Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories–Discovering IDA, 1967

Chapter 8: Discovering IDA, 1967 (ii)
The annual reports also revealed that Columbia University President Grayson Kirk was not only a trustee of IDA, but was also on the executive committee of IDA’s board of trustees. They described and bragged about the military applications of weapons research work that, under university sponsorship, IDA research workers engaged in at IDA headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, in cooperation with Pentagon officials, using language like the following:

“As the oldest division of the Institute, the Weapons Systems Evaluation Division [WSED] celebrated its tenth anniversary this year. During the past decade, the primary WSED mission has been to conduct analyses and evaluations of operational and future weapons systems for the Weapons Systems Evaluation Group [WSEG] in response to the needs of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Director of Defense Research and Engineering, and other components of the Office of the Secretary of Defense…Added emphasis has in recent years been placed on studies of military logistics and operations in Southeast Asia and on studies of anti-submarine warfare….

“During the past year, the Division continued its substantial efforts in evaluating ballistic missile capabilities. It also studied low-altitude aircraft operation from both offensive and defensive points of view…studied fire support of counterinsurgency situations…Other studies that were completed during the year dealt with various topics, including…Southeast Asia problems….

“The mission of the Research and Engineering Support Division [RSED] is to analyze natural phenomena and to evaluate systems that are of particular interest to the national security.

“…The Division carried out intensive studies of problems of tactical warfare and remote area conflict…

“Several of the study groups in tactical warfare systems focused on…the possibilities of airborne television reconnaissance at night, and potential methods for personnel protection, particularly for counterinsurgency operations. One of the operations research projects that was carried out was concerned with available data bases for counterinsurgency operations….”

The Annual reports also noted that IDA’s university ties were important because it enabled the Pentagon to more easily recruit university professors to perform weapons research work who might have objected to working with a purely U.S. military-directed, non-university-affiliated organization, in language like the following:

“The Jason Division was created in 1958 as an attempt to expose outstanding university scientists—mostly physicists—to critical defense needs in the belief that they could make significant contributions to the solution of defense problems…The intent of this experimental approach was to provide a mechanism to make available to outstanding university scientists an opportunity to work regularly but not exclusively on problems of importance to the national security in a way that would not exact a career penalty.”

The annual reports also revealed that eleven other major universities besides Columbia—M.I.T., Princeton, Penn State, University of Michigan, University of Chicago, University of California at Berkeley, Tulane, Stanford, University of Illinois, Case Western Reserve and the California Institute of Technology—were also institutional members of IDA. Finally, the annual reports indicated that IDA’s Jason Division, which consisted of university professors, met each summer to collectively perform practically applicable counter-insurgency weapons research, using language like the following:

“In 1964 a new excursion was made. Increased Government attention to such problems as counterinsurgency, insurrection, and infiltration led to the suggestion that Jason members might be able to provide fresh insight into problems that are not entirely in the realm of physical science.”

At least three Columbia University professors, Leon Lederman, Henry Foley and a Professor of Mathematics named Bernard Koopman, were listed as being IDA Jason Division weapons development researchers.

I took a lot of notes and by the following weekend the “Columbia SDS Research Committee” paper which exposed Columbia’s IDA ties was written up and typed. In Spring 1967 there wasn’t really a “Columbia SDS Research Committee.” But because I wished to emphasize the importance of Columbia SDS, not my own individual contribution, I credited the “Columbia SDS Research Committee” with authorship of the paper.

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