

WEBB: Well, again you did what was necessary at the time. When we found that the computer facilities at Houston were not adequate for the job and that we had to buy about 80 million dollars of computer augmentation to make that control center operate in real time, I called in IBM, Control Data, Sperry and I think GE and I said to the president or chairman of the board of the company, "We have to buy this much equipment and it's got to be of this kind, and we think IBM is the only company that can make it, but we're giving you a chance to tell us if you think you want to compete for this."

This is quite different than most of the procurement, but it had to be done in order to move fast and get that computer equipment in. Mr. Norris of Control Data said, "This is just the kind of thing I want to do. I can do this. Give me a little chance and I'll give you a proposal."

    Well, he finally came in two or three days later and said, "Sorry I was wrong. We can't do it."

There wasn't anybody else who could do it an we knew that there wasn't anybody else who could do it, but instead of just giving IBM the contract, we called them in and gave them a chance at it. That eliminated a lot of the kind of backbiting and criticism that would have occurrerd if we had just moved immediately without that kind of consulation.

NEEDELL: In the earlier days when one had a feeling for this kind of thing, who coordinated information about how many contracts would be let, how they would be distributed nationwide, how they would be distributed among the major corporations, what the other responsibilities as far as military contracts with the others would be?

WEBB: We didn't. What we did was create a Source Evaluation Board system. There's been a lot of writing about this. They were told, "Here is the request for proposals. We want you to look at it. If it isn't adequate for bringing in the proposals, tell, how it ought to be changed." Second, when the proposals came in, we said to them, "You are charged with finding a way to distinguish between the best ones and the poorest ones, to see how nearly a proposal from a contractor meets our requirements. When you're through, you're going to apply your own method and then you're going to come in and report to the three senior officers, Dryden, Webb and Seamans. They're going to have their lawyers, they're going to have their procurement specialist there and they're going to have special staff sitting on their side of the table. You, as a Source Evaluation Boards, have got to tell them exactly what you have decided on as your way of ranking these people. Then you've got to tell them what you did to apply that and how you ranked them after you applied it."

So the three of us then decided whether we were ready to go forward. Sometimes we sent them back. We said, "The method you've chosen is not adequate, we're not satisfied with it, go back and do it again."

NEEDELL: At what time did you enter into the Source Evaluation Board's let's say, geographical distribution of contracts?

WEBB: We didn't have any formal method about that. All the decisions on every contractor over five million dollars were decided by Webb, Dryden and Seamans. We had Hosenball or Bernie Moritz with us. Bernie Moritz was a lawyer experienced in procurement who would identify, from what we had just heard -- proposal -- "Here is the competitive range." The law requires you to look carefully at everyone within the competitive range.

    I would then say, to Hugh or Bob," do you have a suggestion as to how we should make this decision? I didn't say, "I'd like to do it this way."

NEEDELL: But clearly there are larger implications to these procurement decisions and contractor hirings, that is about developing national capabilities, geographical distribution, making sure that the universities in various areas become involved.

WEBB: Well, we generally went through a Request for Proposal. We threw out a request to universities to come in and talk about what they wanted. We always had a conference at the beginning of these things called the NASA Industry Conference, or the NASA University Conference, in which we laid out for that particular community what our plans were and gave them a chance to come in on them. Generally we gave them an overall view of what we were starting to do.


NEEDELL: What was the overall general picture of where this was going, how it was balancing out, whether it was the best thing for the country in the long run, given the fact that it had to work and you had to get the job done?

WEBB: We were not trying to balance out the country. We were trying to find those engineers and scientists in the country that could help us define the space enviornment, which turned out to be quite different than we thought. It wasn't a great big void as everybody thought. There were a lot of things, plasma, micrometeorites and so forth. Wherever the proposals came from that showed these people were superior in their field, we worked with them.

Now, if it was a question of a commerical contractor, we knew pretty well from the NACA experience and also the experience of the other people like the Navy, Air Force, that the reputation and equipment availability rested with big companies like Boeing. Boeing had at Wichita certain bending, aluminum shaping, equipment that didn't exist any other place in the United States. That was clearly the best place to put the responsibility for building the first stage of the Saturn.

But we didn't try to formalize some kind of a pattern and then apply it. What we did was to work with the people we felt from the material that they submitted could do the job.

NEEDELL: There were never instances where there was a capability like the bending which was only in one place, and you thought that was not a good situation for the future and it might be better to contract with someone else in order to build alternatives?

WEBB: Oh yes, there were some cases where we were receiving proposals from people in whom we didn't have as much confidence in as we did in the other companies, and generally we went with the people that we felt sure about, and if we didn't have a reason for feeling sure, we initiated inquiries.

NEEDELL: Very rarely then you would see that it might be better to go with the less sure one in order to encourage them to build up this capability?

WEBB: We did that with universities. We started the university program involving the very best researchers that we could find anywhere. We then moved, in the latter part of the program, to saying, "We still approve the first generation of research contracts, at a university that's not for example, MIT, Cal Tech or Harvard," on the theory that they would be able to hire good faculty. They could tell each faculty member that they were going to have NASA graduate students to work with, which is very important to a professor who's considering moving. We figured that by the second generation or certainly by the third, they would be working up to levels that would be competitive with the others.

    But we did that because the university world of research had to be expanded. We didn't have enough people involved in that.

NEEDELL: You didn't feel the same way about the industrial base?

WEBB: No. You see, all of us knew the aircraft, aerospace industry pretty doggoned well. I mean, Seamans had worked at RCA, and 15 years before that had worked with Draper. Dryden had been in the NACA for a long time, and before that in the Bureau of Standards. I had been in Sperry. I was a director of McDonnell Aircraft Company. It was just that we had a good deal of knowledge about the important and reliable people in the industry.

The benefit of the three of us was that we liked each other, we knew each other, we had great confidence in each other, and we didn't see any of the backbiting that occurred in so many organizations, Everybody in NASA was told that every program, every major project, every procedure is going to clear these three people. So each of us knew we'd be involved and everybody else knew we'd be involved. Those three people knew an awful lot about the aerospace industry.

If we needed some information, we could call a lot of people to find out. We could call the Air Force, "What's been your experience with this company?"

DEVORKIN: Who would you call in the Air Force?

WEBB: I didn't call routinely. In connection with some of the contracts, I called Roz Gilpatric, who was the Deputy Secretary of Defense, and had been Under Secretary of the Air Force, I believe. We went right to the top.

DEVORKIN: The same with industry?

WEBB: Well, I mean, we were talking to the Air Force about the contractors that were proposing and which we were very seriously considering. One thing we wanted to know is: were they overloaded? Did they have too heavy a load, as far as Air Force work is concerned?

I think it's important to recognize that we worked very, very carefully. We did have a concept of what we were doing. There were only a very, very few of our contracts that were upset.

DEVORKIN: Upset, meaning?

WEBB: Appealed to the Comptroller General who then would say that you didn't make the right decision.

DEVORKIN: I do have knowledge of one, but it wasn't Apollo, it was the OSO program, that was the GAO people in January 64, had reported on.

We've just received this and we haven't really gone into it too carefully, but we are interested in OSO.

WEBB: Do you mean GAO upset our award?

DEVORKIN: They did not upset the award but pointed out certain management weakness through their review of the Orbiting Solar Observatory. I'd like to prepare for a future session on this, and I was wondering if you could give me any advice. Are you familiar with it?

WEBB: I'm not familiar enough. You better find somebody who knows about it. Seamans might know. Homer Newell is dead. Ed Cortwright was Homer Newell's deputy; he'd probably be somebody you could get a hold of. John Naugle is out here at Fairchild. He's a reliable person.

DEVORKIN: Okay, we'll go in that direction. In any event, what you're saying is that there were not many audits and there were not any overturns of your contracts.

WEBB: What I'm really saying is that soon after I left NASA when the major difficulties in the Defense Department showed up, and all these scandal stories were being published, Ben Bradley sent one of his reporters to NASA and said, "There must have been trouble at NASA if all this stuff is going on at Defense." He spent 18 days down there looking over everything and came back and said, "Ben there isn't story there. Those fellows did it right."

DEVORKIN: Who was that reporter?

WEBB: A fellow who went to London for the POST.

    That's what I'm talking about when I say we didn't have the contracts upset.

NEEDELL: Were there often cases in which the Air Force would say, "Contractor X is really overloaded, you'd be better off going to someone else"?

WEBB: Not many. We wouldn't call them unless it was a close case, unless we were doubtful. But we took the steps to find out whether or not we were selecting the best contractor.

NEEDELL: Was there any case when the Air Force would said have "Yes, contractor X does a very, very good job," yet you doubted that judgement?

WEBB: No, I think we generally had about the same view of these different companies. Of course, we were all experienced. Gilpatric had been representing industry and had been in the government. Dryden and Seamans and I had been involved in the industry a long time.

NEEDELL: How about cases in which a contract was very similar to an Air Force contract and arrangements could be made to share some of the preliminary work?

WEBB: Well, remember we had the Aeronautics and Astronautics Coordinating Board which got into those technical questions. It was co-chaired by the two senior officials, Bob Seamans on the one hand and the top person from the Air Force on the other side.

NEEDELL: Did you feel that it was generally an advantage, or a good situation, when there was a single contractor working on Air Force and NASA contracts and that there was cooperation between the two, or was that something you thought should be avoided?

WEBB: No, I think it was a good thing. I mean, you were then going to the best. You were identifying and making it worthwhile for the very best to give the best service they could.

TATAREWICZ: Thinking about procurement management and reporting systems on a level slightly below that of the administrator, was the system that was already in place in NASA when you assumed your position there adequate to your needs?

WEBB: No. No. We built up, beefed it up and expanded it.

TATAREWICZ: What were the primary areas in which it needed to be beefed up?

WEBB: I couldn't tell you that. What would happen, just as I said, when we had to select a contractor was we went out and asked for proposals. Then we sought to select the best. As we did that over a large number of contracts, why it naturally strengthened the organization. I can't say we went out and strengthened the organization just because there was a load anticipated. We were really swimming against the tide of work. It was all we could do to meet the need to make a selection for that particular contract. It wasn't a theoretical thing, it was just hammer and tongs: get this work done this week, it has to be done this week.

NEEDELL: In the light of recent events in the news from the description you have and that the organization has, things really worked quite smoothly. I'm wondering about the problems of monitoring proper overhead charges and the kinds of things that are going on now. Was that ever an active issue? Were there preventative measures taken?

WEBB: No. I was very astonished when I found out that they had information that General Electric had charged the time from one project over to another. I wouldn't have believed that would occur.

NEEDELL: Is that based on your experience with people.

WEBB: I wouldn't have believed a major company would do that kind of thing to actually falsify the record and claim that work was done on one contract that was actually done on another. I never ran into anything that serious.

    Of course, we were pretty tough on our contractors. I mean, we made it clear to that that we weren't creating a situation where they could make their money out of the change orders. They were hired to build equipment economically and rapidly, and that's what we expected them to do. We didn't want any foolishness like holding back for change orders.

DEVORKIN: This philosophy and control, of course, was implied down from the top. But we've run across evidence talking to people who were at Goddard Space Flight Center in the early sixties, again on the OSO program, as well as talking to contractors on the OSO program, that lead us to believe that at first things were pretty darned informal in the contrating of such things.

WEBB: Well, they were. Finally we had to get rid of the director out there because he wasn't following the procedure. I remember him sitting on the sofa crying bitter tears. He said, "I never thought this would happen to me because all my program have been successful."

    I said, "You not only have got to make them successful but you've got to do them right if you're going to stay with the government." Goddard was fairly loose about their procedure. So we changed the director. You can't fault that.

NEEDELL: At this time the procedure in which companies would come in with an underbid intending to make money later on change order existed and happened in other kinds of government procurement, I'm sure. Why is it, do you think, that you were able to impress upon them that this was not the case with NASA?

WEBB: Because the three guys at the top, and then the next layer of 25 people below them, presented a facade that wouldn't stand for it.

NEEDELL: Did you have any sacrificial lambs, where some one tried it and you chopped their head off?

WEBB: I don't remember about that. But it was pretty well known in the industry that we wouldn't tolerate any foolishness. We were on the way and we were going to the moon and by God, it was a tough enough job that we needed all the help we could get.

DEVORKIN: Were you trying to reform industry in this regard? Was this part of your general vision of how procurement could be revolutionary?

WEBB: We were trying to reform industry not in the sense that you're mentioning, but in this sense. We did not have any large production contracts to give after the development of something like the Saturn. We had to work with contractors so that they could learn to make a reasonable profit on research and development type of things where no large production was going to follow.

Up to that point, each contractor had bid for a project. If he failed to get it he said to himself, "I'll just keep my work force because I know that there's going to be more work than the other contractors can handle -- Therefore it won't be long before I'll have a contract."

But we couldn't afford that.

DEVORKIN: Did some of the pressure for post-Apollo planning come from the industries themselves, in order to maintain their viability?

WEBB: Oh yes. On every project that we had, from Mercury right on, the contractors and some of the people in NASA were eager to extend the program beyond the limits it had been approved for. There was always constant pressure. In Mercury, they wanted to make an extra MA-10 flight using the backup that we had for MA-9. We cut it off and said, We can't do it, we're going to need these people over on Gemini," and moved them over.

The configuration control of the capsules and rockets coming through the production line in Apollo was very, very important. Otherwise people in charge of the program would slide in changes in the configuration, saying, "Well, by this time we will have successfully landed and be ready to do something else, like go to Mars or go part way to Mars or something." So we had to have a very rigid control of the configuration, right from the top in NASA.

DEVORKIN: You know, when people look at the whole Apollo program, they look at it as Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, in stages or in phases, if you will. I would like to know a little bit more about the origin of the phase contract that was developed during this time.

WEBB: There are good written materials on this, where you can find descriptions of it.

DEVORKIN: What do you consider a good guide?

WEBB: I can't remember now. This is something to ask some of the other people who were further down. But Bob Seamans stood for the concept of Phase Production Planning. That's really what you're talking about.

DEVORKIN: Did he develop this concept or did you?

WEBB: No, no, somebody else developed it and he bought it. He may have modified it to suit NASA. I can't tell you where it came from.

DEVORKIN: Where do you stand on Apollo then?

TATAREWICZ: Basically, I think we could move onto the university program at this point, because a corollary to the procurement of hardware and systems was how one went about assuring that there would be a continual supply both of engineers and scientists. There were also concerns, in many places in the early years of the program, that NASA might be consuming the scientific and technical manpower of the nation rather than adding to it. Initially, the research grants and contracts were handled through the regular grant and contracts office at NASA. What I'm wondering is, did you think from the beginning, when you first came into the agency, that the proper place to handle university matters was not in the regular procurement office, the regular grant of contracts?

WEBB: I did. Now, you see, you've got to remember that those of us who were in the central positions of power in NASA knew the aerospace industry. We knew there was capability and personnel there that were not being fully employed. When everybody was saying, "You ought to look for people to do the work that you're going to put on them," we just said, "Let's let the contrators do it." They did the work with about a third less people than the estimates had predicted would be required.

So it was our overall knowledge of the people in the business and how they ran their business that enabled us to make that decision. You couldn't do that two or three times. You could do it once.

Now, when you come to the university thing, this was different. There had been national studies. Dr. Gillaland had made a study saying there was a deficit of 4000 engineers coming up, and we'd better get busy. The smart men around Kennedy, around the White House, said, "We'll go up and get that for you, Mr. President."

They were very over-optimistic. They failed. They couldn't get it. So I just told the President I wanted to do my part to train the people we were using, and I'd train a thousand engineers out of the NASA budget if he'd let me do it my way, and he said, "Ok, go ahead," and I did.

In other words, our policy was to fill the tank from which we were drawing, to fill the pool of engineers from which we were drawing, and to let the contracts and let the work go on. We would let everybody see that there were enough engineers to do it. The companies could do the work; we just gave them the contract.

NEEDELL: Sounds almost like the forestry companies, Weyerhauser.

DEVORKIN: If you had been made Secretary of Agriculture in the same time frame, with this same urgent need -- and if the Gillaland report had come out in the same way -- did it make any difference to you where you were at that time? If you had been in agriculture would you have created the same thing?

WEBB: I'm not going to answer that! I don't know the answer to it! I know I was yanked up from Oklahoma and asked to come here and run this program. I ran into all kinds of difficulties, and helpful people. I went to work to get it done. I wasn't thinking about anything except the fact that I had a big job to do, and it was going to take everything I had to do it.

DEVORKIN: Well, that job as we understand it was to get to the moon, but you had many other things --

WEBB: No, it was to build up a capaility for this nation to operate in space, and to demonstrate it, with repetitive operations to the moon.

NEEDELL: On the 25th, John Simpson is coming into the office for his first series of interviews. He was at one the universities that was funded in order to build up some of the training capabilities. I'm wondering if you can give me a clue as to what kinds of questions I might direct at him.

WEBB: Well, you ought to direct the kinds of questions that will enable him to tell you what the University of Chicago was like, and what he did and what the program accomplished under his direction. Actually, he was one of the men that I trusted very, very much. About every six month or so or a year, I'd ask him to come in and spend half a day with me -- close the door and talk about a half a day just the two of us -- because I wanted to get the flavor of a man like Simpson in the field. I did the same thing with Sam Silver at Berkeley and a few other people like that. Berkner was one. But our basic approach to Chicago was to approach the president and say, "Do you want to double the size of your university graduate school in dealing with these different areas that we're interested in?"

And his answer was, "What's expected of me?"

We told him, the only thing we expected of him was to have goals for his university that he and his university wanted: he had to be able to identify the milestones when he passed them and tell us when he passed the milestones. That's all we required. We didn't want to do anything except how they were generating competent research in the fields that they were interested in, which were cosmic rays and cosmology.

NEEDELL: There were various things about the University of Chicago program that I see would make them especially relevant and interesting to you. I was wondering whether that indeed, besides the personalities of the ...

WEBB: Oh yes, it was a central university in a big city. It was funded by the Rockefellers. It had a very large reputation. It served a clientele that was very broad, and it was in the middle of the country, which meant tht we didn't have everything in California or Massachusetts.

NEEDELL: John Simpson had a great deal of experience working with the Air Force, in getting balloon flights and rocket flights together in working with other agencies, the Atomic Energy Commission. Was that part of the --

WEBB: He was a trusted man. He was trusted to do the sensible thing, to be imaginative, to bring good graduate students along with him, so that in a sense you were getting a multiplication of Simpson's capability through the graduate students that came through his supervision.

DEVORKIN: Another subject: we want to extend Leo Goldberg's kind hello to you. We're very happy to have him with us now as a fellow. We've been talking with him and getting him to talk just in broad outline about those years, because of course he was at Harvard during this early period, the sixties, building up the program. He related to us the reaction that Harvard had to the program.

WEBB: Which was very negative.

DEVORKIN: Which was very negative. Would like you to provide us with what negotiation or discussions you may have had with Pusey, and your feelings about how Harvard reacted?

WEBB: Well, I went all the way up to Pusey, and told him about our program. He made it clear that they did not wish to be involved, and so we just stopped any university-wide effort and did work with professors who had projects that they wanted to propose.

DEVORKIN: Yes, certainly Goldberg was proposing.

WEBB: That's right.

DEVORKIN: And he expressed a certain amount of disapointment. He was, I guess, a member of the three man panel. There was a man named Goody and Goldberg himself. I'm not sure who the third was, but Pusey was involved as well. Goldberg didn't see any of the negative arguments and of course wanted to go along and work with NASA. But I'm just curious, do you recall what problems Harvard had?

WEBB: I think it was mainly a desire to be independent of government money, to the fullest extent that they could. I'm not sure of this. This is an impression that I have retained over these 20 years. It may have been other things that I don't remember. But it was perfectly clear that they did not want to engage in our program, as it was set up. So we stopped asking them.

NEEDELL: There wasn't a similar situation with MIT at the same time, or was there?

WEBB: That was totally different. I mean, I knew MIT. I'd been president of the Educational Services. I had an office up there right on the same corridor with Jay Stratton. I knew Stratton and Zacharias and Friedman and Wiesner -- all those people -- very well.

    But their concern was quite different than Harvard's. They were deeply concerned about government money going into research such that the kind of men at MIT did not really have control, did not really have influence over, know about or have sanction, however you want to express it.

DEVORKIN: There might be a similarity with Harvard. One thing that Dr. Goldberg did mention was that there was a question over the nature of appointments that would be made concerning the length and duration of appointment to the Harvard faculty on these programs to train the students, especially in the predoctoral programs. NASA had one view of what the length of the appointment would be, Harvard had another.

WEBB: I don't remember.

DEVORKIN: Did you find though, that sometimes these very small differences, which Goldberg didn't think were justified, were smoke screens?

WEBB: I won't say that. I don't know. We did try to make the financing attractive to the universities by giving a two year grant in the first year, and permitting two-thirds of the money to be spent the first year, and renewing this each year so that there was always a three year lead time for the university to adjust itself.

NEEDELL: I don't understand the reference to the concerns you felt the MIT people had.

WEBB: That's a long, difficult story. I mean, we finally financed a building up there for them for something like three million dollars. I had a lot of personal correspondence with my friend Jay Stratton which was very unhappy, and word was spread up there that we were asking a lot of things, which we were not asking for.

NEEDELL: As to oversight over the research?

WEBB: No, no. No, we didn't want that. It's just too complicated a subject to go into. It mostly involves power, who was going to have the power and control.

NEEDELL: Has this been written about anywhere?

WEBB: Sure, Harvey Brooks has written a good deal about it.

TATAREWICZ: As far as power and control goes the one government agency that comes to mind in terms of training graduate students and funding the physical sciences is, of course, the National Science Foundation. What coordinating steps did you take with NSF to assure that the NASA program would blend and mesh well with their program?

WEBB: Well, I knew Alan Waterman very well. I knew the other people there and I kept in touch with them. About once a month some of us would have breakfast on Saturday morning; Jim Shannon from NIH and a number of other people from the Bureau of Standards. Those of us who were spending money who were actually furnishing the financial support for the universities, did get together and talk together about the best way to increase the number of universities that were first class. We never published any lists, never printed any lists of people we regarded as first class, the next 30 or 40 that we regarded as first group or the poor ones. But we constantly were looking at that transition period between absolutely first class and those who were emerging into it. Usually something like 18 or 19 people were in the first group, and you'd get into two or three that were trying to move from the second group into the first. We cooperated with each other in aiding that process. We were trying very hard to have the country support more absolutely first class research universities that they were then supporting.

NEEDELL: Was ther a major change in your relationship with NSF after Waterman retired and Leland Hayworth took over?

WEBB: No, we worked very well. He's a good friend of mine. Our busines was not handled on a personal basis. It was handled strictly on a business basis.

DEVORKIN: What constitutes emergence to the first class level?

WEBB: I don't know. It's what the people spending money think. We talked very frankly about Chicago, Washington University, St. Louis, Houston; about what each one was doing, and how the experience of one agency meshed with that of another...

DEVORKIN: But you can't recall the specifics of what would constitute it, or if there was consensus?

WEBB: I don't want to try to get into that kind of detail. I'm not that -- my memory isn't that good. There were men there qualified to express themselves and we did get our views together so that each one of us could act individually. See, the great value of the NACA/NASA effort was that people who were on the Aeronautics and Astronautic Coordinating Board, for instance, were the money spenders. They didn't have to have permission from anybody. They just talked about what's the best way to get work done, if we said push forward. Then each one who had the authority to spend money would go back to his own institution and spend his research money and his other money so as to move generally toward the goals that he felt, from the discussions with others, were worthy goals.

You see, you're trying to get me to speak about a very complicated subject on which I really am not qualified. I could call a meeting. I could pay for the breakfast and I could say, "Let's talk about how each of us is spending our money, which institutions seem to be making more progress than others," but I couldn't actually give an answer as to which one I thought was making the most progress. My technique was always to get the peole who knew the most together, and learn as much as I could from them, and then to do as nearly as I could the right thing and the commonsense thing, the thing that would be effective.

DEVORKIN: You were bringing them together. You were facilitating the meeting that would identify which people should be supported.

WEBB: That's right, and others were doing the same. But I did this a little more than most. I found it was a lot easier to invite peole and pay for their meals than it was to ask them to go dutch or anything like that, so I usually did that. Fortunately I still had the resources from the days in the oil business to do that.

DEVORKIN: Oh, I see. This was your personal money?

WEBB: I never used government money for that.

DEVORKIN: These were your contacts that you had made in the 1950s?

WEBB: I got stock options when I went with Kerr McGee, and they were worth a good deal of money.

DEVORKIN: That was your personal money?

WEBB: That's right. Sure. I never would use any government money to buy alcohol, or for the refreshments on an airplane. Bob Seamans and I together bought the alcohol we gave away to Congressmen and others on the airplane. We let government people bring their own drinks. Or buy them.

We bent over backwards to make sure that we more than followed the rules with respect to those kinds of matters. We never wanted to be tackled on small matters. We were willing to fight the big ones. Of course, I never collected the per diem. Congress said, "Did you stay in a hotel in Tulsa when you made a speech out there?" "Yes, sir, I stayed in the Chamber of Commerce suite." He said, "Well, did you collect the per diem?" I said, "No sir." "How do you know?" "I never collect the per diem." That answers it, you see. You conduct yourself so as to not let the small things emerge as big questions.

TATAREWICZ: For the big things, you, NSF, NIH and other agencies were all going to the same source at the same time of year for your annual appropriation.

WEBB: You mean the budget committee?

TATAREWICZ: The budget. You were all to one degree or another funding research. I'm wondering, did you ever coordinate your funding requests?

WEBB: I didn't. I went to the President and said, "You have a failure on your hands. Gillaland says you need 4000, and Congress has turned you down. You let me do it my way, I'll train a thousand as my means of contributing to the pool from which I'm drawing." I had his sanction to do that. The Budget Director was told when he asked Kennedy whether or not he wanted me to do it, "Yes." I didn't have to get into all the details about it.

TATAREWICZ: So there wasn't any sense of competition among the organizations?

WEBB: There wasn't on my part. You see, we were providing the money to the institutions so that the University of Arkansas, for instance, could choose the Arkansas boys that they wanted to invest in. They were investing much more than our money, when they gave a graduate student a place at the university. I didn't want that Arkansas boy to be told, "You can go to any institution you want," and have him apply at Harvard, CalTech, MIT and so forth, to be turned down and ultimately have to go back to Arkansas. Then he'd feel like a second class citizen.

So we did depart from the previous rules that where government money was going to support graduate education, the recipient would have freedom of choice of the institutions. We departed from that, and provided our funds to the institution itself. They could choose those from its constituency that it was prepared to make the investment in. We did give them an absolute commitment, though, so that they knew they were going to get the money. They could then go to a first class professor and say, "If you come with us, you'll have this teaching load, we'll give you three graduate students," and so forth. They could make the thing attractive enough to bring a very bright man to Arkansas. Otherwise they couldn't have gotten him. Couldn't have competed with the others.

So we did those things that would permit the universities to be competivitive, and to draw in some of the best people there, joining it with our graduate training program.

NEEDELL: One sense I get from your questions, Joe, is that there is some notion that there were so many research agencies that there really had to be some coordination. I know in reading Merton England's history of the National Science Foundation that early on the National Science Foundation, at least according to the Bureau of the Budget and Congress, was to assume some of this role, that is the general role of evaluating research and development throughout the government agencies. I know that Waterman was really quite reluctant, realizing that this was a very difficult position to be in. How did that work out as far as your relationships with National Science Foundation went?

WEBB: I didn't have any problem with them. I mean, they knew what I was doing. They felt that we needed more engineers and scientists than we had, and they were glad somebody was willing to step up and take some of the obligation.

NEEDELL: Did you feel it would have been a good thing for the National Science Foundation to assume this role of generally overlooking and evaluating R and D?

WEBB: No. The President of the United States is responsible for coordinating the activities of the government in all major fields. For somebody else who is in a subordinate unit to try to impose his views is unacceptable. For instance, I wouldn't want Waterman to tell me how to run my part of NASA. There was enough need, and our work was urgent enough -- we had to keep moving -- that we just went right on keeping him informed.

NEEDELL: Where was this pressure that England writes about on Watermann to beef up that side of NSF activity? Was it from Congressional committees or the Bureau of the Budget?

WEBB: I'd have to stop and think. I'm not sure.

NEEDELL: The Bureau of the Budget had its own program; R and D expenditures were really going quite --

WEBB: I guess there were senior people in the world of education that thought there ought to be some coordination. I've got a letter I'm going to show you from Warren Weaver, during the time I lived in Oklahoma, in which he is expressing unhappiness at the National Academy of Sciences for not taking in any social sciences. He became very bitterly opposed to our program, if you remember

DEVORKIN: These letters would be in your papers at the Truman Library?

WEBB: This particular letter which I have upstairs I have never given to anybody. I just found it now when I was looking through my papers recently. I'll go get it for you, just to show you, if you're interested in it.

DEVORKIN: Yes. I think this would be a good place to stop the interview, if that's all right.

Webb 5 || WEBB 7

Rev. 09/06/96

© 1996 National Air and Space Musuem