TAPE 1, SIDE 1
MR. COLLINS: We're going to discuss some confidential materials that Mr. Webb has shown us and we'd like to get the context and background of these materials.
We'll start with Mr. Webb's State Department career by looking at a few notes and memoranda.
MR. WEBB: This first memorandum seems to have been a note that I kept in my desk drawer to use when explaining the fact that the Department was very large as compared to what it had been before the war. Many of the activities that were set up outside the Department during the war were brought within the Department after the war, and it became a very large and diverse operation.
When Mr. Acheson first asked me to join him, he told me from his experience in government, particularly having served as vice chairman of the Hoover Commission -- and of course I understood this because I had been the liaison person between Mr. Hoover and Mr. Truman, -- that whatever changes in structural organization we wanted to make in the Department had to be done within a very short period of time, say three months, or we would never get it done. His point was that the resistance to change would be so great and would increase as the new players become more familiar that we'd have to have a clear driving determination to see it through. We must commit rapidly to a major effort and if we expect to succeed in the reorganization. In fact, we did decide to go forward with a plan that called for eight Assistant Secretaries, six of which would be assigned in charge of various regions of the world, and would keep in close touch and monitor the operations of your embassies consulates, and overseas. The remaining two would be by designation of the Secretary made Deputy Under Secretaries, one for administration, one for policy.
So we adopted this triangular structure, and proceeded with the job of organizing the work of the Department around it. In fact, in an organization like the State Department it is very hard to do organization and management work because of the difficulty of quantifying the task, assigned to each unit. You cannot plan and manage by the number of dollars in the budget, letters written, or other methods of quantification generally used. Here we were dealing with communications. The work of the Department was in many ways both judgement and negotiation. We had about a thousand negotiations going on continuously, somewhere in the world, that had to be kept up with. The negotiators would be calling in for instructions and different government departments like Agriculture and Commerce would be interested in many of them. General Marshall had brought to the Department from the general staff of the Army Mr. Carl Hummelsine to set up an executive secretariat in the State Department reporting directly to the Secretary of State.
So in effect, what we had was a stepup in which all communications to the Department were addressed to the Secretary of State, routed to the mail room run by the Secretariat, opened there and then distributed in accordance with judgment of the Secretariat as to who was involved, for either action or information. In the return cycle, all communications, orders, instructions, passage of information, was from the Secretary to the officer in the field, and this executive Secretariat would also then make sure that everyone who was properly concerned with that particular matter or negotiation was informed of it, and there was a record made in the central policy file that that particular matter had been handled in that particular way. So in effect the agricultural man here in Washington, could go to the central file and find out the last thing that was handled with a country, or with respect to an agricultural attache in some foreign capital or an agricultural executive product, by anyone in the United States government, because the Secretary of State was the only one authorized to send out those instructions.
This is a slight oversimplification, but that was the planned structure. To get the work done, we had to have an ability to communicate. This first note shows that we were handling these very large number of communications every day. The memorandum indicates a total of thousands of telegrams a day on our communications facilities. These involved a quarter of a million words a day. On the broadcasting side, the Voice of America, and on the activities side what we called "the Truth Program," was the largest radio operation in the world at that time. It conducted more programming than any of the national networks, and did it in 24 languages.
COLLINS: I'd just like to ask, what was your role in the management of this information flow?
WEBB: Well, first of all, Mr. Acheson and I developed the pattern for the two of us very much like the pattern that I later developed at NASA for Dryden, Seamans and myself. We occupied the same organizational box. We carried the same authority, which meant that I could undertake to give a final answer on any matter that I chose to, or I could refer it to him. So my job was to work with these six Assistant Secretaries, in charge of areas of the world, and the two Deputy Under Secretaries, one for policy, one for administration, to make sure that the organization functioned and also make sure that the substantive matters being handled through the flow in that organization were properly handled, and that the President was brought into those cases where he was involved and the other members of the Cabinet, like the Secretary of Defense, could also be brought in.
This particularly required the integration of our Defense Intelligence take, and the State Department Intelligence take, with the flow of information by minus Intelligence. So in effect, I was Under Secretary with authority to act for Mr. Acheson when he was in the country and clearly authorized to be the acting head of the Department when he was out of the country. In fact, as NATO and these other postwar activities were carried out, he was out of the country for about one year out of the three years I served as Under Secretary, and I had to serve as Acting Secretary. I would deal with the President, and with the Secretary, who would receive his instructions from the Department, with my name signed as Acting Secretary, and manage the flow of activity through my two deputies.
COLLINS: For the record, this memo is from the spring of 1950.
WEBB: There's one other thing I want to say about it. In order to have an economy of effort, we had a rather simple pattern of reports. There were four every day. The first one, coming first in the morning, was the Top Secret Log for the President and Secretary of State and one or two other senior officials in the government. In this log, which was kept in the Secretariat, nothing could be summarized. If a message was important enough to be in that Log, going to the President first thing in the morning, it had to have the full text of any communication, from say another head of state or from this country to someone like our ambassador.
The other reports, three in number, were distributed in the Department in the afternoon every day. The first one dealt with political summary of activities going on in the world, the second one as economic summary, and the third, an intelligence summary. They were carefully prepared, duplicated, and every officer of the Department could receive such reports as he needed to do his work. The executive secretary was responsible for making sure that these reports got to the people who were responsible, and that if a meeting was held, that the people who needed to know or give advice were invited as well as those in the particular sections dealing with it. A fifth report was prepared from time to time, when the Intelligence officers felt that the actual situation would not immediately emerge in the minds of someone reading the economic report or the political report. So they would give a special report saying that there was emerging through the Intelligence source this additional information which is over and above what's on the report this afternoon but which seems to indicate a new trend.
You can see, instead of having a cost report, reporting the manufacturing cost of some object going through a factory, you had this structure of reporting with a capable secretariat that would be responsible for the authorative record of all activities and would bring in those people who were concerned. The Executive Secretary would relay information to anyone who needed to know it, those who were up to the minute on information for the President and those handling matters in the foreign policy field.
COLLINS: Now, you've indicated that they had certain internal management of information, but you also got information from the Defense Department and other Intelligence sources. What was your role in coordinating State Department information gathering efforts with other Intelligence gathering agencies?
WEBB: The Intelligence information, if it were unclassified, would come into the executive secretariat and would fit into the preparation of the daily reports and thus go to the appropriate people in the State Department and throughout the government, to which they would make their own input. The Intelligence director of the State Department was called into meetings at the Under Secretary or Secretary level, whenever it was thought that he might have some contribution to make in the Acheson years. In fact, he was invited to many meetings which had not previously been the practice, just so he could see the kinds of points on which the decisions were made. So the Intelligence flowed in to the proper official and and was included reports. There were a very large number of activities going on.
COLLINS: Let me ask one more question regarding the structure of the State Department administration. Clearly, this was an information management aspect this kind of a formal structure. What kind of informal relationships did you have with agencies other than the State Department? How did you coordinate on an informal basis?
WEBB: Well, I think most of the people who dealt with me at the State Department, or dealt with the senior officers in the Department, recognized that I was thoroughly familiar with the topside structure of the government, having served as Director of the Budget. Mr. Acheson and I worked out a policy under which I would take to the White House usually every day the less diffcult and more routine decisions that the President had to be informed about. When he and Mr. Acheson met, they had an agenda of only important and interesting questions. We had much better results from the meetings of these two men by limiting the number and complexity of things that we were dealing with, and handling at lower levels the large number of things that would create a certain amount of irritation because they would include something a Senator or a prominent businessman wanted, frequently something that the government couldn't do.
Now having served as Director of the Budget and still being in a position of taking up with the President almost every day many of the routine items with which he had to deal, the image that this was going on made it easier for me to deal with the other Department officials in many areas of commerce related to foreign affairs, many areas of Defense, many areas of Agriculture, many different areas. You have to remember that the ambassador from a foreign country is certified to the President of the United States can demand to see him, so we had to try to get the work done without his insisting on talking with the President personally except when it was really necessary.
So my role was to attend to as much of the care and feeding of the Department, the growth of the structure so it would be stronger and better, with time, trying to bring in good people to handle the senior positions, and taking up with the President probably more than half of State Department items.
COLLINS: One thing that I hoped to bring out which perhaps is appropriate in this discussion of State Department notes is to what extent did your activities in the State Department serve as a preliminary sort of introduction to the kinds of problems you might have had while you were at NASA? If you could point out the points of analogy or instances where --
WEBB: I think it's a little too soon to do that. Remind me of that later on.
COLLINS: Okay. Since these notes don't appear to be in any specific order, you might want to sort of leaf through them and decide which ones to discuss first.
WEBB: This one, I can't read very well. The first note seems to be a mental reminder of an important factor to keep in mind. It was always necessary to have, underlying the basic decisions, a course of action on any matter that there might not be a clear cut catergorical answer to. You may have to worry with it, work with it, expect to see it again month by month. So you had to do work, plan the growth of the ability of the Department and the stature of the individual in it, against this knowledge that you might not be able at this time to get an answer. In fact, the fundamental point that we tried to emphasize in the Department was that, while you couldn't quantify much of what we did, we dealt with communications, which were mind to mind transmittals. The necessity for each individual was to have the right attitude, rather than to look for some formula. The attitude (under the best of circumstances) in a democracy has heavy burdens when threatened by an autocracy, where decisions are made by a narrow executive mandate in most cases. The success of our policies was proportional to the ratio of the impressions of our ability to keep the attitude aimed in the right direction.
Another more important factor was the ability we had to get unity of thought and action in a large number of diverse areas of government dealing with some one country, like France or Norway, or any other ones which were distinctly bounded by certain facts of the past, and by their own hopes and ambitions. The maximum cooperation toward this unified foreign policy would permit looking at the position of the United States in the world and looking at the elements of the world crisis together. You could look at the roles we want to play, and look at the policies we would like to advocate, and measure those or assess them against those that you were able to get decisions on and cooperation on and adopt as the foreign policy.
COLLINS: If we could back up just a second. The first note indicates an interesting tension, and that is, the State Department sought unified policy position. There might be some kind of possible conflict with a democratic approach to presenting these policies. In other words, in a democracy, you have a lot of diverse opinions, sort of making up the public composite of views.
WEBB: Sure, you had Senators, you had Vandenberg, for instance, you had the Foreign Relations Committee members, the chairman, who was Tom Connolly from Texas, who didn't see eye to eye with the Secretary of State or the President on many of these matters. You had on the House side very vigorous and active members. You had editors of newspapers like the NEW YORK TIMES and correspondents who specialized in certain areas who were quick to have an opinion as to how the United States ought to run its foreign policy, but did not always see the whole picture that had to be judged by the Secretary of State and the President. So there were many different inputs, many different views, and part of our job was to go as far in the direction that was clearly indicated as best for the country, but not to go so far as to alienate people whose support we really needed. And of course at that time, Western Europe was seriously threatened through lack of food, lack of economic underpinning, threats by the Russians. We were trying to build strength through the Marshall Plan and by building organizations like NATO and building a worldwide structure of treaties, friendship, commerce and navigation. We changed that to friendship, commerce and economic development, as time went on.
This note indicates, in my handwriting, that I was making the point that, much simplified, the process of democracy is in reality exposing problems of society to the largest number of able minds and resolving the possible solutions through the process of debate and persuasion. It's a good note.
COLLINS: I think so. Is this a sentiment that was generally held in the State Department?
WEBB: No, it was held by the senior people and by Mr. Acheson and me, but there was a strong sentiment in the Department that professional foreign service officers, trained in foreign service schools, long experienced in the foreign service, could make these decisions and were better qualified to make them than the citizens of the democracy. In a sense, we were asking democracy to do something that it couldn't do, when we asked the political process to decide these things.
Actually, though, Mr. Acheson had a very strong view, and I did too, that you had to have in a democracy support of the public, you had to have enough support so that you would not have a main fight over an issue and lose. You had to keep winning. That meant you had to carry a large number of able minds with you, and you had to engage that process in such a way that those large number of able minds could come to be on the essence of the problem, to make their contribution, and you would get from that process -- this was fundamental to our thinking in NASA as well as the State Department -- a solution that you could get from just consulting the experts. More like Mary Parker Follette's philosophy of committee work, where she said, "You don't want to use the committee to compromise downward to the lowest common denominator, you want to use the form of the committee to bring able minds together to integrate upward to the highest common denominator."
This was the basic philosophy on which we did our work.
COLLINS: I missed the name you mentioned there, that was Mary?
WEBB: Mary Parker Follette was a brilliant woman who wrote in the field of public administration and organization of management back in the twenties and thirties, one of the real high spirits of the early days. Chester Barnard, do you identify that name? He was head of the New Jersey Bell Telephone System and wrote the book, THE FUNCTIONS OF THE EXECUTIVE, the first guy who sort of pulled together a description of the duties that had to be performed by executives to be successful.
COLLINS: I think, with your permission, we'll bypass explicit discussion of the rest of these notes. They contain ideas related to what you've already said.
WEBB: I think so, too, if you look at the transcript of what we've said today, and look at the other notes.
COLLINS: So let's discuss the last couple of pieces of correspondence from the State Department period, and then we can go on to NASA
WEBB: Which two?
COLLINS: Those two right there that you have in your hand.
WEBB: All right. There's a memorandum from W.J. McWilliams dated May 26, 1950 which is simply a sample of the kind of activities that I would have to engage in, trying to make sure the Department did its proper job. And we had to arrange an appointment, Secretary of the United Nations, Secretary General and the President, we had to be sure that Mr. Acheson was available, we had to think through whether it was better to have that before the hearings in which the Secretary would brief the Senators on the conversations with Generalissimo Stalin. So it was very important that all this be arranged properly. This is simply the secretariat doing its job of carrying this out and notifying me that under my authority, they are going right ahead with it.
COLLINS: Do you recall in this particular instance whether the Secretary General had something of import to convey, or was this kind of --
WEBB: I don't remember. I don't remember that.
COLLINS: This piece of correspondence of Dean Acheson is undated, perhaps you could give us an approximate date for that? I was thinking it was about 1951, '52?
COLLINS: I think what is mostly of interest here is perhaps the discussion of how to handle difficult personnel problems, how it perhaps relates to future such problems that you had at NASA, rather than any personality details.
WEBB: You see, there had been a continuing unhappiness by the senior officers in the foreign service like George Kennan, Chip Bohlen, and that group, at the kind of pattern that I've described to you that Acheson and I were using to monitor and police and guide the Department, and to intergrate it with the activities of the President and of other parts of the government. Generally, Kennan tended to want to receive copies of the telegrams coming in, the raw material, and if he found one interesting, from some place like, say, Yugoslavia -- Tito to was very much forward in those days -- he liked to walk through the door that communicated between his office and Mr. Acheson. He was head of the Policy Planning Staff and he had an office right next to Mr. Acheson and his staff beyond, and he'd like to walk in and say, "I don't think we ought to answer this telegram" or "We ought to answer it this way." Really what ought to happen and was happening in a parallel line was that the communication had come to the secretariat, it had been spread out to the people who were concerned, a group working toward a recommendation from the proper official of the Department, the Assistant Secretary along with his staff to the Secretary and to the President. It was premature for the head of the Policy Planning Staff to come in and recommend a course of action when he wasn't in on the play, and 101 other things were going on in that part of the world. Now, they really took umbrage at having anybody read their reports or the draft material, and yet, Mr. Acheson and I were trying very hard to involve the Department as a department, so that you could count on a matter being handled systematically and properly no matter what it was, that there was a routine for handling things.
Now, Paul Nitze succeeded Kennan as head of the Policy Planning Staff, and I did not know that he was feeling so badly about me and my activity. I had been instrumental in clearing up certain difficulties that had to be overcome when he became Assistant Secretary, by my recommendation, and I knew he was cool but I didn't know he felt bitter about it. When the secretariat distributed one of his papers to those proper people in the Department who would have to make an input to the Secretary, he really got very angry. He came in to see me with blood in his eye, and he was really very, very adamant and bitter.
I told him, "You don't have to worry about this, really, because it's already agreed between the Secretary and the President that I'm going to leave the Department. So just hold your horses, I won't be here. Don't worry about it."
He went in to see McWilliams, who was then the head of the secretariat -- Hummelsine was away McWilliams was Acting Secretary -- who told him "Look here, Paul, you don't want to fool around with this small stuff. You're taking a paranoic attitude toward this. I would not even mention it to anybody. I'm not even going to talk to Webb or the Secretary or anybody about it."
And so he sort of told him, you're acting like a spoiled child, you'd better get away from it. And Nitze did. He never took it up with anybody else so far as I know. But at the time I wrote this letter, I couldn't be sure, since Nitze had just done that, and I didn't know McWilliams had seen him. I recently called McWilliams in Oklahoma City and he told me this. I didn't know it. He just told him he wouldn't discuss it with anybody. So Nitze then would have had to take it up independent of the Secretariat, you see, if he chose to go forward with it.
But I had no way of knowing that he wouldn't meet Mr Acheson at the train and say, "This fellow Webb is terrible, you've got to get rid of him!"
So I had to prepare Acheson for the possibility that he might face a very major confrontation with the head of his Policy Planning Staff.
COLLINS: So did you indeed send this letter to Acheson?
WEBB: I don't think I did. I think the thing just died down. I think what McWilliams did cooled off Nitze. Made him realize that he was acting like a spoiled child. Because the issue is, if your work is good, it should be looked at by people who are responsible or help you make that decision. Now, I don't know how far this ought to go. I mean, the only value is that it shows that I was a responsible officer who would keep my boss informed of problems that were likely to come to him and confront him, dealing with personnel. I could have neglected this and just forgotten about it, on the chance that Nitze never would have mentioned it, which is what happened. But I've always thought that I ought to prepare the President or the Secretary of State for whatever they might have to face. That's why I wrote this note.
COLLINS: That also shows your character as an administrator, because part of your response was not to sort of rebound--
WEBB: Not to brush it off, but to say, you've got to pay attention to this.
COLLINS: That's right. Also you were going to give it calm reflection, rather than give him an impromptu kind of answer on the spot.
WEBB: That's right. But I was urging Acheson to give thought to it. Right. I think it is a question of whether a document like that, that would show those things, doesn't have more possible harm than good. I mean, Nitze is negotiating right now with the Russians. He's still involved.
COLLINS: It's certainly something that we would treat as a sensitive item, but if you feel that it carries too personal a connotation, we can have it destroyed.
WEBB: Well, you think it over, I want to help you with whatever you think is useful for your project. I believe that not enough is known about how people prepare themselves for doing successful top level jobs. Not enough attention is given to the ability of Cabinet officers to manage their Department as well as to carry out the substance. And I'm doing this partly because I like to have somebody say, "Gee, we've got to do a better job of appointing people who can master this management side of the job as well as the substance side."
COLLINS: Within that framework then I certainly think the letter has some relevance, because it indicates that as you proceeded to construct an administrative structure through which the Department of State would effectively carry out the mission of the Department, and you encountered personnel problems stemming from most senior FSO's that you had to reconcile, these personal interpretations of what you were doing with what you wanted to do. I think that's an important point.
WEBB: You've got to carry people along with you. You can't be fighting over flow with the important people. What's next?
COLLINS: I think we can start the NASA material here.
WEBB: Wouldn't it be a good idea to just put this next stuff off for a little while till we get through the other things? Wouldn't we do a better job of deciding what to do about it?
This shows the care with which we went into this Source Evaluation on the Apollo. Now, there's a whole file at the Truman Library on the 204 fire. I would assume this is in there.
COLLINS: As a matter of fact, it is there and I was going to mention that to you.
WEBB: But the questions is, do you want it too?
COLLINS: I think it would be useful for us. It's directly relevant.
WEBB: You can have it. It speaks for itself, It says what was done at the time. The one thing it doesn't do is say that the astronauts themselves were very anxious to have a spacecraft contractor who had experience with manned aircraft rather than missiles. They thought that the method of thinking about the Apollo, for the engineers at North American, having done the X-15, was very important to them.
COLLINS: Just for the record why don't you briefly characterize the document here?
WEBB: This is a document prepared, I think, by Hugh Dryden that explained the reasoning of the Source Selection officials, Dryden, Seamans and myself, in choosing North American, even though Martin Marietta had a higher score, as evaluated by the Source Evaluation Board.
TAPE 1, SIDE 2
WEBB: One factor that I do not believe is fully covered in this memorandum is the fact that the astronauts who were going to have to fly on the Apollo rocket were very strongly of the view that they would prefer to have a company like North American which had made the X-15, according to their experience a very high performance manned aircraft, as against a company who had developed their experience primarily in the unmanned field.
COLLINS: Do you want to discuss the subsequent controvery after the decision was made, how some people thought perhaps Martin-Marietta was somehow short-changed in the process, or improperly evaluated?
WEBB: Well, you see, this is just one memorandum. You've got a whole file drawer out at Truman Library. What I did was insist that we take enough time and effort, and through a fellow who's there at the Smithsonian, Alan Ullberg -- you may know him, a lawyer -- to get together all the pertinent documents and hold them together so that they could be examined, and send them to the Truman Library. Now, if we'd known about you at the time, we probably could have sent them to you, but at least they are available for examination by anyone who wants to engage in that exercise.
I don't think I ought to repeat that.
COLLINS: Let's leave it at that. Perhaps you could offer one comment on the procedure here, as Dryden lays it out in the memo. I get the impression that their evaluations of the various corporations were simply based on their personal experiences with and impressions of previous contractor work. In other words, it doesn't seem like there was a lot of hard data on hand. This is the impression I get from the memo.
WEBB: Well, these men, Dryden and Seamans, far more than I, knew what North American had done to extend the range of the long range fighters and bombers sent over Germany. That company did a magnificent job, and really made it possible to conduct the daylight bombing over Germany in many cases. The pilots bombing felt that they worked very carefully, thoughtfully and intelligently with them in doing the theoretical and engineering work that permitted the development of the accompanying fighters, so that they could go long distances with the bombers, and prevent the decimation of the bombers.
They did have the low price. And they had people like Bob Lovett who had been Under Secretary of State ahead of me, and Secretary of Defense, on their board. He was a public member of the North American board. They were able people. I had known Lee Atwood and Dutch Kindleberger who formed the American Company. Like everybody else in the business, I had a great confidence in them. They were known as what they called "the best God damned tin benders in the business."
So it wasn't just impressions. It was experience over a period of time working out engineering solutions to making the next step forward, that Dryden and Seamans, I think, were looking at, and the astronauts. I think that's enough.
I will say one other thing. This illustrates the very important self-policing feature of our Source Evaluation Board situation. I've had to say to top people in the government, right up to the White House level, Senators and others, that we have a self-policing system. The Source Evaluation Boards prepare their evaluations and gives them in numbers. Dryden, Seamans and I sit side by side on every contract over five million dollars, and we have a full presentation to us and our staff, and anyone on our staff can ask questions. The Source Evaluation Board can clarify an issue. They must report on two things. First, what is the method that they have chosen to differentiate between the best and the poorest? Second, what is the result of the application of that method?
We are then, as senior officials with our staff, able to evaluate whether they have chosen a satisfactory method of rating them, and then what the result is. The result must be a number.
Then the burden passes to us. But just as we know what they had in mind, they can see and know everything that we had in mind. We have to make that decision, knowing that the Source Evaluation Board is going to ask themselves, "Did those guys make the right decision?" This is a very good disciplinary kind of a framework within which to work.
All right, what else have we got here?
Now, what do we want to do about that? This shows clearly that one of the senior officials was making efforts to persuade important members of Congress on the committee that I was not the proper one to be administrator, that he was a knowledgeable person and that he ought to be put in charge.
COLLINS: How you might comment, I'm not sure, but certainly it indicates the sort of games, almost, that went on between Congress and NASA, jockeying for position on the space program.
WEBB: But as you see, I just held myself above it. Took action when it was necessary. When we moved Holmes out they had a sort of a private meeting of about five Congressmen down there and sent for me. The first thing they said, "Well, we think you ought to go, we ought to keep Holmes. You got rid of the wrong man." I had to go through the process of persuading them they were wrong, and I did and got their support, and had the very serious problem of not knowing whether Holmes was in effect proceeding logically. It appeared to Bob Seamans and myself -- Seamans had known him for a long time -- that he showed some evidence of instability, of maybe having a nervous breakdown. So in a sense what we did was, go back to RCA, officials that we knew there, and tell them that Holmes was threatening to quit if his demands were not met, and we were not going to meet them. Wouldn't they offer him back a job at RCA equivalent to the one he had, with all the salary increases that he would have received had he been there? And they did.
He chose not to take it. He went to Raytheon. He's now the head of Raytheon, one of the big men in the industry, has had a phenomenal success. But that doesn't necessarily mean he would have succeeded in running NASA.
COLLINS: At that time did Mr. Holmes have fairly strong connections in Congress? That seems to be the implication.
WEBB: Well, he had the reputation of having done the Dew Line, and it was brilliant. That's the main reason that we employed him. He didn't have the reputation of being a well-rounded executive who could run NASA, but there were certain Congressmen who had recently invited him to their district had an honorable degree granted to him just a few days before this happened, and he had gotten to know and be friends with members of the committee.
Holmes had also raised the basic issue of whether we would go back for supplementals. I took the position that it would be murder for us to go up before four committees every year and be handed a hush darling saying, "This is all that we can give you, it's 80 percent of what you want and need, come back in three months and we'll give you the rest." They wouldn't do it and they could dodge responsibility.
So I said, "No, we're not coming back for a supplemental. You can act just as responsibily as we have. We're going to spend what you give us. Make your decision in the light of knowing that that's what we're going to spend. We're not going to be up here asking you for more. We'll come back the next year and ask." That was a basic policy which he tried to upset, because he said, "The only way I know how to race is with the throttle against the fire wall.
I said, "That's not the way to race."
So we had a major crisis with the man we'd picked for probably the most important job in NASA, running the Manned Space Flight Program. We simply handled it in such a way that he could leave with dignity, go back into industry, make a lot of money, and we could get another man.
COLLINS: So Holmes went to Congress, specifically to Al Thomas, and said that NASA should be asking for a supplemental appropriation?
WEBB: Yes. He said that within a few days NASA was going to be asking for a supplemental.
WEBB: Letter... Thomas told him that there would probably be a supplemental for NASA in '63. Absolutely contrary to the agreement we'd made. He took it all the way up to Kennedy, to have this upset. And I just told Kennedy, "Look, if you want some one else to run the program, I don't know where you'll come out. If you and I stick together we'll both come out all right." He said, "I'm going to stick with you."
Holmes also tried to get me to take this money out of space science and the other parts of NASA.
But this is not too unusual. This happens frequently among senior executives. So now, what do you want to do with this material? It's clearly not complimentary to Holmes. In business that's not the way I'd like my vice presidents to act. And yet, he has achieved a very important role. He's done a good job on many things, including the Dewline. Raytheon's had a very successful program. He's a brilliant man with electronics or we wouldn't have hired him in the first place.
COLLINS: Well, what we're primarily interested in is how this reflects on your ability to successfully administrate NASA. I think that certainly says something very concrete there.
WEBB: You see, a man has character, or he doesn't. This man worked with Bob Seamans at RCA. He was senior to Bob, and Bob proposed his name to me and I agreed to hire him. He hadn't been there two weeks -- and -- I told him clearly, he'd be reporting to Bob Seamans, who would be the general manager -- when he came to me and said, "I was over Bob in RCA, I can't report to him." I said "that was the arrangement we agreed to.
So I mean, he started early. He had a history with RCA of coming in about every two or three months and threatening to resign if the top management didn't do something. And they'd say, "Oh, go on back and go to work. So I knew he had this history, he had this propensity to try to make issues over his personal prerogatives and personal position. I don't think it's badly handled by Arthur Levine in his book. He wasn't kicked out to get somebody who could more clearly work with me. He was kicked out because he wasn't willing to follow the policy.
Now, this letter from Aven only to give you the flavor.
COLLINS: A piece of correspondence to a man outside from Mr. Webb.
WEBB: He's just an oil man in Oklahoma whom I knew very well. He came down here and worked a while.
COLLINS: The question that occurred to me reading that was, how close was your relationship to Mr. Kerr and how was it perceived by the Congress and others in the community who were interested in NASA?
WEBB: Well, I had a very close relationship with him. When the Oklahoma National Guard was sent to Korea, I was Under Secretary of State, I had a driver who could cook, and about every other Sunday morning I had him for breakfast at my office at the State Department. The senator wanted to keep up with what was happening to those Oklahoma National Guards, and I got to know him quite well.
He had a lot of interesting ways of doing things. He'd call up the White House and say, "Is the President there?" If the President was there they'd put him on. I once asked Kennedy, why did he do that? He said, "That's one member of the Senate who always delivers what he promises."
Now I had worked with Kerr for five years under contract with stock options, started with 20,000 shares, earned them out, and then asked, "Have you made money on me? Are you satisfied?"
He said, "Yes sir, I want to try another 5 year contract."
I said, "No, I'm having to forego a number of things I really want to do. I'll work for you half time but not full time. Because I could see that he wanted to get a collar around my neck and I didn't want that. So I went down to half time, from full time, and went into a number public service activities. When the Democrats won control of the Senate in 1960, Lyndon Johnson knew he would be Vice President and worked it out with Kerr for him (Kerr) to be Chairman of Aeronautics and Space Science Committee. They both recommended me for Space Administrator. Johnson was known for his advocacy of a vigorous space program and wanted to continue in a strong visible role of power and leadership. There were some who thought he wanted to contiue a dominant role in the committee and achieve a dominant role in NASA and Military efforts in the Executive Branch. Kerr was determined to hold and be perceived as holding the power of the Chairman, and there were many facets of this struggle but in essence.
So when he saw that I had accepted this space job, he was chairman of the committee. We both had the problem of how do you handle Lyndon Johnson? But Kerr performed a great service for me. He told Johnson this story about my independence, how I wouldn't be kicked around, which meant, Johnson never tried. That's the only significance to this. Just, here's a guy, I'm writing him a little bit about this job I'm doing in Washington.
It's interesting that I mention Margaret Chase Smith, I've forgotten in exactly what connection. I talked to her, got a letter from her the other day. She's up in Skowhegan, Maine, says she's lost most of her vision. She's supporting the Margaret Chase Smith Library. She's very proud of it. She's given most of her property to a supporting Foundation. They gave her an award. I was the first president of the Margaret Chase Smith Library. I didn't want to be but she asked me to. And I believe in recognizing people who have helped you and she helped me.
COLLINS: That certainly seems to be indicated.
WEBB: Did I say anything about the effort to cause me trouble? One of the big contractors in the Apollo program, after the fire, finally concluded that they'd have to get rid of me, so they began to send their top dog around to see various Senators, and when they got to Margaret Chase Smith, she said, "Look, Mr. Webb's an honest man and a good administrator, you'd better do exactly what he tells you and nothing more."
She called and told me about it, and I demanded an executive session of the committee, so Clint Anderson called one. So that one thing with Margaret Chase Smith makes me feel very appreciative. That's why I took the presidency of the library when she asked me to.
COLLINS: Let's move on to a piece of correspondence to you from Mervin Kelly, dated July 2, l963. It discusses some of the relationships between NASA Headquarters and the Centers.
WEBB: Hornbeck was the head of Bellcomm.
COLLINS: All right, what I wondered was if there was anything in there that you wanted to expand upon in the terms of relations?
WEBB: This is typical. This is an exhibit of the way I was able to work with Mervin Kelly, Arthur Raymond and the group. They were outstanding. He'd been chairman of the Bell Telephone Laboratories before he retired, and these people all knew that he was a very top man and that his opinion about them and about NASA was very important.
His opinion about Apollo was very important. Now, what he's saying here is, "I've come in to do a job with you. I told you I didn't believe in what you're doing but, if it's going to be done it ought to be done right, and I'll help you.
And in that vein I'm telling you that here's what I'm working on right now. "I must have 25 or 50 of these. And he was right. We had sent Elms down to try to salvage the situation at Houston. He was concerned that Elms was going to be put directly next to Gilruth and over everybody else there, and that Walter Williams would leave. I was not as concerned about Walter Williams. And we did put Elms into an important position. I don't know whether it's on the organization chart, but the point that has to be thought of some time by serious scholars is that one technique I used was to say that a center director could not put out an organization chart that involved the top level, the level just below him, without my signature. These things weren't done and presented to me as fait accompli. I had to be involved, because they knew I had to sign the organization chart. That was particularly true with Wernher.
COLLINS: So in this particular case, was Kelly presenting you with information you didn't already have?
WEBB: He was supplementing and adding to information that was coming to me in a stream from other areas. And he was working with me to understand it so that we both could keep the pressure on to do the thing right. You see, Holmes had tried to fire Bob Gilruth. I wouldn't let him do it. That was the beginning of the real rift. He wanted to put his own man in there. A lot of these people want to build a power structure with people loyal to them, rather than the program. Now, you see, I've got Arthur Raymond, Mervin Kelly, Jim Reynolds I guess, from MIT. These are the top people in the industry. Arthur Raymond built the Douglas Company, Mervin Kelly was chairman of Bell Telephone Laboratories, Further, Kelly and Raymond would understand what was not well understood throughout NASA. I personally made the decision to bring in the General Electric Company to do the computerization of the test results of all the big equipment coming through the program. They were anxious to get in the communication satellite business, and I told them they couldn't be in both. So they dropped their bid for a communications satellite. They wanted to be in the big hardware business -- they'd been in it for the Air Force -- I told them, they couldn't do it. But that I wanted them to create this capability for digital computer storage in the recording of information on every major test of every major component. So when we got on the launch pad and some anomaly showed up, we could look at the whole record in a hurry and decide whether we were going to launch or not.
It's a hell of a thing to have a 400 million dollar rocket on the pad and say "Launch it" and then have it blow up. It's also a hell of a thing to hold the launch and say, "We're not sure this is going to start, wait." It's costing you tremendous amounts of money for every day that you keep that whole crew together, and the backup people, who are held in place with their computers so that if you get into orbit and get some kind of problem, that you can get the whole structure throughout the United States busy finding a solution to it.
This is what saved SkyLab, this in-place structure. But it costs you a tremendous amount to keep it going! 400 million dollars for one booster, and if you delay it two weeks, you've probably lost 200 million dollars. That's the pressure you're under. You've got to have good men and you've got to have a good system.
COLLINS: So Kelly on occasion, as an outsider more or less --
WEBB: He would look it over, and tell me what he thought of it as an experienced business man. But bear in mind that I insisted that a record storage and retrieval be set up for another reason. I could penetrate, reach into it and find out what was going on, even when Holmes and Shea and such program managers didn't tell me about some event that was sure to cause trouble when it did surface.
COLLINS: Is this because someone like Kelly had their respect?
WEBB: No, it's because we set it up. Kelly was important in it, but we could run it without him. He added flavor. He added authenticity. It was harder for them to say to Kelly, "What Webb is doing doesn't make sense," than it was to say it if he wasn't there. If he said, "It does make sense," then they immediately had got a very top man in American industry, known everywhere, as siding with Webb against what they were saying. I did that with GE, did it with the Bell Telephone System. Up to this time, they had put in a lot of time and effort with the Defense Department, but they had basically wormed their way into the practical control of what the Defense Department did with respect to their funding. They maintained that power and control. I wanted to get some of the ablest men coming through in close contact with the situation, have that control exercised in the light of what I and other government officials thought was important.
Senator Kerr was very interested in the communications satellite. He was rough and tough. Senator Kerr helped me to hold enough power to make my policy points. But the Kelly committee saw the organization at work. They were tremendously helpful in validating the NASA organizational concepts by saying to the top leaders in American industry and to the top people NASA that these concepts made sense. Kelly could go in without an appoitment to see Fred Kappel, the head of the telephone company and tell him "What these fellows in NASA are doing," he could add, "I just want you to know I've been there and looked at it." This helped a tremendous amount, because I'd had all kinds of battles with Fred Kappel and he was one of the most respected and powerful American business executives..
COLLINS: So Kelly also helped to convey your viewpoint?
WEBB: That's right. To convey his viewpoint, too, because he would point to certain needs we had overlooked. I exposed him to the problem and what we were doing about it, just so he could have a valid viewpoint of his own, and say," I've been there, boys. I've looked it over, I know what these boys are doing. They're doing it right."
That means a lot. Arthur Raymond was a legend. There was not anybody in American aviation, leaders would have any more respect for. And I was damned lucky to be able to get him to serve on the Kelly Committee.
COLLINS: So, to bring up an earlier point of discussion, you had also stated, for example, in the case of Newell, that many times his apparent obstructionism was an attempt on his part to insure that he retained the power to do his own job.
WEBB: That's partly true, too.
COLLINS: How did you attempt to get them to see the difference between doing their own job as they saw it, and doing their job as you saw it in the larger context of the organization?
WEBB: Well, you just worked at it. You see, each of these things comes up for a decision. How big an engine are you going to build to burn hydrogen in the upper stages of the satellite? Can you cluster the engine that's made by Pratt and Whitney? Will hydrogen engines run clustered? Or have you got to make one big engine that will be as powerful as five of them?
Every one of them comes up with a specific problem of this kind. How rapidly can we get the money and the priorities to build this particular thing, or this electronic device? The government's procurement regulation says that if you give so and so's procurement to IBM on the computer expansion at Houston, you've got to do it in a certain way. What I did was figure out a way to do it legally, but more imaginatively. I called in Control Data, Sperry, General Electric, and IBM, and said, "Gentlemen, you're the only four in the country that I know of that can do this job. Do you want to bid on it? Do you want a chance to do it?" Quite irregular procedure. Two of them said they couldn't do it, GE and Sperry. Norris of control Data said, "It's just the kind of thing I need, I've got a big powerful machine, I'd like to get this job." I said, "Go away, come back in three days and tell me if you can do it. My analysis is that IBM is the only one that can do it." He came back in three days and said, "It breaks my heart to tell you but I can't do it."
So this kept it with IBM, but it also left it with no particular opposition. If I'd just announced sole source procurement to IBM, they'd all have been raising hell, headlines in the newspapers.
Now, whenever I got into close crunches like this, the ability of Mervin Kelly and Arthur Raymond to say to important leaders in industry, "What these fellows are doing makes sense" helped enormously.
COLLINS: Okay, next, I think it's worth a brief discussion of a letter from you to President Johnson dated August 23, 1964. If you'd comment on it --
WEBB: Yes. Well, I think it's important for a senior executive in a Presidential administration to be sensitive to the things that the President himself is going through. Johnson and every President that I've known is quite concerned about re-election, the image that he presents, and so forth. Johnson always worried a little bit about whether he did 100 percent of everything he should do as President, whether it was the educational system or the civil rights thing or space or military. He always saw reasons why people were pressing in directions that he didn't want to follow, quite. He might want to go 90 percent of the way with them but not 100 percent.
Now, what I did, writing this letter, was say, "You're going up, you're going to be renominated, and I think, having dealt with every President since Herbert Hoover, you have done a damned good job of showing that you can be effective, that your leadership can be effective in every area a President should be involved in."
I just thought I'd give him a little sort of feeling, here's a guy that's got confidence in me. But it made it easier for me to deal with him in the future, too.
I'm sure he didn't attach any great importance to it. And I'm sure I probably overstated all that he had done. I mean, I don't know that he was quite as complete a leader and man as that letter indicated. But I was anxious to build him up at the time he was going up there for a battle.
COLLINS: Clearly this letter indicates he made some quite generous remarks about your management of NASA.
COLLINS: Was this a sort of political patting on the back, back and forth, there?
WEBB: That's right. It didn't have any great significance, other than the fact that you've got to pay attention to those little personal relationships. He liked that letter. He was glad to get it.
COLLINS: Let's go on and discuss a group of memos here. I'm not sure whether this was ever sent -- you can clarify that -- it's a memo from you to Arnold Frutkin dated 6/28/66.
WEBB: It was not sent. Frutkin was very jealous of his prerogatives. He had personal idiosyncracies which made it difficult for him to deal with some people. He was very jealous of his prerogatives, thinking that he knew more than anybody else about the international side, and he did on some things.
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WEBB: He's very competent, but he's got idiosyncracies. See, I went to a lot of work to write this letter, and to write it in such a way that it would hold water and be proper and authoritative.
COLLINS: I think also what is interesting there is your expression of your management style in encouraging people, when they have your consent, to send you memoranda on their thinking about particular issues whether or not they're in a position to write a definitive memorandum on the subject for you. It gives you an indication of the development of their thoughts. I thought that was an interesting point.
WEBB: You see, I brought J.C. Satterthwaite, whom I knew, in as a Consultant to the Administrator. He was a senior foreign service officer, then ambassador to South Africa. Frutkin resented my even talking to him, or anybody like that. He wanted to be the only channel of information.
But the essence of this is, I don't think you should undertake to criticize those who send me memoranda at my request. He was bold enough and brash enough to say, "You shouldn't let him send you memoranda." I said, "I want his views."
This is just an internal administrative thing, just like the letters to Dean Acheson about Nitze.
COLLINS: I also think this other sentiment is important here, "However one of my efforts is to get people thinking about problems that are important to us, and to encourage them to submit their views."
WEBB: That's right. That's why I had Satterthwaite and maybe four or five other foreign service officers that I'd known, who were senior people, well respected. I encouraged them to come in, spend time with NASA, get into our operations, paid them as consultants to do it. That's really the essence of it. Frutkin was very anxious that nobody could talk to me about the international program except him. And I was determined to break out of that jail.
COLLINS: Did he come to understand that you needed sources of information?
WEBB: No. He resented it all the way. Newell did something that I was very suprised at. He took him out of the international thing and made him his deputy when he got the planning job. Which showed he picked the very wrong kind of man. Well, why should it take time and effort for a serious scholar to look into a thing as unimportant as that?
COLLINS: I'm not sure that the conflict between Frutkin and you is the most important thing. That's why I'm focusing on this other thing.
WEBB: All right. That was the thing that elicited my action. The thing that stimulated me to write that letter, was the conflict with him and my desire to say him, "I do not intend to have you be the only source of advice to me about international affairs. I've been Under Secretary of State, I know something about it."
He never would recognize the fact I'd even served in the State Department. He wanted to treat me like a child.
COLLINS: If you're ready, I guess the only thing left to discuss is the Red Blaik correspondence. Do you want to get to that today?
WEBB: What have you arrived at? Do you think we ought to put them in the files, or put them in with a time restriction? Should I talk to Red Blaik and say, "Red, do you object to this?"
COLLINS: Well, I think since what you're ultimately concerned about is how these letters might rebound on Mr. Blaik's reputation, that perhaps might be a reasonable course to follow.
WEBB: I'd hate for Gerry Ford to say, "Old Red was communicating my views to somebody else." I don't know whether President Ford would do that or not. I suppose he's got more important matters to worry about now.
COLLINS: I would think so. But I think also the method of time restriction on these materials would serve the purpose.
WEBB: I don't see what value they have for a scholar. I mean, is he going to say, "This fellow was effective because he reached out for unusual ways of getting his work done"? All in all he reached out for anybody that could contribute something to the solution of a problem that he was wrestling with. Is that the image you want to have?
COLLINS: Well, I think one that conveys, at least pratically, the character of the relationship between these certain Congressmen and NASA. It also I think highlights the kind of shadowy way that Congress and NASA communicated. It's probably not generally know that you have these intermediaries outside of government.
WEBB: Oh no. People in NASA would be very suprised to learn that. They didn't know they were there.
COLLINS: And I think that would be a useful bit of information.
WEBB: You see, the point is, I was encouraging a flow of information in new and different tracks. I had an Assistant Administrator for Congressional Relations. I had a lot of program managers who were going up there and talking with members of Congress and so forth. But I reached for the unusual. Red Blaik was a damned good contact. He reported to me not only on Ford but on Clinton Anderson, who was chairman of the Senate Committee and whom I knew. He was Secretary of Agriculture when I was Budget Director. He went in business with Senator Kerr when they established the uranium mine affair. I didn't go into the business, thank God. I was entitled to, for some small percentage of it. Anderson had a son-in-law in the insurance business. A lot of people brought that insurance in that direction to get his support. I was determined not to do that sort of thing, not to encourage any of our contractors to do it. And Anderson let it be known in several quarters that I'd better look out, Senator Kerr had been my friend, Senator Kerr would support anything, but a lot of people were coming to him -- I'd better be careful, I'd better look out.
I just bided my time, waited. And the hearing we had on the transfer of the money, I transferred 400 million dollars in one year from the Nova program to go forward with the Saturn program. A number of members of the committee, like Senator Rusell and others, had not challenged me on any of this until I transferred that 400 million. Then they said, "You shouldn't be able to do that without talking to us." I said, "The law gave me the authority and I transferred it to the right place."
But they held three days of hearings, and they decided that I put the money in the right place, but that nobody ought to have that authority. So they curtailed it, cut it down to a percentage.
At that point, Anderson came up to me at the end of the hearing, and said, "Well, now, you've done all right. You're going to get along just fine. We've known each other a long time and we're going to get along just fine."
I said, "I'm sure glad to hear you say that, Senator, because several of my friends have said you told them that you were going to cut my throat, if you could. I didn't believe it, Senator, because we've been friends such a long time."
He said, "Well, you're getting along all right."
So I just put him on notice, you see, that I could sting too. But that's the kind of thing you've got to do sometimes, with people who want to do business that way. Because I didn't give him any choice as to whether to have an executive committee meeting on this North American business when I found out through Margaret Chase Smith that they were sending emissaries around town saying that they were out to cut my throat. I wrote a letter to each member of the committee, including the chairman, and said I wanted an executive committee hearing, but I didn't ask him to call it. I asked for it, directly to every member of the committee.
You see, this means that you're going to have to be counted as a grown man, you can't sort of weasel along on the good will of some powerful Senator.
I don't know how much of what I just said really ought to be in the final record, but it gives you some flavor of how I dealt with the chairman of the committee. I was very cooperative with him, kept him informed of everything he needed to know, didn't carry any animosity, and he didn't. It was almost as if we just completely erased that episode from our minds. But he as reaching for the place where the hair was short, and he couldn't find it.
COLLINS: So, do we want to discuss any of the Blaik material now? I know in one of the letters he discusses your relationships with member of the House. Do you want to go into that or not?
WEBB: My judgment is, it doesn't contribute as much lighte, and it will contribute to people who lick their lips and say "Just look at this stuff!" Because you see George Mueller became chairman of the committee when Overton Brooks died. Overton Brooks had been put in as chairman of the committee when they organized the committee, out of members of the Armed Services Committee. they did that to get rid of him out of the committee possibility, because he was very senior. So they gave him this new Space Committee, and they put behind him George Mueller from California who way a very nie man, honorable, honest, never sought personal favors for himself. He been a WPA engineer back here in the 1930s and he wasjust a very nice man, but not as vigorous in looking for credit as Joe Martin and Tiger Teague, or the others on the committee.
They immediately loaded him up , with I think 13 or 15 new members of Congress who had just been elected t oCongress, put them on the Space Committee. They said to George, "You've got to train these members of Congress here. they don't know anything. They've just come to town. Your'e the teacher."
At that point, George got hold of me and said "Now look. I'm new, Overton Brooks has died, you're an old hand in this busi-ness, I trust you. I'm too old a man to try to corral you and keep you fenced in. I want to make a deal with you. You look after my interests as chairman of the committee, I'll look after yours. Not on a selfish basis, but I should look after what he ought to be doing as chairman of the committee, and how he could do it.
So we shook hands, and then I gave him a format of how I expected to organize NASA. He organized the committee, including these 13 new members, very much along the same committee struc- ture, so that we could take our head of Manned Space Flight and put him before the Manned Space committee, and encourage the mem- bers of these committees to get to know the executives uptown who were running these big problems.
This was never very happy for some of them like Tiger Teague and others. They thought George Mueller was a sort of milk toast fellow, not very forceful. What they didn't know was that Senator Joe Martin, who had been Speaker, lived at the old Racket Club when I did back in the thirties, and that I knew him guite well.
You had very vigorous Republican members of the committee and the guy who went over to the White House and became Secretary of Defense what was his name? Anyway, he was a very vigorous fellow from Chicago. But Joe Martin was the head of it, and you had a chap from Cleveland great big strapping fellow. You had these fellows right behind Joe Martin. Joe never attended many of the meetings, but when we got into a very controversial thing and I could see I was going to catch hell from these boys, I'd call Joe and say, "Come to the meeting tomorrow." And he would, and he got the first guestion, and he'd make a nice speech about me, how much he thought of of me and so forth, which made it very difficult for these junior Republicans and those junior members of the committee that had just been added by the Speaker, because he didn't have any other place to put them and wanted George Mueller to educate them how to be a Congressman.
There were all kinds of arrangements like that. Some of the members of Congress had very strong indications and desires. Some of them just wanted to go to the launches. They loved those launches, made big over them.
Now, the offical record of the committee was done by Tiger Teague. A member of the committee from West Virginia who wrote the Bridge over the Heckler when he was defeated, he worked for the committe and wrote this all about it.
I wrote a letter to Tiger, just a simple little letter, saying, "Do you think you've really been fair to George Mueller?
But you see, each one of these people is presenting himself as the guy who did the job for NASA. George Mueller never claimed that credit but he did more, along the lines I'm telling ,you, to really shape the thing than any of them. He did more to shape the pattern of organization. He didn't do more to support us after the fire. Tiger Teague did that. Tiger Teague was very smart.
COLLINS: Now, avoiding personalities for a moment, one of the issues that Red Blaik brings up in this letter regarding NASA relations with the House is a sentiment among people that he had talked to that NASA should establish some centralized liaison office with Congress.
WEBB: We had one. I'll toll you a story of Dick Callaghan.
Kennedy sent for me one day, said, "You know, some of my fellows here tell me that you're favoring Lyndon Johnson and Bob Kerr and Al Thomas on contractors and so forth, and I've got a real problem in these big cities. We've got to get some work in these big cities."
I said, "Now, Mr. President, we've got this procedure. We've organized it as an offensive and defensive thing, an offensive to get contractors and a defensive one to prevent people from putting pressure on us, the contractors."
I explained the self-policing features of the Source Evaluation Board, that three people would make the final decision, Dryden, Seamans and myself, and we really couldn't fudge it, was all right there in the open, and if any other powerful person interfered with it they were the ones who'd get hurt, not NASA.
He said, "Well, I hear what you're saying, but I still would like to sort of feel a little better about that."
I said, "All right, pick one of your men and send him over to me, and I will show him the process. I'll let him sit through some of it. I won't let him sit through all of them, but I'll take a certain typical one and let him sit through the whole thing and report back to you what he thinks about it."
And he sent Dick Callaghan, who had worked up in Congress with Clint Anderson and so on, really all those people up there knew him very well. So as soon as I saw that Dick Callaghan understood what we were doing, and was going back to report to Kennedy that these fellows are doing it right, you'd better not interfere with them, I made him assistant secretary for Congressional relations. I'd had Paul Dembling before that, who'd been a lawyer in the old NACA days, a very able fellow, who helped write the Space Act. He got a heart attack out of that job. Anyway, Dick Callaghan was a very knowledgeable person who stayed to the end of my regime there and then went to work as vice president of Western Union.
Now, with Paul Dembling on the one hand and Callaghan on the other, I had more ability to get things done, and knowing people like Joe Martin, and these various people, I really didn't need what Red Blaik was suggesting. And I didn't do it.
COLLINS: His suggestion seemed to be that thee should be some kind of centralized place where members of Congress could come to present questions to NASA, as well as a centralized place where NASA could pass information to Congress.
WEBB: But you see, what I was doing was presenting the budget every year fully and completely. I'd go up and make the firststatement on behalf of the President of the United States, get all the program managers up to justify their programs. I was encouraging Congress to get to know the managers of these programs and encouraging these fellow runnil,g the programs to get to know Congress, so that they would have a common forward thrust of understanding each other. I didn't want just a liaison office. So I didn't do it.
COLLINS: Is this also part of your effort to educate your managers into taking a larger view of what NASA was doing, rather than just their narrow.
WEBB: Yes, absolutely. Of course they were exposed right out on the firing line, when hearings were going on and newspaper men were there. Also they took those Congressmen with them out to see their work in the field to contractors' plants to NASA centers.
There were two or three other people in the industry who would come see me every once in a while and say, "I just want to tell you that your trouble with your program is not in Congress, it's in the White House."
I said, "Thank you, friend." There were enough scouts out who would come and tell me what's going on, so I had a pretty good knowledge of what was going on.
COLLINS: For example did this system of scouts, if you will, have precedents when you were Director of Bureau of the Budget or in the State Department? Did you have similar kinds of set-ups there?
WEBB: No. Different kinds of propositions. We were letting big contracts with large money attached to them in NASA. In Bureau of the Budget, I was doing the President's staff work to help him reach a Presidential decision. Now my predecessor Harold Smith wouldn't see anybody from the outside. I opend the door, and said I would see a legitimate senior executive from outside who wanted to talk to me. But I didn't encourage it as a general proposition. I just slowly eased the door open a bit.
In the State Department, you had 50 phones and 50 booths for newspapermen right in the Department. If Acheson and I would have a press conference, these guys would be running to those phones, and if they asked you a question and you said "No comment," they could easily go to their phone and start calling the people around the Department asking, "What did the Secretary mean by that?" And they'd know they'd have the whole story anyway. You follow me?
WEBB: It was an entirely different proposition.
COLLINS: How did you come to understand the necessity for such a system of scouts?
WEBB: I don't believe you could call it a system, the few who helped me developed by osmosis. We had some people we had con- fidence in. If I saw something that was affecting your project at the Air and Space Museum, I'd tell you. If you saw something that maybe I was going to stumble over, you would probably tell me. I mean, we've spent enough time together. That was the basis of it.
COLLINS: Again, perhaps an obvious question, in your dealings with Congress, how did you decide to handle matters personally or to delegate them to others in NASA or to other people that you'd been
WEBB: My idea generally was to get the work done, to get the votes, to get the approval, to not ever have to face the issues where the House would say, we know more about this, we go into it more in depth than the Senate does. They just give it a lick and a promise, those dammed rascals. We spent a lot of time on the whole program, the Authorization Committee, the Appropriations Committee. They just handle it along with a lot of other bills, they don't have any subcommittees that specialize, with what we do. I handled the Senate side, I went right along with them on what they thought was necessary for them to reach decisions, and I dealt individually with a great many Senators.
Where they had enough confidence in me to want to sit down with me, and talk about something, they'd say, "What is the reality of this? "Or "Here's something that looks like it's hurting me."
Harry Byrd would say, "Here you are moving the Manned Space Flight Center out of Virginia, and you've come to tell me about it. This is going to hurt me, how can we handle this?" I'd say, "Well, we'll handle it the following way, but I have to make the move." He indicated in his own quiet voice that he wouldn't oppose me but he couldn't publicly come out for it.
I knew him through Max Gardner's North Carolina connections when he was the governor of Virginia. So a good many of these were based on knowledge of persons as individuals.
COLLINS: Delving into a specific issue here, mentioned in one of the letters, Blaik seems to indicate that Congress didn't have a clear picture of how NASA programs would have military applica- tions, and perhaps that this was a clear indication of how NASA programs which might apply to military situations would be of benefit in selling programs to Congress.
WEBB: I never did want to particularly clarify that. I took the position that all of the research on airplanes, putting the submarines in wind tunnels in World War II, all of those things contributed to national defense. McNamara wanted to take the view that only the money that fed the projects under his control contributed to defense. The last coversation I had with President Kennedy, which I really don't want to get in the record, I went to him just about three weeks before he died. I said we're coming up on an election campaign, you're going to be a candidate for reelection, the space program is going to be controversial, how are you going to handle it? Do you want the vice-president to handle it? Do you want to handle it? Do you want me to do it? He said, "it is important. It is going to be an issue in the campaign. I will have to handle it."
I said, "Then I need some political advice. I need some point of anchor, your political structure."
He said, "Go see Sorenson." And then, as we parted, I said, "Now, there's one thing I think you ought to know. McNamara will not say that this program has military advantage. I will say that every bit of the things we're doing contributes to the mili- tary."
He said, "Well, you're not going to let this get personal, are you?"
I said, "No. Just the fact that that's the way it is."
He said, "Well, don't let it get personal. Go ahead and do what you think is right."
I couldn't clarify that. Blaik could ask me a thousand times to make it clear how everything fitted tho military. The things that we would have asserted would have been denied by the mili- tary, and yet there were areas that we contributed that they wouldn't identify.
The one thing thing we were expert on, better than anybody else and still are, is the instrumenting of an airplane in the production stage that's just come out of the production line. How nearly does it conform to what the wind tunnel tests show, what the computer runs show, what you predicted? What we know how to do is, instrument that airplane and find out where it departs from the assumptions that we made when we put it into work, and why. That continously refines and improves the process by which you can make predictions.
But the military would say, "Look, we can test very advanced airplanes as good as any one." In fact they do, they take the airplane first and they run it through their evaluations as a military machine, then they turn two or three of them over to us and we instrument them for the other purposes.
COLLINS: That's very interesting. Let's close out here with one last issue that exercised Congress, the site selection for the Electronics Research Center. That seems to be something that irritated a number of people. Could you make any comments on that?
WEBB: It's a very complicated setup. First of all, as our program progressed, we realized that about 60 percent of our money was going into electronics. A good many of the failures were coming from electronics, a good many of the opportunities, like fly by wire for airplanes, were dependent on electronics, and a great deal of the electronic work was done up in New England -- again, this is quite private, I don't want to get into a controversial record -- but AT&T had such a powerful lock on the Defense Department, in all these different areas of government, that they felt they were controlling the government's use of electronics, and could do it better than anybody else, just science. Bob Seamans and I were determined to put it on the same basis as the other things were. That the government was in control of things the government should be in control of, and that they would have the capability to know what to do and to make decisions.
Now, as we got a little further along, we had the example of Doc Draper's instrumention laboratory up there. We had the fact that we had not succeeded in getting cooperation from Harvard Program, but we had been able to get them to work in the fields of specific disciplines. We conceived the idea that in Boston, you could get the property that had been set aside by another real estate development, just right across the street from MIT, and one subway stop from Harvard Square, and just a coupple or three subway stops from the other universities like Boston College. So we really developed this idea, and then the question was, how are you going to get this done?
I talked to President Kennedy. I told him I thought we ought to just go right ahead with it on the basis of the fact that it was needed. I believed that he would be supportive. And he didn't have any reason for not doing it. Teddy was running, and this excited a lot of people, that is just more politics to please Teddy. But it was not, it was a very basic and fundamental thing that is still a weakness, and we put it in, believing that Congress would support President Kennedy on it.
They didn't. The very next day Congressman Joe Karth came up to see me, mad as hell, blood in his eye, he said, "Look, if you don't tell me that this is just gutter politics of Teddy Kennedy, I'm going to tell you you're a liar!"
I said, "It isn't, Joe. If you don't believe me I'll take you up to see the President and he'll tell you."
"I want to go." I called up Kennedy and took him to the White House. Kennedy was going to make a speech that night and he didn't have too much time. Karth kept hammering at him on the basis that he wanted a commitment that if he supported the New England thing, the next big installation would be built in Minnesota -- where he wanted. And of course you can't expect the President to ask a member of Congress that -- it's always personal relations -- so I stepped in and said, "Joe, the President can't give that assurance. I wouldn't support it if he did." Kennedy had to go. But Joe kept him there unconscionably, I mean, just hammering -- you can't just kick a Congressman out until I finally eased him out.
Now, that's the kind of situation you face. When Humphrey became Vice President, it looked like he was going to join with Karth and they were really going to try to insist that a commitment be made to build the next installation in Minnesota. I think I told you the story about the phone call.
COLLINS: I don't remember it.
WEBB: Well, I wasn't going to yield to that, any more than I would to Johnson when Kennedy was President. I think Humphrey didn't know that I knew he and Karth had gotten together in a meeting, but he demanded that I give him some goody for Minnesota, that he could take up there. He had a business schedule three or four days ahead, and he said, "If you don't give me something, I'm not going, I'll cancel the trip." I said, "I don't think I can." He said, "You call me tomorrow about 12 o'clock."
I let 12 o'clock pass and didn't call him. Then his assistant called me, "Arc you going to call the Vice President?"
I said, "No, I'm not going to call."
So it gets pretty rough. There was a complete logic in doing what we wanted to do in Boston with electronics. The government would be much better off today, the Defense program would be very much better off today, than with all this massive procurement they're going through.
COLLINS: Was there a normal procedure for site selection for these major installations? Was it follwed in the case of the Electronics Research Site?
WEBB: Well, what we really did was, had a procedure and we follwed it, but we also follwed the indications that were beginning to emerge, the sort of tentative conclusions we made. It wasn't just a pure comparison of Minnesota and Chicago. Chicago felt very badly that they didn't get the Electronics Research Instatllation. But we had to sort of get the recom- mendation for it, the need for it, to slowly emerge with the pro- cedure to the point that we could get one that was deliverable.
And it isn't a political choice, it's a question of being across the street from MIT, one subway station from Harvard, and all the rest.
COLLINS: The combination to meet your needs.
WEBB: That's right. The real question is, is the government going to be in control of the factors that relate to its electronic procurements and integration of electronics into airplanes, spacecraft, all kinds of equipment, communications. The battlefield today is going to be determined more by communications, fire control, electronics. It is going to be electronic management of the battlefield. And we are not in very good shape there, in terms of well rounded thinking by people who are concerned with the total government picture.
COLLINS: That recently proved to be a problem in Defense procurement.
WEBB: Yes, that's right.
COLLINS: There's one last issue I thought I'd raise, and I don't know how deeply we can get into it. Blaik make a comment in one of his early letters that NASA must resist any enroachment by the scientific elite, must chart a course and hold an umbrella over NASA. If trouble arises from th?~ source, I'm sure that there will be a resistant force in Congress. Is this something you perceived as a concern of Congress, that somehow NASA was being unduly influenced by a scientific element in the nation?
WEBB: No. Remember, I told you that Wiesner called me. I'd known him, worked with him, worked with Zacharias on the education thing seriously in Boston. I was perfectly aware of it. I knew Berkner. I knew the different task force things. I'd read all the Oppenheimer business. And Eisenhower made the statement about the military industrial complex, and he also added a sentence that we had to be alert against unwarranted influence, sought or unsought, by scientific elites.
The basic thing is that Blaik was alerting me to something I already knew, and he was about a year behind or a year and a half behind. I didn't discourage him and others from bringing up anything they wanted to. I wanted to hear what they were asking about, what they thought I should be concerned about.
COLLINS: Was that still a concern by about 1963, `64?
WEBB: Sure. It's a concern today. I mean, you've got this Star Wars business. You've got a serious question as to whether Teller is advising the President to do it, a whole committee of scientists around the country saying it's madness, shouldn't be done. The controversy is still there today, and will be around for a long time.
You see, there are two factors that a lot of people don't understand. First of all when you had to do the nuclear thing, the Manhattan Project, there were no nuclear engineers. There were scientists who'd done theoretical work on the thing, like Fermi and Dettler Brunk and the rest of them. So the scientists had to come in and do the engineering, and from then on, they almost thought that nobody else could do the engineering except them, and nuclear science. They were not expert on policy, and the country wouldn't and that has perpetuated itself in many ways, out into space and elsewhere. There wasn't any country desire to follow Jerry Wiesner with respect to the lunar orbiter or lander. You see?
Well, I mean, there wasn't enough to upset the decision.
But Blaik is perfectly right in saying that there wore these two driving forces. The Defense industry people would like to have the military-industrial complex, because this was their place of getting business. The scientists resented that because they felt the military was not wise in making these decisions and they wanted to be right next to the President, in the President's Science Advisory Committee, and have their input.
People like me in the executive, administrative positions wanted a fair solution of the problems as we went along, some- thing that we could make work.
The scientists are still quite unhappy. Do you read the literature
COLLINS: Oh yes. A good deal, as you say, regarding Stars Wars.
WEBB: The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is full of it.
COLLIONS: Their viewpoints, I think, probably lean very much toward the scientific point of view on these matters.
WEBB: Kissinger, on the other hand, was on the TV Sunday, and had the lead article in Foreign Affairs two weeks ago, supporting the President in every way for going forward with it. I've taken the view that the President was really doing a very wise thing. He was saying to the Russians, "We're going to build a big space station. We know how to do it. It's going to be in the open like Apollo. We've shown you in Apollo that we know how to build that Space Station. That's going to be going forward as part of our space effort. Now in addition we're going to get 100 or 10,000 of the brightest minds in the Western world to work on the strategic defense. You're not going to know what they're doing. You're only going to know that I've got a lot of very able people working on it."
Now, that's the problem that the Russians face. This is a means to devise what we did in NASA, we just got a lot of very able people working on difficult problems.
COLLINS: Well, certainly there's a very pertinent difference, and that difference is, all these able minds are going to be working on classified projects, and the fruits of their work are not--
WEBB: All kinds of differences, but they will be working and they'll coma up with something that nobody foresees. That's the point. Will we be wise enough to choose the things that are best? But you can bet your bottom dollar if you've got a thousand of the brightest minds in this country working on anything, they're going to come up with a lot of ideas. Then you've got to have the machinery to decide which are good ideas and which are not.
But you see, the Russians won't know. They'll just know a lot of people are working. And they don't know what they're doing. And the worried about that.