Science and technology policy

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Science and technology policy sources and problems
Peck, William David
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102 leaves : ; 29 cm


Subjects / Keywords:
Science -- Political aspects -- United States ( lcsh )
Technology -- Political aspects -- United States ( lcsh )
Atomic bomb -- United States ( lcsh )
Strategic Defense Initiative ( lcsh )
Atomic bomb ( fast )
Science -- Political aspects ( fast )
Strategic Defense Initiative ( fast )
Technology -- Political aspects ( fast )
United States ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 101-102).
General Note:
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, Master of Arts, Department of Political Science.
Statement of Responsibility:
by William David Peck.

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University of Colorado Denver
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Auraria Library
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20960214 ( OCLC )
LD1190.L64 1989m .P42 ( lcc )

Full Text
William David Peck
B.A., University of Texas, 1980
A thesis submitted to the
Faculty of the Graduate School of the
University of Colorado in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
Department of Political Science

This thesis for the Master of Arts degree by
William David Peck
has been approved for the
Department of
Political Science
Michael S. Cummings'

Peck, William David (M.A., Political Science)
Science and Technology Policy: Sources and Problems
Thesis directed by Professor Stephen C. Thomas
This project will address one aspect of our
involvement with science and technology (S&T): how does
the U.S. government deal with revolutionary change?
Understanding how we deal with these decisions may
assist us in understanding situations that exist today,
find in handling future decisions.
Three case studies will be the focus of this
investigation: the decision to pursue atomic power, the
decision to go to the moon, and the decision to
establish the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). In
the cases of the Manhattan Project and Project Apollo,
the decisions made and the persons involved are well
studied, with an extensive historical record available.
SDI, on the other hand, is still underway.
I have chosen several theoretical perspectives
that seem to converge to a coherent framework in which
to study this process. This framework is divided into
two sections: the systemic effects of the federal
bureaucracy, and the effects of the bureaucratic
environment on individual decision makers. The federal
bureaucracy can be studied as an information system,
studying the flow and processing of information within
the overall system. In order to take into account the
human factors in the system, I have also adopted a

bargaining perspective of organizations.
To address theproblems of individual decision
makers in a bureaucratic enviroment, I begin with the
sociological concept of social noise. The bureaucratic
environment bombards decision makers with information
more than they can digest and use rationally.
Therefore, decisionmakers filter the information they
receive, simply ignoring some, but more often using
other people to assess part of the information with
which they have to deal.
Next, using a policy analysis perspective, I
suggest that most decisions on S&T are based on
political, rather than scientific, considerations.
Further, the lack of scientific training in decision
makers leaves them dependent on the services of
advisors, who may be far from neutral.
Finally, the personalities of decision makers
also have an impact on the outcome of S&T decisions. A
brief investigation of the impact of authoritarian
personality tendencies and open- and closed-mindedness
would seem relevant.
The form and content of this abstract are approved. I
recommend its publication.

I. INTRODUCTION................................... 1
Theoretical Perspectives..................... 1
Case Studies................................. 4
II. THEORETICAL BASIS.............................. 6
Information Flow............................. 8
Power, Coalitions, and Bargaining........... 13
Limits on Decision Makers................... 22
Comparison of Perspectives.................. 32
The Growth of the S&T Bureaucracy........... 48
IV. CASE STUDY II: PROJECT APOLLO................. 54
INITIATIVE.................................. 75
VI. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS....................... 91

Scientific knowledge and its offspring,
technology, are developing at an ever-increasing rate in
today's world. At the same time, the growing size of
the budgets for these projects, and their impact on
today's world, mean that political decision makers are
more involved in judgments as to the worth of scientific
and technological efforts. Is the information reaching
these decision makers accurate and adequate for the
judgments rendered? Furthermore, even if the available
information is an adequate basis for decisions, are the
decision makers capable of understanding the full import
of the information? This thesis will examine the
limitations of the existing institutional system in
providing current, adequate, unbiased information, and
the limitations of decision makers in applying this
information. Three case studies in critical technology
breakthroughs (or supposed breakthroughs), the Manhattan
Project, Project Apollo, and the Strategic Defense
Initiative, will be examined in an effort to determine
the answers to the initial questions.
Theoretical Perspectives

I have defined two basic, but related, questions
to frame this analysis: What are the effects of the
bureaucracy on the transmission of information; and what
are the constraints on decision makers in dealing with
the information they receive?
Two theoretical perspectives will be used to
analyze the effects of the bureaucracy on the
transmission of information. The first perspective is
the information-system perspective. Knight and
McDaniel's work on using an information system theory as
a framework for the analysis of organizations is
grounded in a view of an organization as a mechanism for
transmitting and processing information. The qualities,
rather than the content, of the information determine
how an organization acts upon it. Knight and McDaniel
show that loss and distortion of information seem
inherent problems in organizations. Further, the loss
and distortion of information can lead to inappropriate
responses to situations.
Given the somewhat mechanistic view of
organizations presented in the information-system
perspective, I have selected a bargaining perspective to
introduce a more human point of view on the performance
of organizations. The work of Peter Blau, and Bacharach
and Lawler, emphasizes the political and bargaining
aspects of life in organizations. Individuals and

coalitions within organizations compete for power
through the political activity of bargaining. Since
information is in many ways the lifeblood of
bureaucratic organizations, it is often the subject of
bargaining between parties within those organizations.
At this point my analysis will turn to the
effects of organizations on individual decision makers.
I begin by introducing Klapp's perspective of social
noise. Klapp posits that in an environment of too much
information, the excess information becomes "noise",
which must be filtered out in order for a decision maker
to be able to function. This filtering process, called
selective perception, carries with it the risk of
missing or distorting important information. An
additional result of working in an environment of
excessive information is that there are created lags in
reaching decisions and concensus, and that gaps in
understanding the meaning of important issues are likely
to arise.
From a more concrete point of view, application
of a policy-analysis perspective is expected to reveal
that decisions on technological issues are often made on
their political, rather than their technical merits.
Because most modern technical problems are beyond the
detailed understanding of high-level decision makers,
decisions are made on their political ramifications. A

further consequence of this situation is that decision
makers are increasingly dependent on their advisors.
This dependence on advisors lessens the ability of
decision makers to define the boundaries of debate, and
raises the possibility that information used to arrive
at decisions will be distorted.
The final perspective to be introduced is to
consider the personalities of decision makers. It is my
contention that high-level decision makers have
consistent, identifiable personality tendencies that
influence the way in which they deal with information.
I have selected the work of Robert Presthus and Milton
Rokeach as being particularly important in this area.
Case Studies
My primary concern in this research has been
with fundamental advances in science and technology.
Accordingly, I have selected three case studies, each of
which represents a major advance in human knowledge in a
particular area. The first case study deals with the
Manhattan Project, the United States' project to build
an atomic bomb during World War II. The main issue to
be examined is how the decision to pursue the project
was made, and what influences were at work on the
decision makers. The Manhattan Project is peculiarly
relevant because it was the first time that a purely
scientific undertaking was seen as being critical for

the security of the United States.
The second case study centers on President
Kennedy's decision to put a man on the moonProject
Apollo. Project Apollo is more a case study of politics
driving technology than it is one of technology driving
politics. I hope to show that the theoretical
perspectives I have selected are applicable to a variety
of cases. The bargaining perspective is expected to be
of particular value in this case study.
My final case study is an examination of how
President Reagan decided to implement the Strategic
Defense Initiative (SDI). The decision to pursue SDI
has important implications for our national security.
Furthermore, the way in which the decision way made
reveals important dynamics on the decision process that
are the results of information filtering, political
bargaining, and the impact of decision makers'

The theoretical structure of this analysis will
be divided between the two interrelated questions of
whether the bureaucracy provides sufficient, timely and
accurate information to decision makers, and what those
decision makers are likely to do with the information
they receive.
In looking at the information flow through the
scientific and technical (S&T) bureaucracy, this thesis
will examine two theoretical perspectives. First, it
will focus on an information systems perspective towards
organizations. This perspective, as presented by Knight
and McDaniel, focuses on the information flows in an
organization, the nature of the information used, and
the processing of that information, to describe
organizations.1 Analyzing the content and information
flows, and the effects on that information imposed by
its organizational processing, makes it possible to
assess whether the organization is structured in the
most efficient manner for a particular environment. *
^Kenneth E. Knight and Reuben R. McDaniel, Jr.,
Organizations: An Information Systems Perspective.
(Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing, 1979), p. ix.

Recognizing the dangers of a unicausal theory, I
incorporate an additional perspective that will amplify
the effects of the bureaucracy on the transmission of
vital information. The second perspective is one of the
bureaucracy as a political microcosm of the larger
society, made up of groups competing for institutional
power. As information is one of the primary sources of
power in a bureaucracy, the pursuit and use of power
have definite implications for the transmission of
Having addressed the effects of the bureaucracy
from a systemic viewpoint, I proceed to consider the
effects of the system on individual decision makers.
First, recognizing the abundance of information that is
produced, I will incorporate a sociological perspective
towards social noise, and especially information
overload. Klapp suggests that decision makers in
situations of information overload will practice forms
of selective perception to limit the amount of
information with which they have to deal.2 He further
theorizes that, while such techniques hold the risk of
missing vital information, there may be no better
alternative given the amount of information in the
20rrin E. Klapp, Opening and Closing;
Strategies of Information Adaptation in Society.
(Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1978), pp.

I next apply a policy analysis orientation to
examine the ability of decision makers to use SSrT
information intelligently. Technology policy has not in
the past been a focus of policy analysis, and this
approach may be able to provide a new perspective on the
dynamics of the formation and execution of technology
policy.3 Finally, I briefly explore the impact of
personality types on the use of value-laden (as opposed
to value-neutral) advice.
Information Flow
Knight and McDaniel begin by stating that there
is no "one best way" to structure an organization:
"Form is related to function. The nature of the
management of an organization depends on the nature of
the critical information required." Their frame of
reference for organizations is neatly summarized as
follows: "Thus, we will describe organization structure
in terms of information, information flows, and
information processing."4
Some definitions are in order. An organization
is defined as "a complex social unit designed to achieve
3Harvey A. Averch, A Strategic Analysis of
Science and Technology Policy. (Baltimore: Johns
Hopkins University Press, 1985), pp. ix-x.
4Knight and McDaniel, p. 2.

a specific purpose or set of purposes." Information is
defined as "meaningful bits of data being transmitted."
This approach differentiates information by two binary
qualities. It can be routine or nonroutine, and
continuous or discontinuous. The type of information
also affects how the organization treats that
information: "Because of the high cost of search
behavior associated with nonroutine information, most
organizations tend to treat all information as routine."
An information flow can be defined as the movement of
information from one processor to another.5
Finally, an information processor is "any
device, technology, body of knowledge, person or
combination thereof that has the capacity to manipulate
information in such a way that it is recognizably
different after the manipulation." Information
processors include theories, cameras, people, and so on.
These processors have certain characteristics: they
tend to be specialized (a camera processes only light)
and therefore have limited flexibility. Flexibility can
be increased, but at the cost of increased complexity.
People are, as mentioned, information processors, and
will be the most important type of processor in this
analysis. People as information processors are
relatively flexible and powerful, but they do have
5Ibid., pp. 5, 13-15, 17.

limitations. As will be seen in the section on
information overload, people have definite limitations
on the amount of information that can be processed.6
Because of the qualities of information
processors, certain errors in manipulation are
unavoidable. The first of these errors is called
selectivity. Selectivity in processing information is a
necessary consequence of specialization. In people,
several qualities influence selectivity, beginning again
with the amount of information that can be processed.
Information in excess of a person's capacity may simply
be ignored. Two other factors in selectivity are
perceptual readiness and situational characteristics.
"Perceptual readiness is the ease with which information
is recognized, and it reflects both present needs and
past experiences." A person generally must expect
information and assess it as relevant before it is
selected from the environment. Situational
characteristics involve the environment and the state of
the person:
The more types of information in a given
environment and the more ambiguity that exists in
selecting the information, the less likelihood there
is that a particular bit of information will be
selected. . Another factor that affects the
ability of people to select information from the
environment is the stress under which they are
operating. If a person is required to make
judgments without adequate time to attend to all
6Ibid., pp. 19-21, 30.

sensory inputs from the environment, then that
person is not likely to select truly important
People, it can be seen, do have definite limitations.
Even when information is selected from the
environment, it suffers from the second error in
manipulation: distortion. Knight and McDaniel define
distortion as inevitable, "unplanned information
processing." Distortion can be caused by "noise" in the
environment. Distortion is also caused by a person's
previous experiences. Information that makes an impact
on a person will arouse the same response when
encountered again. Also, the person's state influences
distortion. "If a person is under high stress, that
person is more likely to distort information."8 These
distortions will vary from person to person, and within
one person over time.
Having identified the elements of the
information system and their salient qualities, I turn
now to the qualities of the system in which they
operate. Knight and McDaniel use a "black box" concept
of the system, where information is input to the system,
transformed by the processing of the system, and output
in its transformed state. In order for the system to be
7Ibid., pp. 37, 43-44.
8Ibid., pp. 37, 45.

self-regulating, a feedback loop is added to compare
actual performance to planned performance, and a
feedforward loop is added to give the system a planning
These control mechanisms introduce additional
inefficiencies into the system. Feedback on the
system's output often requires indirect measurements,
which can be difficult to accomplish and may be of
questionable accuracy. The feedforward, or planning,
loop must select a strategy such as trend analysis or
projection to "predict the future. Each planning
strategy makes assumptions about the future; should
these assumptions go badly wrong, the system may tend
towards inappropriate actions for the future.10
Knight and McDaniel also view organizations as
open systems; that is, they draw their inputs from,
deliver their outputs to, and are affected by the
surrounding environment. An open system has certain
qualities that are of particular interest. First, open
systems tend to have long cycles of performance, cycles
often longer than the tenure of system managers. This
fact leads these managers to neglect long-term actions
and consequences in favor of short-term concerns.
9Ibid., pp. 52-53.
10Ibid., pp. 69-79.

Furthermore, the system operates in a homeostatic mode
(resisting change) in order to maintain its integrity in
the face of environmental forces. Unfortunately, this
conservatism also makes the system resistant to
internally directed change. Finally, as the system
grows, it becomes increasingly differentiated as more
specialized tasks are institutionalized. Specialization
makes effective overall control more difficult over
Power. Coalitions. and Bargaining
One limitation of the information-system
perspective is that it reduces an organization to a
mechanism. There is no theoretical difference between a
computer network and an office in a bureaucracy. The
human dimension is critical to this analysis.
Therefore, I have selected a perspective of
organizations that addresses human behavior in
organizations. In Power and Politics in Organizations.
Bacharach and Lawler attempt to integrate existing
viewpoints on power, coalitions, and bargaining into an
overall framework of analysis. Their analysis of
organizations is "based on the assumption that
organizational life is dominated by political
interactions; politics in organizations involve the
11Ibid., pp. 86-87.

tactical use of power to retain or obtain control of
real or symbolic resources."12
The two major concepts of interest to this
analysis are power and bargaining. Bacharach and Lawler
review the existing literature on power from both the
organizational research and the social psychology
perspectives, and find a variety of conflicting
viewpoints, with little common ground. They explain
this lack of consistency by positing that power is a
primitive theoretical concept, lacking precision in
definition and application. This position does not mean
that the concept of power does not have value, because
primitive "ideas sensitize us to a series of phenomena
or issues without necessarily providing clear, precise
ideas or hypotheses." 13 Bacharach and Lawler go on to
present a detailed analysis of power in organizations,
starting by differentiating between the form and the
content of power.
For Bacharach and Lawler's analysis, the term
form "refers broadly to the basic pattern or
configuration of the phenomenon, such as the parameters
within which action or interaction occurs."14 The three
12Samuel B. Bacharach and Edward J. Lawler,
Power and Politics in Organizations. ( San Francisco:
Jossey-Bass, 1980), p. 1.
13Ibid., p. 14.

aspects of the forms of power are: the relational
aspect of power, based on the interactions between
members of an organization; the dependence aspect, in
which each party to an interaction depends on the other
for something of value, called a social exchange: and
the sanctioning aspect, based on the ability of an actor
to provide rewards and punishments as a way of
controlling the actions of another actor. These terms
will be discussed at more length later in this analysis.
The content of power refers to qualities that
are specific to a particular situation. Bacharach and
Lawler refer to two types of power, authority and
influence. Authority is "the right to make decisions
that affect the activities of others in the
organization.5 Qualities of authority are that it
"implies involuntary submission" and "flows downward,
from superior to subordinate.1,16 Influence is an
altogether different type of power, and is the focus of
the political approach to organizations. "Influence,
thus, consists of efforts to affect organizational
decisions indirectly, while authority makes final
decisions."17 Influence is also multidirectional; it is
15Ibid., p. 28.
16Ibid., p. 29.

possible to influence colleagues, superiors, or
Bacharach and Lawler have gone to great pains to
differentiate between authority and influence. In doing
so, it is my belief that their definition of authority
has become somewhat distorted, relying too much on
coercion. Obedience does not rely exclusively on
"involuntary submission", indeed a member of a group
* that insists on this as the basis of obedience is likely
to leave that group. Weber states that in a modern
bureaucracy, an official's authority is based on his
legal position, and that his power is strictly
The 'official' is the holder of the power to
command; he never exercises this power in his own
right; he holds it as a trustee of the impersonal
and "compulsory institution."^-8
Therefore, the key to the limits of an official's power
is the definition of his role in the organization. In
addition, the rules of the organization usually
prescribe limits on the way in which an official's
authority may be used, to prevent the abuse of power.
This exception to Bachrach and Lawler's analysis,
however, does no damage to the differentation of
authority and influence. 18
18Max Weber, "Religion," in From Max Weber:
Essays in Sociology. H.H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills,
eds., (New York: Oxford University Press, 1946), p. 295.

Another aspect of the content of power is the
idea that power has bases and sources. Bases of power
are the resources that are exchanged. Bacharach and
Lawler identify four bases of power: "coercive",
"remunerative", "normative", and (sic) "knowledge".
The coercive base of power is the control of
punishment; the remunerative base is the control of
rewards; the normative base is the control of
symbols; and the (sic) knowledge base is the control
of information. 19
The sources of power are the mechanisms by which control
of the various resources can be gained. There are also
four sources of power identified in Bacharach and
Lawler's analysis: office or structural position;
personal characteristics (charisma/leadership);
expertise; and opportunity. These terms help to draw
the distinction between authority and influence more
precisely. "Authority is based solely on structural
sources of power, whereas influence can be grounded in
any of the other sourcespersonality, expertise, or
opportunity." 20 Note again the similarity between
Bacharach and Lawler's view of bureaucratic authority
being based on position to Weber's view of bureaucratic
authority being based on legalitythe power allocated
to a position. Of particular interest for this
19Bacharach and Lawler, p. 34.
20Ibid., pp. 36-7.

analysis, "manipulation and control of knowledge are the
key elements of influence processes." 2
One final quality of influence that is relevant
for the analysis of organizations comes from the view of
influence processes as mechanisms for change:
Authority is the static, stable feature of
organizations, whereas influence is the fulcrum of
change. In fact, an argument can be made that
influence processes are a primary source of
adaptation and innovation. 22
The primary focus of the remainder of Bacharach
and Lawler's work is how coalitions go about gaining and
using influence. The key mechanism by which coalitions
do this is bargaining. Bargaining is the arena in which
intraorganizational exchanges take place. It contains
aspects of competition and cooperation because, as
Bacharach and Lawler suggest, bargaining in
organizations is neither wholly positive-sum nor zero-
(T)he coalition model implies that
intraorganizational relations are mixed motive. A
mixed motive situation encompasses both positive-
sum and zero-sum situations. . (M)ixed motive
relationships are inherently unstable and inevitably
involve some distrust. In this context, bargaining
is the primary means for keeping the conflict within
acceptable bounds and avoiding a complete
bifurcation of the relationship. 23
2^Ibid., p. 38.
22Ibid., p. 42.
23Ibid., p. 107.

Bacharach and Lawler go on to criticize several
different perspectives on the analysis of bargaining.
They find that while there is a wealth of experimental
data, particularly in the area of labor-management
relations, the research conducted is of a very narrow
scope, and is difficult to generalize. Looking further
at coalition formation and game-theory models, Bacharach
and Lawler find that they have some serious shortcomings
for the analysis of bargaining within organizations.
For example, these theories assume: "Coalitions have
either a 100 percent or zero probability of success", 24
and that they "identify how parties would act if they
were rational." (italics in original). 25 However,
Bacharach and Lawler make the points that parties do not
have precise knowledge of their opponent's strength or
objectives, nor will they necessarily behave in a
rational, economically maximizing manner, because of
intervening priorities such as ideology. There is,
therefore, a certain amount of uncertainty in the
relationship between two parties. This uncertainty is
one of the key factors in choosing negotiating tactics.
To reintroduce a dimension of this analysis
brought up earlier, the relationship between two actors
24Ibid., p. 49.
25Ibid., p. 121.

in a social exchange such as a bargaining relationship
can be considered to rely on the dependence of each
party on the other. The power dependence theory is
developed by Peter Blau in his widely-quoted work
Exchange and Power in Social Life. Most simply stated,
the power that one party has in a relationship is
derived from the extent to which the second party relies
on the first for some benefit. "An individual who
supplies rewarding services to another obligates him."2
The exchange can be balanced only if the first party
receives something he values from the second. This is
not to imply that every exchange will be an "even
trade"the point is that the receipt of something of
value socially obligates the recipient to attempt to
The amount of dependence in a relationship
relies on two factors for each actor: the availability
of alternative sources for the item of value, and the
importance of the exchange. The availability (or lack
thereof) determines part of the independence of each
actor: "The partner with fewer alternative
opportunities tends to be more dependent on and
committed to the exchange relation than the other."* 27
2Peter M. Blau, Exchange and Power in Social
Life, (New York: Wiley & Sons, 1964), p. 89.
27Ibid., p. 99.

The importance of the benefit received also generates
dependence: "The cost incurred in obtaining social
benefits also affects the significance they have for
individuals. . .1,28 The power that each party has in
a relationship is therefore dependent on the other1s
dependence on that party to provide a rare and valuable
commodity. The relative dependence of each party will
determine the tactics adopted in bargaining:
There are two interrelated implications of the
power-dependence approach. The first is simply that
concessions are likely to be a function, in part, of
the dependence relationship. . The second
implication is that the congruence of a concession
stance with the power-dependence relationship will
affect the success of the concession stance.28 29
To put this concept more simply, the more powerful party
in a relationship is more likely to adopt a tough
bargaining stance, and the party that chooses a stance
that is closely related to its power in the relationship
is more likely to succeed than a party that, in essence,
"bluffs". Note further that the congruence of a stance
is measured in the other party's evaluation of the power
of the first party.
To sum up the relevant elements of Bacharach and
Lawler's theoretical framework, interactions in
organizations are centered on the acquisition and use of
28Ibid., p. 149.
29Bacharach and Lawler, p. 151.

power, particularly focusing on the influence that can
be wielded in the organization. The arena in which
these exchanges take place is the bargaining
relationships between various parties. A primary
defining factor in these relationships is the mutual
dependence of the parties involved.
Limits of Decision Makers
This section will focus more closely on the
limits of decision makers introduced above. The effects
of "noise" on decision makers will be addressed first;
then the difficulty of decision makers in evaluating
highly technical advice will be examined. In the last
part of this section I will look briefly at the effects
of differing personalities of decision makers in using
expert advice.
Klapp identifies social noise as one of the
major effects on people working in advanced societies.
Noise is defined as any stimulus that interferes with
the reception of information. Klapp breaks noise down
further into four categories: semantic (ambiguity),
stylistic (incompatible values), overload (too much
information), and contagious (hysteria). The first
three types of noise, and especially information
overload, will be the most relevant to this analysis.
Klapp also defines two actions in response to the
information state of an individuals opening (looking for

new information) and closing (stopping or reducing the
inflow of information). These actions alternate in the
environment as people search for new information and
then "digest" and act on that information. An analogy
could be made to the action of a whale or sea anemone,
siphoning food from the water as needed.30
This cycle of opening and closing is not merely
an on-off valve, because "perception and communication
are always selective; that information is selected
according to interests, norms, codes, psycholinguistic
grids, stereotypes, gestaltstemplates of one sort or
another." Even when a person is searching for
information, then, the search is directed, and
information not perceived as relevant may not be
One of the most prevalent types of noise for a
decision maker is information overload:
Under some conditions, perfectly good
information is capable of becoming noise, in the
sense that it interferes with getting the
information one needs. . Some idea of the
inbasket that modern executives face comes from the
fact that during the eight years Dean Rusk was
Secretary of State 2,100,000 cables went out of the
State Department with his signature- quite an
inbasket even if he merely signed them. So much
information may be furnished to the decision maker
that he spends a large portion of his time filtering
it or searching for what he wants; further, there is
danger of being diverted from his original task.
This flood of information affects two limiting factors
30Klapp, pp. 3-4 and 15

for people: homeostatic needs and channel capacity.
"All living things are homeostatic," with the same
feedback loops and need to resist change discussed in
the previous section of this thesis. Channel capacity
as a limitation was also discussed earlier, and Klapp is
in close agreement with Knight and McDaniel in this
regard: "The human brain has great powers of
abstraction, but is severely limited in channel
Stress is the result of functioning in a
situation of information overload. The four types of
stress in this situation are: decoding (making sense of
information), integrating new facts, dealing with
conflicting information (dissonance), and irrelevance
(unusable information). The responses to overload can
be classed as selective perception. Strategies of
selective perception include: specialization (aids in
decoding), insulation (filtering by other people),
prejudice (rejection of dissonant information), and
procrastination. A common cost of these strategies is
the risk of missing essential information. However,
because of the limited processing ability of people,
such strategies seem unavoidable.32
31Ibid., pp. 47-51.
32Ibid., pp. 60-64.

There are three large consequences of
information overload: decision lags, consensus lags,
and meaning gap. Decision lags occur when an overload
of information overwhelms the decision process with too
much detail (This was a criticism often made of the
Carter administration). Consensus lags occur when
information does not travel rapidly enough between
actors involved in a decision:
Consensus lags give trouble at three levels in
most public problems. First, science and
scholarship fail to keep up, by theory building and
research, with the flood of raw data from the
environment. . Science and scholarship feed
their already lagging output into a second level of
decision making, government and administration,
which have their own reasons, such as bureaucratic
rigidities and political goals, for being out of
touch with the scientific community. . Below
these two decision levels is a third level, public
opinion, which exerts some effective pressure on
government and administration, but is on the whole
apathetic and uninformed, tends to avoid cross
pressures, and is hard to mobilize. . .
Finally, a meaning gap occurs when people who share the
same information are still unable to agree on purposes
and values for a given situation.33
Should a decision maker manage to filter out and
receive important information from the environment, the
question remains as to what use that decision maker will
be able to make of the information. Most high-ranking
decision makers come from non-technical backgrounds.
Many lawmakers are lawyers, and most bureaucrats are
33Ibid., pp. 66, 68, and 71.

professional administrators.34 These persons lack
training in the methods of scientific research, and the
technical issues surrounding the results of that
research. Having a scientific or technical background,
however, is also no guarantee of success in
administering S&T programs. President Carter, who
claimed such a background as a result of his Navy
training as a "nuclear engineer," was often reported to
have difficulty in keeping track of the activities of
the federal government because of his penchant for being
buried in details. Since no single man can be expected
to be conversant in the myriad of disciplines that
embrace the activities of the federal government, good
advisers are absolutely necessary. Some would argue
that specialized knowledge is not necessary:
[P]ublic policy debate does not turn on the
science literacy of the participants; it is about
the performance of regulation of public programs or
systems. Debates about the performance of public
systems do not depend on information held internally
by the scientific enterprise, that is, knowledge
about physics, chemistry, biology. The variables in
policy debates are costs, effectiveness,
externalities, side effects, distributional effects,
political and organizational feasibility, and so
However, Averch also recommends that a decision maker
take a skeptical approach towards advice and test its
34Norman Ramsey, "Advice on Science for the U.S.
Government," in The Presidency and Science Advising, ed.
Kenneth W. Thompson (Lanham, MD: University Press of
America, 1985), p. 41.

worthiness using the tools of policy analysis to try to
determine the objectivity, completeness, and accuracy of
advice.35 So, in the end, a decision maker such as the
President is dependent on those with whom he surrounds
We will now turn to the final dimension that
will be explored on decision makers. Being human (at
least so far), decision makers are subject to the same
emotional limitations as other people. However, top
decision makers are not "just folks." Their persistence
in seeking power and the satisfaction they derive from
exercising that power make them a special subset of
Weber identified three types of leaders in
society: traditional, charismatic, and bureaucratic.
The traditional leader exercises power due to the
position he holds in the group, such as the chief of a
tribe or the father of a family in a patriarchal
society. The "pure" traditional leader is not an
important type in modern society, and will not figure in
this analysis. However, it must be noted that tradition
is still an important source of legitimacy in modern
society. The bureaucratic leader operates within the
constraints imposed by the regulations of the
bureaucracy. A charismatic leader, on the other hand,
35Averch, pp. 95, 154-165.

derives authority from personality. The bureaucratic
leader tends to think in the terms defined by the
organization. The charismatic leader usually believes
he has some higher quality or value that has elevated
him to his position of power. This higher power is
often seen as a "holy mission." While the charismatic
leader can still be expected to arise in unique
circumstances, the routinization of his "mission" in the
context of a bureaucratic society supposedly would lead
to the eventual demise of the charismatic leader.36
Other authors would contend that charisma
persists in modern leadership because of the prestige
accorded to high-ranking positions. Presthus maintains
that the lack of definition inherent in positions of
high rank aids in maintaining prestige. In addition,
certain types of personality seem drawn to and at home
with positions of authority in bureaucratic structures.
Presthus applies the California F scale, which measures
authoritarian attitudes, to the traits that are seen in
leaders of large organizations. He defines an
authoritarian personality type ass
one who scores high on a scale of attitudes that
include militarism, chauvinism, antiradicalism,
exceptional conventionality, deference for
authority, a poor view of human nature, belief in
force and 'toughness', and a general power

This personality type, he suggests, is well-suited for
the bureaucratic structure.
Of course, defining an authoritarian personality
also sheds some light on its opposite, the participative
personality. A participative personality is
other-centered, less conventional, and less negative
about human nature. While this personality is less
likely to seek positions of power, it does not
necessarily follow that it would be less effective in
leading. The popular consensus in leadership theory is
that a leadership style or personality will be more or
less effective depending on the environment in which it
is used.
Other studies, such as Rokeach's The Open and
Closed Mind, have attempted to develop alternative
measures of authoritarian tendencies, less focused on
the "right-wing" authoritarianism of the F Scale.
Rokeach bases his work on the way in which belief
systems are held in an individual. He states that every
person has a belief system and a disbelief system:
The belief system is conceived to represent all the
beliefs, sets, expectancies, or hypotheses,
conscious and unconscious, that a person at a given
time accepts as true of the world he lives in. The
disbelief system is composed of a series of 37
37Robert Presthus, The Organizational Society,
rev. ed., (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1978), pp.

subsystems rather than merely a single one, and
contains all the disbeliefs, sets, expectancies,
conscious and unconscious, that, to one degree or
another, a person at a given time rejects as
A person's belief and disbelief systems can be evaluated
in terms of their isolationwhether related ideas in
the system are believed to be relatedand their
differentiationthe amount of detail contained in each
Rokeach goes on to define the difference between
an open and a closed system, concentrating on the closed
A system is defined to be closed to the extent
that there is a high magnitude of rejection of all
disbelief subsystems, an isolation of beliefs, a
high discrepancy in degree of differentiation
between belief and disbelief systems, and little
differentiation within the disbelief system.38 39
To elaborate, a high magnitude of rejection means that
the disbelief subsystem is not just held to be untrue,
it is held to be very far from the truth. Beliefs are
isolated because they are accepted uncritically from an
authority, and may indeed by contradictory. The
difference between differentiation of belief and
disbelief systems is due to the fact that beliefs have
been uncritically accepted, and disbeliefs also accepted
38Milton Rokeach, The Open and Closed Mind. (New
York: Basic Books, Inc., 1960), p. 33.
39Ibid., p. 61.

with little consideration.
The result of having a closed belief system, or
"mind", is that it is more difficult to logically
evaluate incoming information:
This leads us to suggest a basic characteristic
that defines the extent to which a person's system
is open or closed; namely, the extent to which the
person can receive, evaluate, and act on relevant
information received from the outside on its own
intrinsic merits, unencumbered by irrelevant factors
in the situation arising from within the person or
from the outside.40
Rokeach's results on the closed mind have much the same
effect as Presthus' contention of the authoritarian
tendencies of some bureaucrats: a rejection of ideas
not in line with internally held beliefs, and a
dependence on accepted authority. The authoritarian
personality and the closed mind are not identical, but
they are closely related.
I would close with a word of caution on this
section. Extremes of personality are often unsuccessful
in organizations, because they have difficulty meeting
the norms imposed by the organization. The terms
"authoritarian personality" and "participative
personality" should be taken as indicating persons with
tendencies to these models, and not as extremes of
personality. Similarly, Rokeach points out that the
open and closed minds are extreme ends of a spectrum.
40Ibid., p. 57.

"Open and closed minds are but ideal types, convient for
purposes of analysis. However, the real people we all
know are neither completely open or completely
Comparison of Perspectives
Now that the perspectives to be used have been
explained, it is necessary to compare and contrast them,
in order to determine whether they can be developed into
a coherent whole, and what differences there are between
the various outlooks. Again, this discussion will be
divided into an examination of the bureaucracy as a
system, and its effects on those that operate with the
bureaucracy as their environment.
The information-systems perspective and the
bargaining perspective start from very different bases,
and arrive at conclusions that at first would seem to
bear little relation to each other. However, on closer
examination, the perspectives do not so much compete or
corroborate as they do complement.
Knight and McDaniel take a value-neutral,
mechanistic approach to organizations. For them, people
are only important in so much as their innate qualities
affect the transmission and transformation of
information. When information is not transmitted or is
41Ibid., p. 66.

distorted, it is due to characteristics of the
information and the people processing it. Information
that is nonroutine, and that which is discontinuous, has
better chances of being overlooked or distorted, because
of the limitations of people in handling such
information. The selectivity of a person in a high-
volume information environment makes it more likely that
information is missed. Distortion can occur because of
a "noisy" environment, and because of the complicating
factors of operating an open system in a complex
A comparison of Knight and McDaniel's work with
that of Bacharach and Lawler reveals that the control
and transmission of information is the heart of both
perspectives. From the information-systems perspective,
information is the lifeblood of the organization; for
the bargaining perspective it is a valuable resource
that can be used to gain and maintain power, in the form
of influence. The complementary aspect of the
intersection of the two perspectives comes from the idea
of the conscious control of information as a form of
distortion and omission. The people in an organization
are not just subject to their own natures and those of
the organization in which they function; they take
conscious, active measures to manipulate their
environment for their own gain and the gain of any

groups to which they may belong. The result, it seems,
is that information is more likely to be distorted or
"lost than it is to be perfectly transmitted through
the organization. The bargaining perspective points out
that particularly valuable information is more likely
than routine information to be used in a power
relationship, because its value to others makes that
information more important in the dependence
relationship. Routine information, on the other hand,
is less useful, and therefore less likely to be
manipulated. In a sentence, critical, nonroutine
information is very likely to be distorted or lost in
its transmission through an organization because of the
nature of the information and its value to members of
the organization.
Even though the latter part of this theoretical
review deals with the effects of a bureaucratic
environment on the individual decision maker, some areas
of commonality with the first section will be noted. In
particular, Klapp's social noise perspective has much
common ground with the information-systems perspective,
as noted earlier. The shift in level of analysis from
the organizational level to the individual level brings
a change in emphasis that provides further elaboration
of the effects of working in an information-rich
environment. Again, Knight and McDaniel identify two

salient features in people as information processors:
selectivity, which leads to omission of information, and
distortion, which can change the content of the
information transmitted. Klapp defines the process an
individual follows in dealing with information as
opening and closingopening is the search for
information, and closing is acting on the information
gathered. The similarity between the two perspectives
comes in their discussion of operations in what Klapp
defines as a high level of "social noise", what might
also be called an information-rich environment.
Both Klapp, and Knight and McDaniel, indicate
that persons faced with a large amount of information
cope in two ways: deleting some information before it
is processed by selective perception, and distortion of
information via perceptual prejudice (rejecting
dissonant information). Similarly, both perspectives
offer little hope that this situation can be overcome.
Knight and McDaniel consider selection and distortion to
be inherent qualities of people as information
processors, and Klapp states that such tactics as
selective perception are "the classic defensive strategy
against information overload.1,42
Averch's policy analysis outlook on S&T tends to
bear out the earlier perspectives. He points out that
42Klapp, p. 61.

many of the decisions made on S&T programs are made on
the basis of budgetary and political considerations
(routine, continuous data) rather than their scientific
merits (nonroutine, discontinuous data). These
decisions are made by high rsinking executives who
operate in an environment of high social noise, and are
therefore dependent on techniques of selective
perception, such as relying on the advice of advisors,
to cope with information overload. Because program
decisions are made in the context of the budget, the
parties involved compete for money as a scarce resource,
in what can clearly be seen as a bargaining relationship
amenable to Bacharach and Lawler's framework of
Finally,' the question of the psychology of
decision makers must be addressed. The analyses of
Averch, Weber, and Presthus seem to indicate that those
who occupy the highest levels of a bureaucracy have an
authoritarian tendency, if for no other reason than
their mastery of the authority relations of the
bureaucratic environment. Presthus also maintains that
the highest levels of authority, and in particular
elected positions, favor a measure of charisma.
This perspective integrates interestingly with
the concepts of social noise and the policy analysis
perspective of S&T decision making. A person with

authoritarian tendencies, as presented by Presthus,
would be likely to filter out dissonant information, and
to deal with topics in terms of their power relevance
for other sectors of the bureaucracy, rather than more
esoteric "scientific considerations.
Similarly, Rokeach's perspective on the open and
closed mind shares conclusions with Knight and McDaniel,
Klapp, and Presthus, in that a closed mind is more
likely than a open mind to reject incoming information,
especially if it does not conform to the person's belief
system. Even if the information is not rejected
outright, a person with a closed mind is more likely to
distort the information than one with an open mind.
These perspectives were not selected because of
a lack of contradictions. Rather, they represented the
results of this author's experience and research in the
area under consideration. Nevertheless, the manner in
which these wildly disparate perspectives have resulted
in a coherent, if not seamless, theoretical framework
has been most gratifying. Thorough consideration of the
interplay between the various perspectives presented has
failed to reveal any fundamental conflicts among them.
The next step will be to apply this complex framework to
three case studies in government involvement in
technological advances.

In the middle 1930's, the possibility of
creating a self-sustaining fission reaction was a
subject of intense interest to certain members of the
scientific community in the United States and Europe.
The most advanced work was being done in Germany,
Czechoslovakia, Hungary, France, England, and America.
By 1938, the fission of uranium nuclei had been reported
in the scientific literature.1 Normally, while this
discovery would have been exciting to the scientific
community, it would not have had any immediate effect on
the rest of the world. However, the times were anything
but normal. By the time the abovementioned report was
published, Hitler's Germany had bloodlessly conquered
both Czechoslovakia and Austria, and the Nazi
persecution of the Jews and other "enemies of the Reich"
had been under way for five years. Many of the best
scientific minds fled the Continent to find refuge in
the United States.
Many of the top nuclear physicists were among 1
1Dietrich Schroeer, Science. Technology, and the
Arms Race. (New York: Wiley and Sons, 1984), p. 23.

the refugees: names such as Leo Szilard, Eugene Wigner,
and Edward Teller. These three Hungarian scientists
became more and more concerned about the possibility
that the Nazis would be able to create a fission bomb.
However, being newly arrived in the country, they had no
direct way of expressing their concerns to the U.S.
government convincingly. The three decided to approach
the only real scientific "superstar" of the time, Albert
Einstein, to ask him to write a letter of warning to
President Roosevelt. There was also one other important
ally in this effortAlexander Sachs, "a highly erudite
New York financier and a friend and economic adviser of
the President's."2
Sachs was a successful businessman, who had
(largely as a hobby) an interest in scientific research.
Fortunately, he had read much of the relevant scientific
literature prior to being contacted, and had already
tried to convince President Roosevelt of the possibility
of creating a weapon with undreamt-of power. Therefore,
although he was ignorant of the workings of nuclear
physics, Roosevelt was aware of such a possibility
before Sachs delivered Einstein's letter on October 11,
1939. He had also just observed the German blitzkrieg
destroying Poland. Europe was at war.
2Stephane Groueff, Manhattan Project. (Boston:
Little, Brown and Co., 1967), p. 10.

The man whom Roosevelt directed to start
research on this possibility was Vannevar Busha man of
whom I shall speak later. Bush, as head of the Office
of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD),
coordinated the efforts of the sixteen different
research groups assigned to the problem, and in May,
1942, he presented to Roosevelt the report that was the
basis for the start of the Manhattan Project. The
researchers had been unable to narrow the best
procedures for producing fissionable materials to fewer
than five methods, each of which seemed to have equal,
albeit slight, chances of succeeding. Instead of
blindly picking one of the five, Bush and his colleagues
recommended that all five approaches be attempted. The
perceived danger of Germany building the first
successful bomb demanded that all possibilities be
explored. The Manhattan Project was approved when the
report came back to Bush with "OK, FDR" marked on one
This very brief history leaves out all of the
struggle of the various committees, and the massive
engineering effort that created new industries and a new
class of weapons, at a cost of over $2 billion in 1940's
dollars. However, the source of the scientific and
technical (S&T) information and the way it was used seem
3Ibid., pp. 11-13.

abundantly clear. Actually, two decisions were made:
to pursue, first, a relatively modest research effort to
determine if it was feasible to build a bomb, and then
the massive commitment to carry the effort through.
It is not difficult to believe that Szilard and
his peers would have been politely dismissed by the
Presidentif they had been able to gain an interview.
Not only were the new immigrants unknown outside of
scientific circles, Roosevelt was already deep in
preparations for World War II in 1939: although he did
not know when or how the United States would be drawn
into the conflict, he was firmly convinced that war was
inevitable. Examination of the U.S. Navy's building
program in the 1930's shows that construction had begun
on the battleships and aircraft carriers, which
eventually won the naval war, long before an American
shot was fired in anger.
The key, then, to Roosevelt's agreement to the
initial research project would seem to be the impact of
a letter from Albert Einstein, conveyed by a trusted
advisor who had already prepared the ground for this
idea. Einstein's letter has a very measured tone, and
if read by itself might not cause much alarm.4 However,
4Albert Einstein, "Letter to President
Roosevelt, August 2, 1939," in The Nuclear Predicament:
A Sourcebook, ed. Donna U. Gregory, (New York: St.
Martin's Press, 1986), pp. 39-40.

it is important to remember that Sachs had prepared the
President for such a possibility; so the information was
to some extent expected.
How do the facts described above conform to the
theoretical framework developed in Chapter II? First,
to apply an information-systems perspective, the nature
of the information will be addressed. The gist of the
letter is certainly nonroutine. At the time, at least,
it was not common for famous scientists to write to
heads of state to inform them of "a new and important
source of energy" that also had the potential to form
the core of "extremely powerful bombs of a new type."
As a matter of fact, it was very unusual for a scientist
to write to a politician at all. This letter did not,
so far as is known, set off a correspondence between
Einstein and Roosevelt; so it must also be considered
discontinuous information. In the normal bureaucratic
situation that obtains in today's federal government,
such a message might well have never made its way to the
Fortunately for the project, the situation of
today did not exist in 1939. There was no S&T
bureaucracy, and the very scope of the federal
government was much smaller than today. Roosevelt's
cabinet was made up, for the most part, of "idea men."

Names such as Cordell Hull and Henry Stimson are part of
the fabric of American history. Perhaps as important,
however, were the many contacts that Roosevelt
maintained from his years in New York. Alexander Sachs
was one of a number of people who had relatively free
access to the President, and a relationship of such long
standing that controversial subjects could be broached
freely. Roosevelt enjoyed access to information both
from inside and outside the government. Accordingly, he
was used to information coming from unusual sources, and
perhaps more willing to accept such information than a
contemporary president would be.
The next area to consider is the selection and
distortion inherent in processing information. For the
reasons discussed above, selection does not seem to have
been much of a factor. Distortion could have been a
danger, with Roosevelt taking the letter either as more
or as less serious than it was. Certainly, the
President's environment in autumn, 1939, was a stressful
one. However, new scientific discoveries had been
discussed in the White House before. This was the time
in which early British and American successes in radar
research were also coming to light, so Roosevelt had
previous experiences to draw on. The radical policies
adopted to fight the Great Depression six years earlier
also speak of a willingness on Roosevelt's part to

innovate. In the end, processing errors in the message
were minimal.
How did the feedback and feedforward loops in
the government system function in this instance? The
feedback that Roosevelt was receiving in 1939 showed
that a world war, one that the United States could not
avoid, was about to begin. Not only was Hitler edging
further and further away from Germany's Versailles
Treaty obligations, but the Japanese were also expanding
their "Co-Prosperity Sphere" in Asia, through outright
war with China and other, subtler pressures on the Dutch
West Indies and French Indochina. History has shown
that Roosevelt was already planning for World War before
Germany invaded Poland. His feedforward, or planning,
loop was focused on preparing the United States for this
conflict. Therefore, he was searching for information
that could strengthen America or help define the threat
it faced. Einstein's letter, showing both the potential
and the threat presented by the atom bomb, was
information of obvious value to the President, and was
more attentively studied than a more esoteric
communication would have been. In summary, then, it
seems Roosevelt's system of advisors worked well from an
information-systems perspective.
The bargaining perspective does not provide much
insight into this situation, unless the organization

under consideration is defined as containing all parties
with access to or influence upon President Roosevelt.
The government bureaucracy of the time was simply
unaware of the importance of fission research. Trying
to define all actors with an impact on the President at
the time would be a very difficult exercise, and one
that goes considerably beyond the scope of this work.
Suffice it to say, then, that bureaucratic bargaining
had little impact on Roosevelt's decision to investigate
the feasibility of an atomic weapon.
Much of the discussion on the information-
systems perspective also holds for limitations on
decision makers. Roosevelt's environment was one of
high social noise, albeit lower than that of a President
today. Even in 1939, information overload was a real
problem. As discussed above, FDR used an extensive
network of advisors inside and outside of government to
filter his information. History has shown that this
selective-perception network was remarkably successful,
with the somewhat contentious exception of the Japanese
attack on Pearl Harbor. While the latter can be largely
explained in terms of information-systems theory, it is
outside the subject of this paper. In any case, here
too the limitations of the decision maker and his
environment were overcome.
The content of the letter from Einstein was

certainly clear enough for a decision maker to
understand. The letter really is quite a study in the
avoidance of unnecessary jargon:
In the course of the last four months it has
been made probablethrough the work of Joliot in
France as well as Fermi and Szilard in Americathat
it may become possible to set up a nuclear chain
reaction in a large mass of uranium by which vast
amounts of power and large quantities of new radium-
like elements would be generated. Now it appears
almost certain that this could be achieved in the
immediate future.
This new phenomenon would also lead to the the
construction of bombs, and it is conceivablethough
much less certainthat extremely powerful bombs of
a new type may thus be constructed. A single bomb
of this type, carried by boat and exploded in a
port, might well destroy the whole port together
with some of the surrounding territory.6
While Roosevelt would, no doubt, not have had the time
to conquer the niceties of particle physics and a
self-sustaining neutron reaction, he could certainly
understand the paragraphs quoted above. Again, a key
element in the President's decision must have been his
implicit judgement of the believability of the sources
of the information.
Roosevelt's personality is the final variable to
consider. FDR was a charismatic leader. While he was a
forceful decision maker, he insisted on hearing from all
relevant parties to a decision. He could, then, best be
characterized as a charismatic, participative leader.
This outlook also indicates that FDR's belief system

would have been considered an open one by Rokeach. As
mentioned earlier, the radical approaches to dealing
with the Great Depression taken by the President speak
of an open belief system.
To summarize, this case study seems to support
the predictions of the various perspectives, in so far
as they are applicable to this situation. The
information-systems perspective predicts that
considerable information selection would be undertaken
by the government bureaucracy, and that information
considered relevant to preparations for war would have
been the focus of attention. In the absence of
bureaucratic competition over nuclear technology, the
bargaining perspective was not applicable.
Klapp's social noise perspective, Presthus'
analysis of personality types in government, and
Rokeach's open and closed mind research certainly seem
to be borne out in this case study. Roosevelt's
filtering mechanism of adivsors inside and outside of
the bureaucracy apparently functioned well in this case.
Additionally, the President's participative personality,
and his open belief system, made it much more likely
that he would seriously consider Einstein's letter.
While the decision actually to embark on the
project to build an atomic bomb was made three years
later, most of the same conditions were in place. The

report given by Vannevar Bush, a trusted advisor, was
expected even if its contents were controversial. In
the interest of brevity, then, this decision will not be
examined in this paper.
The Growth of the S&T Bureaucracy
One of the major changes wrought on the world by
the Second World War was the coming of the
"technological age". For the first time, science and
technology were central to the tasks of government.
This relationship was as uncomfortable to the scientific
community as it was for the bureaucracy. Nevertheless,
by the end of WWII, the government's scientific
community had been established. The first, and in many
ways the central fact to remember about this "community"
is that there is no single agency responsible for
overall direction of U.S. S&T efforts.7 The "bible"
from which the current S&T bureaucracy grew was a report
commissioned by President Roosevelt in 1944. Vannevar
Bush, head of the wartime Office of Scientific Research
and Development (OSRD), was the man to whom Roosevelt
turned to plot the future of American scientific
7Deborah Shapley and Rustum Roy, Lost at the
Frontier: U.S. Science and Technology Policy Adrift.
(Philadelphia: ISI Press, 1985), pp. 40-2.
This section draws heavily from Shapley and
Roy, PP* 1-64.

"Science-the Endless Frontier" was presented to
President Truman nine months later, on July 4, 1945.
Even though four committees were involved in its
preparation, this landmark document was finished
quickly. Bush later wrote that, "[i]t did not take five
years to come to conclusions, as it sometimes does on
such matters; it took only a few months, for there was
an extraordinary consensus of opinion."9 This report,
delivered before the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
focused such attention on the scientific community's
contributions to the war effort, was in some ways
intended to serve as a promotional document by its
authors. They were at the time uncertain of the amount
of support that a frugal postwar administration would
set aside for science and technology. Aside from this
consideration, the Bush report does seem to present the
scientific community's "world view", its opinion of the
proper relationship between the federal government and
The report argued that science had helped the
United States and its allies win the war and could
be equally critical in peace. To create a strong,
peacetime scientific effort in the United States, it
said, the federal government should step in with
generous and stable funding for research, especially
basic research in universities. It proposed the
creation of a National Research Foundation, run by a
board of scientists from universities and industry,
which would support military, medical, and physical
9Vannevar Bush, Pieces of the Action. (New York:
William Morrow, 1970), p. 64.

science research. The board would make national
policy for research and scientific education by
advising "the executive and legislative branches of
Government as to the policies and budgets" of all
science-related agencies. The four appendices, on
medical research, the structure of the proposed
< Foundation, policies for scientific manpower, and
the declassification of scientific information,
spelled out the details of how to move science to a
peacetime footing.10^
As can be seen, the Bush report called for
centralized support and direction of all
federally-funded research and development (R&D). For a
variety of reasons, the recommendations made in the Bush
report were never fully carried out. Shapley and Roy
argue that this failure to implement all the
recommendations made by Bush and company is one of the
major reasons for the current disarray in the S&T field.
I feel that some of the recommendations made showed a
certain lack of experience in bureaucratic realities.
That the same organization, appointed by the President,
would serve as the primary source of advice to both the
Executive and Legislative branches on S&T policy does
not seem to be a viable alternative. The Congress would
be sure to object.
In any case, by 1951 the structure of the
federal S&T bureaucracy was largely complete. Much of
the research was funded by mission
agenciestransportation research was the province of
Shapley and Roy, p. 6.

the Department of Transportation, atomic research was
funded by the Atomic Energy Commission, and, of course,
the Department of Defense sponsored a wide variety of
projects. The primary agencies for basic research, that
is, research where there is no immediate practical
application, were the Atomic Energy Commission (mainly
physics), the National Institute of Health (medical
research), the Office of Naval Research (which sponsored
many universities), the Department of Defense, and'the
National Science Foundation.11
The National Science Foundation (NSF), as
eventually established, varied greatly from the intent
of the National Research Foundation proposed by the Bush
report. The NSF was to undertake basic research in the
physical sciences and science education; there was a
somewhat narrowed policy role, in that the Director of
the NSF and the National Science Board were to "evaluate
scientific projects undertaken by agencies of the
Federal Government."11 12 This limitation of the NSF was
exacerbated by its early leadership. Wishing to avoid
conflicts and being conscious of the limitations of
their power, these men decided to restrict the role of
the NSF to "filling in the cracks" left by other
11Ibid., pp. 41-2.
12Ibid., p. 40.

agencies. The end result of these political
maneuverings has been that there is no single, central
voice for S&T policy.
Finally, there are two smaller, but no less
powerful, bureaucratic actors to consider. Almost
continuously since 1959, there has been a national
science adviser running a White House S&T office,
although the titles of both these entities have changed
several times over the years. Although the science
adviser is supposed to provide objective advice to the
President on S&T matters, he faces strong pressure from
his peers to act as an advocate for continually
increasing research budgets. Very few science advisers
have been able to suggest cutting any portion of the S&T
budget.13 The other actor is the Office of Technology
Assessment (OTA), established in the 1970's to provide
for the Congress the same sort of professional analysis
available to the President. OTA has been fairly active
in turning a critical eye to research projects, but,
like many Congressional services, it operates on a very
limited budget.
It is apparent from the foregoing discussion
that there is no overall, centralized control over the
formation and execution of federal research programs.
13Harvey A. Averch, A Strategic Analysis of
Science and Technology Policy. (Baltimore: Johns
Hopkins University Press, 1985), p. 14.

The same is true for information flowing to the top
decision makers. In day-to-day operations, most
decisions at the national level concern resource
allocation.14 From time to time, the pace of scientific
or technological progress is such that unique
opportunities or dangers are presented to the nation.
In the cases examined in this study, these opportunities
were largely brought to the attention of decision makers
from channels outside of government. This fact may be
due to the unpredictability of scientific research, or
the fact that responsibility for S&T programs is
fragmented. Whatever the case, the normal bureaucratic
channels failed to provide timely advice.
14Ibid., p. 3.

President Kennedy's decision to send a man to
the moon represents another unique situation, but one
that seems consistent with the theoretical structure
laid out so far. It was on May 25, 1961, in an address
to a joint session of Congress that Kennedy announced ".
. I believe that this Nation should commit itself to
achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of
landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to
earth.1 The announcement, while dramatic, was not
unexpected. Information on Kennedy's decision had
(been?) leaked to the press two weeks before.
Apollo was the ultimate response to a challenge
issued by the Soviet Union three and a half years
earlier. On October 6, 1957, the USSR began the space
age with the launch of Sputnik 1, the first artificial
satellite. It was an enormous propaganda victory for
the Soviets, and presented a challenge to the United
States on several levels. The most disturbing element
1U.S., Congress, Senate, Committee on
Aeronautical and Space Sciences, Documents on
International Aspects of the Exploration and Use of
Outer Space. 1954-1962. S. Doc. 18, 88th Cong., 1st
sess., p. 203.

of Sputnik was the implication of the Soviet capability
to build intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
Sputnik was the public demonstration of a capability
that the U.S. had been watching with concern from at
least 1955.2 The infamous "missile gap" was much
exacerbated by this event. Almost as important, to
some, was the threat to American prestige.
One vital actor refused to be drawn into a
"space race" with the Soviets: President Eisenhower.
After meeting with the National Security Council, the
president of the National Academy of Sciences, and the
director of the National Science Foundation, Eisenhower
was convinced that no basic alteration in national
policy was necessary.2 3 Eisenhower's response to the
worldwide reaction was "to find ways of affording
perspective to our people and so relieve the current
wave of near-hysteria."4 He began by holding a press
conference on October 9, during which he repeatedly
asserted that the significance of the Soviet launch had
2Hugo Young, Bryan Silcock, and Peter Dunn,
Journey to Tranquility. (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and
Co., 1970), p. 34.
3John M. Logsdon, The Decision to Go to the
Moon: Project Apollo and the National Interest.
(Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1970), p. 14.
4Dwight D. Eisenhower, The White House Years:
Waging Peace. 1954-1961. (Garden City, NY: Doubleday
and Co., 1965), pp. 210-211.

been overestimated/ and "that the United States would
not become involved in a 'space race' with the Soviet
Union.," 5
While he downplayed the significance of space
flight as a separate issue, Eisenhower did recognize
that the military potential of the Soviet success would
have to be assessed. One of the major results of
Sputnik was a greatly increased access for U.S.
scientists to the highest echelons of government. On
November 7, 1956/ Eisenhower announced the creation of
the post of Special Assistant to the President for
Science and Technology. He also elevated the Science
Advisory Committee of the Office of Defense Mobilization
to the Presidential Science Advisory Committee (PSAC).
James R. Killian, President of MIT, was selected as the
first science adviser and chairman of the PSAC.6 One of
the PSAC's first tasks was to develop the goals of the
national space program. The results of this task were
issued in a pamphlet carrying a Presidential endorsement
on March 26, 1958. Heading the list of goals were
efforts in scientific exploration and the use of space
for military applications such as communications and
reconnaissance. Manned spaceflight and especially a
5Logsdon, p. 16.
6Ibid., p. 17.

manned lunar flight were relegated to the far future.
One other important recommendation was the suggestion
that a civilian agency be established to conduct
scientific research, rather than have all space
activities under military control. In its
recommendations, the PSAC pamphlet was an endorsement of
the desires of President Eisenhower. In a nutshell,
. c [T]he basic outlines of the Eisenhower space
policy were in evidence: separation of civilian and
military space projects, and a low estimate of the
political significance of a satellite launch.7
The position developed by the PSAC was not
without opposition. One very significant dissenting
voice was that of then-Senate Majority Leader Lyndon
Johnson. Johnson rapidly seized on the Sputnik launch
as an issue, for a variety of reasons:
He was vitally concerned with national security .
. [h]e believed that the Congress, which the
Democrats controlled, had a responsibility to
develop alternatives to the policy of the Republican
administration . [a]nd he wanted to become
A Senate inquiry on space was started within a month,
giving Johnson an opportunity to learn about all the
issues involved, and a public platform through which to
express his opinions. The hearings resulted in a list
of recommendations that "urged increased space and
7Ibid., pp. 13-19.
8Ibid., p. 21.

missile spending, and emphasized the importance of space
exploration as a national objective."9 Johnson's
preoccupation with space was to continue until, in 1961,
he was able to frame a space policy for the new Kennedy
Even though he faced continuing pressure to
accelerate the space program from Johnson and the
military, Eisenhower held firm to his expressed
policies. The only two departures made as a result of
the Soviet launches were an acceleration of the U.S.
ballistic missile program and the establishment of the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Earlier
in the 1950s, the Air Force, Army and Navy had competed
for leadership in the exploitation of space in a fashion
typical of interservice rivalries. Eisenhower was
convinced that a continuing competition was wasteful,
and he feared that the urge to explore the new medium
would distract efforts from the ballistic missile
programs. The establishment of a civilian space agency
would lessen these pressures.Eisenhower, even in
declining health, was able to prevail. Throughout his
administration the exploration of space was a measured,
conservative process. The next administration, however,
9Ibid., p. 22.
10Ibid., p. 26.

was determined that things would be different.
President Kennedy's decision to go to the moon
was not, at heart, a decision driven by technology. It
was an exercise in superpower competition and, as
important, a political and a philosophical dividing line
between "Camelot" and the Eisenhower years. "The
essential Kennedy had emerged very clearly during the
[1960] campaign, and it consisted at bottom of a
political persona in total contrast to Eisenhower."11
Space was now the "New Frontier". Just as important,
Kennedy endorsed the idea, so resisted by Eisenhower,
that American prestige was at stake in the competition
to exploit space.
Much of the effort expended by the new
administration was the result of Vice President Johnson.
Kennedy was almost totally unversed on the subject, and
allowed Johnson and his aides virtual control over this
area of policy in the first months of Kennedy's
presidency. Many of Kennedy's written and spoken
positions on space during and immediately after the
campaign were developed by Johnson and his staff.12
Johnson was appointed chairman of the National
Aeronautical and Space Council, the Executive branch's 11
11Young, et. al., p. 75.

advisory organization on space topics.
The other actors involved in pushing for a
manned moon flight were NASA, the Air Force, and the
Army. The goals given NASA were very vague during its
first years; so the agency decided to develop its own
long-range plans. The result of this planning was a
decision that the moon was the best ultimate goal:
A bare six months after NASA had come into being,
they [the new space agency] secretly selected this
and nothing else as the ultimate prize to which all
the agency's efforts in manned space should be seen
as leading.13
That decision, taken in May, 1959, never wavered, even
in the face of Eisenhower's disapproval. NASA would
take its orders from the current President, but its
institutional heart was set on the moon.
Both the Air Force and the Army rapidly
developed plans to put a (military) man on the moon very
shortly after the launch of Sputnik. Not surprisingly,
the plans were very "optimistic", and in direct
competition with each other. Why should the services so
rapidly develop these unrealistic plans? The answer
lies in two factors: a natural "can do" response to the
hysteria of the times, and a desire to protect their
bureaucratic "turf". The Air Force saw itself as
possibly being condemned to a future as nothing more
13Ibid., p. 65.

than a "subterranean army"14 of missile launchers, and
wanted to head off the advances of the Army. The Army,
having been limited to building missiles of no more than
200 miles range, also wanted to preserve von Braun and
his team at Huntsville. In the end, the establishment
of NASA closed out the dream of a military moon shot,
although the Air Force persisted with plans as late as
Even though he was determined to reverse the
philosophy of the Eisenhower administration, Kennedy
paid very little attention to the space program early in
1961. He had delegated space to Vice President Johnson
in an effort to focus his energies on the current
East-West confrontations. Two of these confrontations,
and a new Soviet space challenge, drove Kennedy to the
decision that a dramatic new initiative was needed.
The two confrontations that so confounded
Kennedy were the impending Pathet Lao overthrow of the
government of Laos, and the failure of the Bay of Pigs
invasion of Cuba. In March, 1961, Kennedy seriously
considered sending troops into Laos to support the
failing Laotian government. In the end, military
posturing and diplomacy with the Soviets staved off an
immediate military defeat.15 A more serious threat, and
14Ibid., p. 60.
15Logsdon, p. 95.

a more humiliating situation, was the collapse of the
Bay of Pigs invasion during April 17-20. The United
States, and Kennedy in particular, were publicly and
thoroughly humiliated. This event, following
immediately after the Soviet triumph of orbiting a man
in space on April 11-12, convinced Kennedy that American
prestige needed the boost of a dramatic new initiative.
This decision, coupled with the continuing pressure from
NASA and Johnson, finally led Kennedy officially to
choose the moon as an objective on May 10, 1961.
It should be abundantly clear by now that the
decision to approve Project Apollo was a political
decision, not a technological one. The S&T community
was consulted on the feasibility and the timing of the
project, not on its scientific worth. As a matter of
fact, Kennedy's task force on space, headed by his
Scientific Adviser, Dr. Jerome Wiesner, had recommended
slowing down the manned space program in favor of
unmanned civilian and military uses of space.16 17 A
combination of external events and interested actors in
the government led President Kennedy almost inevitably
to the decision.
How do these events fit into the theoretical
16Ibid., pp. 111-126.
17Young, et. al., p. 78.

framework established at the outset of this paper? From
an information-systems perspective, we can see that
channels were set up early in the Kennedy administration
that directed overwhelmingly favorable opinions of the
U.S. space program to the President's attention.
Kennedy's ignorance of the issues led him to delegate
much of the policy making on space, even during his
campaign for the White House, to Lyndon Johnson.
Johnson's unwavering support of American efforts to be
"first" in space has been well documented. This
constant flow of information to the new president
therefore rendered the information both routine and
continuous, and therefore easier to process than single
messages such as Einstein's letter to Roosevelt.
The type of information reaching President
Kennedy on the topic of space policy, as analyzed above,
tended to minimize problems of selectivity. Although
information overload was certainly a factor (thence
Kennedy's seconding of space policy to Johnson), the
President had been prepared for such information by the
Vice President, and therefore was perceptually ready to
receive recommendations to pursue a "space race".
Kennedy was, in a sense, conditioned to think of space
in positive terms, and in terms of competition with the
USSR, from his nomination onward. Cautionary notes,
such as those sounded by the Eisenhower administration

and Dr. Wiesner (who was not an intimate of Kennedy)18,
were less likely to be heeded because of the president's
predisposition against the sources of the information.
Again, as described above, Kennedy's advisors
(at least most of them) had been lobbying for a more
robust space effort at least since Johnson had been
selected as the Vice Presidential nominee. The feedback
received by Kennedy in the first months of his
presidency showed that: 1) The United States had taken
a beating in international prestige, because of Laos,
Cuba, and the Soviet space effort, and 2) the U.S. had
the technological capability to compete successfully
with the Soviets in an area that had proven to have
prestige value. The relevant actors, particularly NASA,
had already in many ways committed themselves to the
moon shot as a long-term goal. It remained only to get
the new President's approval.
The Apollo project decision is, in many ways, a
classical case of bureaucratic bargaining. The
maneuvering between the services demonstrates both the
perceived importance of space in the minds of the
various service chiefs, and the extent to which they
were willing to compete for the mission, prestige, and
budgetary bonus that came with space. Students of the
Eisenhower presidency know that one of "Ike's
p. 79.

priorities was cutting spending, and in particular
military spending. The only military forces not to see
drastic cuts in the period 1954-1961 were our nuclear
forces. Adoption of the policy of massive retaliation
was not only an effort to forestall the Soviet's use of
their conventional force advantage; it was also a
strategy that promised to restrain military spending.
Our reliance on nuclear forces meant that conventional
force spending could be significantly cut (or so it was
thought at the time). The shrinking conventional-force
budget sharpened the pre-existing competition among the
In analyzing President Kennedy's decision to
pursue Project Apollo, it should not be implied that
Kennedy chose this goal simply because Eisenhower would
not. The decision is best seen as the result of a
bureaucratic bargaining relationship that started
immediately after the launch of Sputnik, with roots
going as far back as the end of World War II. The
actors in this relationship include the two Presidents
involved, the military services, the scientific
community, represented by the PSAC, NASA, and the
Congress, whose most vocal and influential member was
Lyndon Johnson.
The ultimate authority for decisions on the
space program rested, of course, with Presidents

Eisenhower and Kennedy, with an important measure of
authority retained by the Congress. However, then, as
today, the impetus for programs came from the Executive
branch, with the Congress usually concurring, or at best
exercising a fiscal veto. For all the effort expended
by Johnson during his committee hearings, it was still
Dwight Eisenhower that shaped the nation's space policy.
The Congress, in this case, had more potential to gain
its goals through the use of influence on the Chief
Executive, rather than by its (limited) budgetary
The first important decision in U.S. space
policy was Eisenhower's decision to create NASA and vest
it with sole responsibility for space exploration. As
mentioned earlier, this decision implemented the advice
given by the President's Science Advisory Council. The
PSAC was made up largely of scientists, rather than
engineers or military men. These scientists were
naturally conservative and steeped in' the experimental
philosophy, which emphasized "good science" through
carefully controlled experiments conducted one step at a
time. The pressure to match the Russians' feat was
simply not good science to them.
Opposing these conservative scientists were the
military services and the Congress. Both wanted to
mount an immediate effort to answer and surpass Soviet

space efforts, for political and, to a minor extent,
military reasons. Again, the military services greatly
desired the prestige and money associated with a high-
effort space program, but were unwilling to cooperate
because of blatant self-promotion. It is interesting to
speculate about what might have happened had the
services managed to cooperate rather than compete. A
"unified front" presented by the military would
certainly have seemed less petty than the squabbling
that occurred. As it was, the influence of each service
was largely spent in competing with its sister services.
The Congress also wanted to be seen as having a hand in
the formation of policy, particularly in an area where
the U.S. would be directly competing with the "Red
Menace". Students of the federal government are also
aware of the continual tension over policy formation
between the executive and legislative branches.
The dependence relationships between the various
actors and President Eisenhower in this context are very
revealing. Of all Presidents in this century,
Eisenhower was probably the least dependent on the
military services for advicemost of the service chiefs
during his term used to be his subordinates as the
European theater commander in World War II. Eisenhower
had a distrust of military advice that could only have
been developed through intimate knowledge of the

motivations of those giving the advice.
President Eisenhower could not claim the same
mastery over the Congress as he did over the military.
While not a career politician, he was acutely aware of
the problems that a hostile Congress could cause a
president. The Congress, too, had to be wary of the
President. His immense popularity made it dangerous to
attack him, and the old general had proved to have well
developed political reflexes. In summary, the
relationship between the President and the Congress was
not unusual for a modern Administration.
Finally, the relationship between Eisenhower and
his science advisors must be considered. While there is
little material available that directly reflects on the
president's relations with scientists, some conclusions
can be drawn from Eisenhower's experiences. As
commander of Allied forces in Europe, Eisenhower had
first-hand experience with the results of scientific
research, especially with the German "wonder weapons"
such as the V-l (the first cruise missile), the V-2 (the
first battlefield ballistic missile), and Hitler's jet-
and rocket-powered aircraft. There is nothing in
Eisenhower's background that suggests awe of scientists,
but he had ample reason to respect their opinions, and
little reason to distrust them, especially when their
advice on the space program agreed with his instincts.

Overall, as a strong Executive, Eisenhower was able to
control the bargaining process to his satisfaction.
At first glance, my depiction of Eisenhower as a
strong President would appear to be at odds with the
popular historical conception of the Eisenhower
presidency. When I consider, however, that Eisenhower
entered the presidency with an explicit agenda that
included getting the U.S. out of Korea, cutting the
federal budget, and maintaining America's position
relative to the U.S.S.R.; and that he accomplished all
these objectives while confronted with a Democratically-
controlled Congress, I cannot help but conclude that the
popular conception is somewhat incorrect.
The situation was to be quite different for
President Kennedy. While also a war hero, John Kennedy
had been raised to take his place in the Kennedy dynasty
from childhood. He became his father's favorite son
after his older brother, Joe, was killed in Europe.
Again, Kennedy's lack of expertise in the area of space
policy has already been described. The actors in this
phase of the decision are somewhat different from those
in the Eisenhower administration. The conservative
faction was again represented by the PSAC, with the
president's Science Advisor, Dr. Wiesner, at its head,
and the pro-"space race" forces represented by NASA and
the new Vice President.

It was hardly an even match. Kennedy campaigned
on the basis of his youth, and, to deflect criticism,
emphasized that he would not be easy on the Soviets.
His outlook on the world situation was focused on the
East-West competition. This bilateral focus, and his
desire to distance himself from the Eisenhower
administration, meant that the PSAC had little influence
with the new president. Lyndon Johnson, on the other
hand, had impeccable anti-Communist credentials, and a
shrewd political instinct. His reputation gave him much
greater influence with Kennedy, although he still often
felt like an outsider. Johnson's thorough preparation
of the president, and the events of the spring of 1961,
made Kennedy quite ready to view space as an arena in
which the U.S. could compete for prestige with the
Soviets, without direct military confrontation.
The Apollo decision was certainly made in an
environment characterized by a high level of "noise".
Apart from all the difficulties of establishing a
working presidency, the first five months of the Kennedy
administration were full of challenges to be faced and
new policies to be established. Only the most stressful
were mentioned above. President Kennedy was well aware
of the overload of information with which he was faced,
as can be seen by his early assembly of groups of
advisers. In particular, the coping responses of

selective perception called insulation, in the form of
his advisers, and prejudice, in his immediate rejection
of the Eisenhower administration's position, are
evident. Klapp's cycle of opening and closing is easy
to observe in this situation. Kennedy "opened to the
idea of a "New Frontier", to alternatives to
Eisenhower's policies, and to the concept of a
competition of prestige versus the Soviet Union. He
closed to the decision to go to the moon under the
pressure of the challenges to the U.S. in the spring of
The evolution of U.S. space policy also shows
the consequences of information overload. While
decision lag was not critical, there was a delay of
several months between the bureaucracy's endorsement of
the moon as a goal and Kennedy's decision, because of
his involvement with other issues. Consensus lags were
evident in the conflict among the mission agencies
involved. Finally, meaning gap can be seen in the
differing positions adopted by the Vice President and
the President's Science Adviser.
Kennedy's ignorance of space issues has been,
perhaps, overestablished. However, the dynamics of his
decision clearly support Averch's position that policy
decisions on science and technology are not
fundamentally different from those on other issues. The

decision, again, was a political choice on a
technological issue, and moreover, a decision taken for
political, not technological, reasons. Furthermore,
Kennedy's reliance on advisors for the information
leading to the decision to go to the moon has been
exhaustively presented.
The last consideration is the impact of
Kennedy's personality. Much has been made of his
personal charisma, of the effect of "Camelot". As to
whether Kennedy was an authoritarian or a participative
decision maker, I contend that he occupied a middle
ground. Kennedy believed in confrontation, and framed
his entire foreign policy in terms of the East-West
problem. On the other hand, he was clearly aware of the
limits of his knowledge, and relied on his advisors for
the information that led to his decisions. Studies of
the Cuban missile crisis have indicated that Kennedy may
have placed too much reliance on the advice of others.
Although it is clear that he made the final decisions in
these matters, the historical record shows that the
boundaries of the decisions were often set by others.
The comment above also indicates that Kennedy
may not have been far from the middle of the spectrum
between the open and closed mind. Kennedy's adoption of
"new ideas" was very much in line with his belief system
of being the antithesis of Eisenhower. The new

President's anti-communism, while certainly emphasized
for campaign purposes, appears to have been sincerely
held, even when implementation of policies to support
those beliefs involved considerable risks, as in the
Cuban missile crisis.
This case study, even more than that of the
Manhattan Project, supports all of the theoretical
perspectives put forward early in this thesis. The
information system of the bureaucracy selected
information favorable to Project Apollo over information
opposed to it. The positions of the military services
on the feasibility and cost of putting a man on the Moon
in the 1950s would seem to include a noticeable amount
of distortion. I have already analyzed at length the
protracted bureaucratic political competition; first for
the job of space exploration, and subsequently for a
manned mission to the Moon as a goal.
Bureaucratic pressures on individual decision
makers also appear to have been manifested as predicted
by the perspectives of Klapp, Averch, Presthus, and
Rokeach. The fact that Kennedy almost totally ignored
space as a policy area is an indication of the extent to
which he relied on his filtering mechanism. Averch's
contention of a decision maker's reliance on advisors is
similarly borne out. Presthus' analysis of
authoritarian tendencies in decision makers is somewhat

supported in studying Kennedy's support of confrontation
and focus on power relations. Finally, the new
President's relatively unquestioning acceptance of
Johnson's advice on space shows a mind that does not
represent the extremes of an open belief system.

On the evening of March 23, 1983, President
Reagan surprised most of the nation (and many members of
the government) when he announced:
I am directing a comprehensive and intensive effort
to define a long-term research and development
program to begin to achieve our ultimate goal of
eliminating the threat posed by strategic nuclear
Since that time, the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI),
somewhat fancifully labeled "Star Wars" by the press,
has been the most controversial issue in the arena of
strategic conflict. In this age of information leaks,
it is remarkable that no prior notice of this dramatic
policy departure reached the American public.
This thesis will next attempt to trace the
genesis of SDI within the analytic framework already
described. Portions of this analysis will be
speculative, as much of the contributing research and
many of the actors are still unavailable to the public.
There does appear to be sufficient information in the
public domain to draw tentative conclusions of some
1Donna U. Gregory, ed., The Nuclear Predicament:
A Sourcebook. (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1986), p.

validity. First, an understanding of SDI is necessary.
The Strategic Defense Initiative, in its present
form, is a research and development project. These
terms have specific meaning in the defense community.
Research is investigation into basic sciences and
associated technologies without a specific outcome in
mind. The goal of research is to expand our knowledge
of some physical phenomenon. Development, on the other
hand, is the application of knowledge toward some
specific capability.2- The Department of Defense (DoD)
divides development into three stages: conceptual,
exploratory, and advanced.
Conceptual development means coming up with
ideas of how a task might be accomplished. Most defense
needs are first expressed in very general terms, for
example, to provide a defense of the United States
against ballistic missiles. The task for the conceptual
development phase is to invent concepts of how this
mission might be accomplished. At the end of this
phase, the most promising concept or concepts will be
chosen to proceed to the next phase, exploratory
development. Exploratory development is the first phase
of development in which actual "hardware" is produced.
2The information on the development process
comes from my experiences at the USAF's Electronic
Systems Division, Hanscom AFB, MA. I served as an R&D
program manager from October 1980 to November 1983.

Tests are done to prove the feasibility of concepts, and
to define more precisely costs and technical risks. The
hardware produced is of the prototype sort, and often
subsystems are tested separately. Only when the
exploratory phase is successfully completed does a
system move to advanced development, where the
subsystems are integrated and the system is prepared for
production. In between each of these stages is a
decision point called a DSARC (Defense Systems
Acquisition Review Council) review, where the Secretary
of Defense and service representatives review the
progress of a program and decide whether to proceed to
the next phase, continue work in the current phase, or
terminate the program.
SDI, as currently defined, will carry research
and development on a ballistic missile defense (BMD)
system through the exploratory development stage. At
least three or four years will pass before sufficient
research and testing can be carried out to prove whether
the concept is technically viable. The exploratory and
conceptual phases are the points at which it is easiest
to terminate a program. Once a program is past the
exploratory phase, the financial and political
investment made in it DoD and the President lend a
momentum to a project that makes it practically
invulnerable. Also, the political interests of members

of Congress in whose districts contractors are located
and the career interests of program managers will cause
them to fight tenaciously for the program. Therefore,
it is important to understand the utility and evolution
of the decision to embark on this program so that clear
judgments can be made as to whether it should be
This point is especially important when one
considers the controversy surrounding SDI. A large body
of scientists oppose SDI on both technical and moral
grounds. In other words, they not only do not believe
that a workable defensive system can be built, they
believe that it should not be built. The arguments
against building a strategic defense system, even if it
should prove feasible, stem from two ideas: first, that
a defensive system will undermine deterrence, and
second, that a defensive system will have some offensive
characteristics, as well.
Opposing this first group of scientists is a
smaller, but very vocal, group of supporters. This
group includes, not surprisingly, scientists involved in
SDI research, as well as some scientists and science
"popularizers" that are not directly involved with the
project. The SDI supporters directly contradict their
critics on the feasibility of SDI, and also have
introduced arguments that claim that SDI can enhance

deterrence without posing a significant offensive threat
to the Soviet Union. The arguments of both sides are
involved, technical, and far from conclusive. Suffice
it to say that SDI is the most controversial concept in
the nuclear arms race since the attempted deployment of
first-generation anti-ballistic missile (ABM) systems in
the late 1960s. This high level of political
significance may also lead supporters and critics of SDI
to exaggerate the successes and failures of the test
program, in order to achieve an early decision for or
against the project. The intermingling of technical and
political considerations in defense projects is not new:
consider the MX missile program, the B-l bomber, and the
original SAFEGUARD ABM system, all of which faced
opposition on political grounds, and all of which had
the test data on the system used for and against the
One other thing to remember about SDI is that it
is not a totally new program. Many of the projects that
are sponsored by SDI were already underway in the
laboratories and acquisition divisions of the DoD. SDI
gathers these programs together under central
management, and additionally provides a significantly
higher level of funding.
In his March 23, 1983 speech. President Reagan
spoke of "careful consultation with my advisers,

including the Joint Chiefs of Staff," leading to his
decision to pursue SDI.3 These discussions must have
been limited to a very select group of advisers, because
much of the DoD was as surprised by the address as was
the public. My investigation of the decision has led to
the conclusion that a single document may have been the
"trigger" for this decision, just as Einstein's letter
was the trigger that led to the development of the
atomic bomb. That document is a report called "High
Frontier," from a study conducted in 1981 by the
Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think
tank. The main proponent of this project is Daniel 0.
Graham, a retired Army general.4
However, Graham was much more than just another
retired Army general. He served as a Deputy Director of
the CIA and Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency
(DIA) before his retirement, and was one of Ronald
Reagan's principal military advisors during the 1980
campaign. Fearing what he saw as an increasing military
imbalance between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., Graham
insisted that the United States needed to make a
"technological end run on the Soviets." His view was
that the fundamental flaw in U.S. strategy was its
3Gregory, p. 214.
4Ben Bova, Star Peace: Assured Survival. (New
York: Tom Doherty Associates, 1986), pp. 145-147.

dependence on the concept of Mutually Assured
Destruction (MAD). Graham viewed the situation
engendered by MAD as propagating an endless,
increasingly dangerous arms race. His solution was to
use currently available technology to create a
multi-layered satellite and ground-based defense system
to make the likelihood of a militarily successful attack
on the United States very remote.5
After the completion of the report, Graham
founded a non-profit organization titled after his work.
Using his political contacts, he was able to enlist
support from several prominent conservatives, including
Phyllis Schlafly, several Congressmen and Senators,
and prominent industrialists such as Justin Dart,
Joseph Coors, Jack Hume, and Karl Bendetson, who are
close enough to President Reagan to be considered
part of his "kitchen cabinet."6
At the same time, the Reagan Administration was
searching for new defense initiatives. Graham's report,
along with a proposal for space-based nuclear ABM
weapons from Edward Teller,7 fell on very receptive
ears. In a February, 1983, meeting with the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, President Reagan apparently decided on
6Ibid., p. 147.
7Gregg Herken, "The earthly origins of Star
Wars", Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 43 (October
1987): 21.

his course of action. At the meeting, the service
chiefs provided their evaluations of the utility and
possibility of creating ballistic missile defenses (BHD)
to protect ICBH silos. The group also discussed the
status of the MX project, which was facing major
opposition in the Congress. While the Joint Chiefs were
discussing BMD as a means to protect missiles,
Reagan saw BMD in a larger context, as a means of
protecting not only the missiles, but the cities and
the people of the United States and its allies.
More than that, a space-based defense might help to
"sell" MX to the Congress.8
While the JCS and Reagan's closest advisors were
aware of his liking for the idea of a space-based ABM
defense, the President apparently drafted the SDI
portion of his March 23 speech by himself, asking only a
few of his closest advisors to review it, with one of
the principal reviewers being George A. Keyworth II, the
President's science advisor. From all available
information, no additional scientific analysis was
carried out between the February meeting and the
speech.9 The decision to pursue SDI seems unequivocally
to have been a unilateral one by President Reagan.
How well does this narrative fit the theoretical
perspectives thus far presented? From an information- 9
Bova, pp. 150, 154.
9Ibid., pp. 155-156.

systems perspective, there is an interesting contrast to
he drawn from the two available sources of information
for the President, that is governmental and
non-governmental channels. Since much of the work now
funded by SDI was already being sponsored by various
components of the DoD, it seems rather ironic that the
advocacy of far greater levels of funding came from
outside the government. This irony is, however,
entirely consistent with information-systems theory. In
accepting this perspective, one would expect the mission
agencies to be preoccupied with routine information,
much of which revolves around day-to-day operations and
funding issues. The synthesis of disparate projects
supervised by several agencies is, at best, a difficult
job for the federal government. Also, the paths by
which information flows from the research elements to
top-level decision makers are long ones in today's
bureaucracy. The chances are great that relevant
information will not reach the top levels because of the
many layers of selection and distortion in the SfirT
hierarchy. The High Frontier report itself is a good
example of nonroutine, discontinuous information in that
it adopts a radical (in terms of DoD analyses),
"low-tech" approach to a problem that the government had
been unsuccessfully throwing money at for two decades.
Graham's approach of using currently available missiles,

guidance systems, and commmand and control systems, even
if it had been developed within the R&D community, would
have faced strong opposition from those who valued the
status quo.
The reasons for the success of the High Frontier
report in capturing the attention of President Reagan
are very similar to those that led to the acceptance of
the arguments in Albert Einstein's letter by President
Roosevelt. First, the report was provided by a source
known and trusted by Reagan, and one with a seemingly
impressive record. Second, the President was to some
extent prepared for High Frontier by the search launched
by the Administration for new defense conceptsReagan
was expecting new ideas. Finally, the concept itselfa
shield for America from the missiles of the Communists,
with the promise of more freedom for the U.S. to
intervene where it sees fitwas probably personally
very appealing to President Reagan. Selection errors
were therefore minimized, and any distortion of the
information made the proposal more rather than less
attractive. It is also important to note that the
secrecy with which the decision was made effectively
selected out any negative information on SDI that might
have been uncovered in a thorough inter-agency review.
The feedback and feedforward loops of the Reagan
White House also tended to reinforce the opportunities

for SDI. In the early 1980's the President's
pronouncements tended to demonstrate his continued view
of the Soviet Union as the "Evil Empire". The Soviet
invasion of Afghanistan was still at a high tempo, the
Sandinista government of Nicaragua was allegedly
"exporting revolution", and many terrorist acts were
carried out by groups associated with Soviet-backed
states such as Libya and Syria. This situation meant
that the level of perceived external threat was
extremely high. Furthermore, the search for new
strategies for the strategic competition between the
U.S. and the U.S.S.R. was not showing much in the way of
results. Even the controversial "war fighting" strategy
of Presidential Directive 59 (PD 59), which directed the
services to build systems and develop tactics and
strategies to "prevail" in an extended nuclear conflict,
was an artifact of the Carter Administration. Finally,
hopes for nuclear arms negotiations seemed dim. Those
involved in the feedforward loop must have been almost
relieved, then, that a fresh approach had been found.
Examining the evolution of this decision from a
bargaining perspective is also illuminating. The actors
involved include Gen. Graham, with the High Frontier
concept; Dr. Teller and Senators Malcom Wallop,
R-Wyoming, and Harrison Schmidt, R-New Mexico, who

formed what has been called the "laser lobby";10 the
"kitchen cabinet" of Bendetsen, Coors, and others; and
the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). Notable by their
absence are many of the Presidents most important
sources of advice: the Departments of State, Defense
and Energy, the entire intelligence community, the Arms
Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), and the Office of
Management and Budget (OMB). The decision process was
remarkable because of its secrecy and restricted
President Reagan is a man who reportedly places
great value on close acquaintances. Graham and Teller
had considerable influence with the President because of
their roles as campaign advisors; Senators Wallop and
Schmidt, well placed in the leadership of a Republican-
dominated Senate, could provide considerable legislative
support; and the "kitchen cabinet", of course, was made
up of long-time friends and acquaintances. The JCS,
made up of career military men with no intimate
connections with the President, suffered in contrast.
Note that all of these actors were, to some extent, in
support of missile defensesless biased actors who
might have opposed the idea were excluded from the
debate. The bargaining was also notable in that
differences between proponents of various defensive
10Herken, p. 20.

systems were muted, unlike the infighting among the
services for control of space policy in the 1950's.
They had, indeed, been discussing possibilities among
themselves for some time: "Along with retired Lt. Gen.
Daniel Graham. ., Teller and the kitchen cabinet had
been meeting regularly since July 1981."11
From the perspective of a theory of information
overload, the importance of key advisors and personal
acquaintances does much to explain the acceptance of the
Graham report by the President. The parties proposing
missile defenses were an integral part of Reagan's
filtering mechanism. The current debate about the SDI
program is also perfectly illustrative of the problems
of decision lags, consensus lags, and meaning gaps. The
decision lag, where new technologies were not recognized
by decision makers, would have been likely to continue
in the case of BMD if the High Frontier report and
Teller's briefings had not been successful. Consensus
lag is certainly evident in the current debates about
SDI, as is meaning gap, where many of the debaters
cannot even agree what SDI is, much less what it should
be, or whether it should even be an element of U.S.
A policy-analysis approach to SDI would also point
out the importance of advisors. President Reagan is *
L1Ibid., p. 21.

certainly no scientist, and even those with the relevant
backgrounds are divided on the feasibility and
desirability of the program. From the available
evidence, Reagan's support for SDI grew from the advice
of a few trusted advisors. The content of that advice,
at least as published in the High Frontier report, is
decidedly emotional, and very short on a measured policy
analysis of the concept.12 Averch's advice to weigh the
information provided by one's advisors skeptically may
well have been ignored here.
Considering personality impacts on decisions, it
would probably be fair to characterize President
Reagan's personality as a charismatic, authoritarian
one. During his first six years in office, Reagan was
arguably the most popular president of the latter
twentieth century, and perhaps one of the top six or
seven most contemporarily popular presidents in the
history of the republic. His stands on such issues as
the contras, pornography, abortion, and arms control
indicate an authoritarian bent. These personality
traits are also consistent with the decision to pursue
SDI, and with the manner in which that decision was
made. Reagan's "mission" to strengthen America
militarily and to provide it with more freedom in
was responsible for the initial analysis of
the High Frontier report for ESD.

international affairs, as well as his concern with the
Soviet Union, make an effective ABM system an extremely
attractive goal. To this fact can be added his
often-stated belief in American inventiveness and
"know-how." Reagan's unilateral decision to pursue SDI,
based on the advice of a few trusted intimates, is a
good example of the decision making process of an
authoritarian personality.
The evaluation of Ronald Reagan as having an
open or closed mind is not as straightforward as it
might appear at first glance. Reagan campaigned on a
right-wing platform that included balancing the federal
budget, banning abortion, reinstituting prayer in
schools, and a belief in the Soviet Union as an "evil
empire". At the end of his second term, the U.S. budget
deficit had skyrocketed, abortion still was legal,
prayer- still was not allowed in public schools, and
Reagan had become the first president to sign a treaty
actually reducing nuclear stockpiles. The "real" Reagan
will probably not be understood until the passage of
time allows a more objective historical perspective to
develop; however, the concept of Ronald Reagan as a
rigid, totally closed mind, or as an actor merely
reading lines dictated by a Machiavellian staff, both
seem to be inaccurate.
To close this chapter, it again seems that the

facts of this case support the theoretical perspectives
set out a the beginning of this thesis. Information
selection and distortion were important effects of the
President's information-gathering and -filtering system.
Bureaucratic bargaining, while not an explicit factor in
the decision process, may have been one of the reasons
the decision was made in such secrecyReagan and the
proponents of SDI had no desire to become mired in an
extended bureaucratic competition.
Individual effects on decision makers were also
apparent. President Reagan has been proved to be quite
dependent on his advisors for informationthe many
"what the President meant to say" gaffes of the early
press conferences attest to the limited expertise Reagan
brought to many policy areas. His rhetorical statements
indicate an authoritarian tendency, although, as
mentioned above, history will have to render a final
verdict in this area. The degree to which Reagan can be
considered to have an open or a closed mind is also
still somewhat problematical, but his relatively
uncritical acceptance of the positions of SDI
supporters, who Reagan considered authorities on the
subject of strategic defenses, argue for a mind that
might tend to the closed direction of the spectrum.

This thesis has attempted to discover and define
a theoretical framework by which to analyze major
governmental decisions on technological issues. I have
asserted that there are endemic qualities of both the
structure of government and the people who occupy key
positions that shape the approach of government to major
technological issues.
The theoretical framework used begins by viewing
the structure of government relevant to this work as a
system of information flows. The efficacy of government
in handling information depends on the nature of the
information and the qualities of those who process it.
In terms of technological advances, the diffuse nature
of the scientific and technical (S&T) bureaucracy and
the nonroutine, discontinuous nature of the descriptions
of unique opportunities and dangers tend to get lost in
the flood of routine, continuous information produced by
the day-to-day activities of the government. Especially
in cases of fundamental advances in technology, as
evidenced in the case studies on the Manhattan Project
and SDI, there is no evidence that the relevant

government personnel were aware of the opportunity and
the danger involved. Large bureaucratic structures
simply do not seem to be very good at coping with
nonroutine, discontinuous information, especially if
that information is not usually viewed as being critical
to the success of the bureaucracy.
The sheer volume of information in the
bureaucracy means that decision makers at multiple
levels work in conditions of information overload,
increasing the chances that information will not be
processed. Additionally, decision makers search for
information relevant to the "business" concerns of their
organizations, and are not, as a rule, perceptually
ready for information out of the ordinary.
Distortion also contributes to this phenomenon,
through the presence of noise in the environment and
because of previous experiences and the stress under
which the decision maker functions. It is literally
impossible to calculate the number of opportunities that
may have been dismissed by decision makers through
unintentional distortion of information, or of projects
that have gained in stature because of the distorted
perceptions of these decision makers. An example from
President Reagan's SDI speech may be illustrative:
[W]hereas neither Martin Anderson's 1979 memo
nor the kitchen cabinet's 1982 report plainly
spelled out that defending Americans, and not just
the U.S. strategic deterrent, should be the goal,

Reagan made clear in a parting admonition that his
version of SDI was to protect cities and people, not
merely missiles.1
In the period immediately following the speech, several
different points of view on the ultimate purpose were
expressed by different members of the administration,
and it was some weeks until a "corporate" position was
agreed to by all the players. There is still argument
six years later about what the goals of SDI are or
should be.
The feedback and feedforward loops of government
can also distort or select out information, by defining
a problem or the possible solutions to a problem so
narrowly as to preclude options that should be
considered. This problem is evident in Lyndon Johnson's
and NASA's preparation of President Kennedy to support a
space race with the Soviets, and specifically to choose
the moon as a goal. "Tunnel vision" would also seem to
be a factor in the Reagan decision on SDI. In both
cases, more conservative voices were either excluded
from the decision process, or given little weight in the
The bargaining perspective has gained relevance
with the growth of a dedicated S&T bureaucracy in the
post World War II period. Whereas in 1939 there seemed
1Gregg Herken, "The earthly origins of Star
Wars", Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 43 (October
1987): 26.

to be little knowledge government interest or
involvement in nuclear science, today it seems
impossible to conduct research that does not, to some
degree, rely on governmental funding. With this funding
comes oversight by federal agencies. The research, and
its associated funding, are therefore resources which
are the basis of competition among various government
agencies, and between groups within agencies. Note,
again, that the emphasis of the competition is on the
funding, not on the research itself. Given that federal
funding accounts for approximately 50% of all research
funds in the United States,2 the motivations and
mechanics of the decisions made are of importance to the
nation as a whole. The efforts of interested parties
not just to influence decisions on S&T policy, but to
define the boundaries of discussion, are clear in the
case studies on Project Apollo and SDI.
Information overload is one of the primary
limitations on decision makers. The high noise level of
governmental decision making forces decision makers to
practice selective perception. There simply is no
alternative if executives are to function. The
necessity of having advisors for a president to lessen
the amount of information with which the chief executive
2Deborah Shapley and Rustum Roy, Lost at the
Frontier; U.S. Science and Technology Policy Adrift.
(Philadelphia: ISI Press, 1985), p. 4.

has to deal was apparent in Roosevelt's time. The
situation has only intensified as the amount of
information has grown with time. As a result of this
information overload, lags in decisions and consensus,
and gaps in meaning are inevitable. The decisions
arrived at in this study were completed in a relatively
short period of time, months if not weeks. Given the
increasing complexity of government, and of society as a
whole, it seems that decision and consensus lags and
meaning gaps are likely to intensify in the future. The
ongoing debate over SDI demonstrates the persistence of
this problem.
Given the technological content of the
information, the question is raised of the ability of
decision makers intelligently to use the information
they get. Because of the breadth of subjects, no one
person can understand the implications of all the
information received by a decision maker such as the
president. The policy-analysis perspective shows that
the result is that decisions on technological issues are
made in a political context, with decision makers
heavily dependent on their technical advisers. While
this reliance is not necessarily a shortcoming or fault
of government, it again emphasizes the ability of
advisors to circumscribe the limits of debate. Even a
strong and well-informed president such as Eisenhower