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The Militarization of America's Universities
by fiat pax (fiatpaxucsc [at]
Sunday May 4th, 2003 12:59 PM
America's Universities are in service of the warfare state.
How Americaís Universities Came to Serve the Forces of War

This year the federal government of the United States will spend $107 billion on scientific research and development. Much of money will go to private research firms, corporations, and other institutions. Public and private universities are another major recipient of these federal funds.

Funds are dealt out by different federal agencies including the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Health, the Departments of Commerce, Agriculture, Transportation and others. Dominating the control and allocation of government money spent on scientific research is the Department of Defense (DoD). The DoDís share of the pie is 54.4% of all federal research funds. This amounts to $58 billion, over twice what is spent on health and medicine research ($26 billion), and an obscene 29x what is spent on natural resources and environmental research ($2 billion).

This description of federal allocations is also conservative in what it defines as defense related spending. Not included is the category of space research and technology, primarily funded by NASA, an agency with a nominal civilian designation, but a clearly military oriented service. NASAís research into aeronautics has always been of interest to the military, as has space since the 1960's when the beginnings of the modern militaryís central nervous system (thousands of satellites) were put into orbit. From 1985 - 1994 the Defense Department filled 35% of every Space Shuttle load making it the largest user of the program by far. In 2003 this category of research represented $7.4 billion, 6% of the total budget. The proportion of these funds that American universities receive has fluctuated over time and area of study.

Leveraging Science for War

Since WWII, DoD funding of scientific research, development, testing, and evaluation has remained the first priority of federal research funds. The military led the way in creating federal agencies, offices and partnerships with Americaís universities and research centers. Prior to WWII there had been no serious attempt by the federal government to fund academic research. During WWII, the DoD created agencies and linkages that provided billions of dollars to universities and corporations to research and design the weapons that would win the war and wage future wars. Among these weapons was most notably the atomic bomb, but also the proximity fuze, missile technology, and radar. Breakthroughs in electronics during the war led to the modification of anti-aircraft guns with analog computers, used to calculate the firing times and trajectories necessary to hit high speed targets like fighter-bomber aircraft and the German V-1 rocket. Computers were used to calculate artillery tables, they solved complicated engineering problems, decoded enemy communications, and opened up the future of technological war.

The Enlistment of Science and Technology

Leading members of America's academic institutions joined Vannevar Bush, an electrical engineer at the Massachusettes Institute of Technology (MIT) in the creation of the National Defense Research Committee. The committeeís mandate was to conduct research in service of Americaís military. It was composed of Frank Jewitt (National Academy of Science and AT&T), James Connant (President of Harvard), Karl Compton (President of MIT), and Richard Tolman (Caltech). A year later the same men founded the Office of Scientific Research and Development, which allowed them more ability to take research projects from basic phases into the development and applications stages. President Roosivelt signed off on the efforts signaling that, "essentially for the first time, the proper function of government included support of basic research by university scientists.". Toward the wars end the future of academia and the military were bound. Charles E. Wilson, Executive VP of the War Production Board , President of General Motors Corp., and later Secretary of Defense under the Eisenhower administration, summed it up in 1944 saying:

"What is more natural and logical than that we should henceforth mount our national policy upon the solid fact of an industrial capacity for war, and a research capacity for war that is also in being? It seems to me that anything less is foolhardy.".

According to historian Richard Abrams, "As the war neared its end, Edward L. Bowles, science advisor to the secretary of war Henry Stimson, called for 'an effective peacetime integration' of the military with the resources of higher education.". The Office of Naval Research quickly took to this task of integration, and by 1949 it was funding thousands of research projects, at hundreds of universities nationwide5. Founded in 1946, it remains the largest distributor of DoD funds. Soon after the ONRís chartering, the other services got involved with the commandeering of academia for the purpose of war. The Air Force Office of Scientific Research (1952), the Army Office of Scientific Research (1958), and the Advanced Research Projects Agency (1959), later called DARPA, all established linkages between the military, universities, and corporations. In the interim of the ONRís establishment, and the coming of the other military research offices, the government chartered the National Science Foundation. The NSFís primary goal was to provide civilian, or non-military research funds, but it remains unclear as to how much this agency falls under the control or influence of military goals. In addition to funding many areas of interest to the DoD, the NSF can be interpreted as an outgrowth of the militaryís relationship with academia. In fact, the first director of the NSF was Alan Waterman, who came directly over from the Office of Naval Research to administer the new agency: The NSFís foundational years were led by the same men who constructed the vast university-military relationship. Parallel to these developments was the growth of the DOE labs, managed by the University of California, and constituting the core of the military's nuclear weapons infrastructure. These labs provided a shining example of what became he nationís Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDC), funded by the military or proxy agencies, and managed by universities, drawing from their superb human resources, and using their prestigious names as an effective legitimation of the work carried on inside.

Technological War

The war of economies bent toward productive destruction, the creation of the most effective, and horrifying weapons systems has flourished ever since. The DoD has managed to guide the disciplines of science and engineering into a militarized knowledge of control, force, application, and functionality. The military has transformed broad aspects of science, so much so that it is hard to draw the line between the civilian and military purposes of some technologies. We have in many ways an economy based on warfare, but the interaction between war and science has not only been a one way street. Warfare - strategy and tactics have been profoundly influenced by the inclusion of science. MIT professor Carl Kaysen describes it as, "...a rapid evolution of military technologies [that] has led to a much broader and more rapid interplay between technology and strategy.". The exponential expansion of capabilities, the ability to strike targets anywhere on the planet, real-time network communications, data, radar, night vision, unmanned aircraft, logistics - every new technological revolution fueled by scientific research has changed the way war is fought. The most striking example is the DoDís gaming approach to war. In his description of modern industrial societyís most apocalyptic tendencies, social theorist Herbret Marcuse described the process by which the Air Forceís RAND think tank (a quasi academic institute of the military) would create US nuclear strategy. The ìthinkersî at RAND would divide into teams, red and blue. The red team would be put on the offensive, while the blue teamís goal would be to maintain deterrence from nuclear attack. In such a way the forces of destruction are organized and readied8. Through gaming theory, the Gulf War of 1990-1 was fought out long before Hussein ever invaded Kuwait, two years to be exact. Prior to the war, the US military conducted countless games involving wildly different scenarios in the Middle East (as they still do for almost every conceivable conflict in ever last corner of the earth), several of which included the nearly exact scripting of Operation Desert Storm.9 But the games have gone much further. RANDís theorists, and other military minds have experimented with ìlimited nuclear exchangesî in regions like Vietnam, and Korea, while helping to pioneer a style of ìdetachedî, ìacademic,î and ìrationalî approaches to war:

ìMany of RANDís brightest minds - and it had these in abundance were mathematicians... trained in the techniques of ëoperations researchí (mathematical analysis of complex strategic problems, such as the optimum number of ships in a protected convoy) during the war. RAND soon began to apply statistical analysis, systems analysis, game theory, and other formal and mathematical techniques to the burgeoning problems of nuclear strategy. Their results led to a series of shifts in the US military strategy.î 3.

The History of the Militarization of America's Universities:
A Timeline

Technoscience, the child of the Pentagon has changed itís creator as much as the military has changed the academic institutions which have carried out the research. The military entered academia, shaped it, and fostered a cooperation by asking for superior weapons What they got was the beginning of a revolution in warfare that continues to this day.

The first computers, Colussus (1943) in the UK, and ENIAC (1945) in the United States were both constructed by university professors in partnership with their governments. ENIAC was built by scientists at the University of Pennslyvania under the supervision of the US Army who desired the machine for computing ballistics calculations. ENIACís first assignment in 1946 was to calculate a particularly complicated equation for the atomic bomb program at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, administered by the University of California. ìJust before pressing a button that set the ENIAC to work on the atomic bomb, Maj. Gen. Gladeon Barnes spoke of ëmanís endless search for scientific truth.î3. What he really meant was some menís endless search for war. Computers have since found their way into every facet of life, but most funding for computer science still comes from the military. In 1999 the DoD spent $643 million to fund computer science within American universities, and this sum was projected to rise another $100 million by 200110. In addition, the most powerful computers remain in the service of the warfare-state. The UC administered Lawrence Livermore Labís ASCI White, the worldís most powerful computer is used mostly to simulate nuclear explosions, both testing aging weapons in the US stockpile, and now new weapons with designs that cannot be tested in actual explosions since the US suspended underground explosions in 1992. ASCI stands for Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative White. Accordingly, ìItís also just the beginning. The government says that to certify the nuclear arsenal with full confidence, it needs a supercomputer that is 10 times as powerful as ASCI White by 2004.î11. Clearly warfare still guides the future present and future of computing.

The entire hyper-dominance of the US military has evolved through research conducted through American universities. Without access to the best and the brightest the stream of technological and strategic innovation would dry up. For example, around 55-60% of the DoDís basic electronics research is conducted in universities13, computer science is higher, around 70%14, not surprisingly the humanities and arts recieve nothing. The DoD is extremely reliant on its access to academia. And science has been equally affected. The military-university relationship has symbiotically created an American science, or more accurately a militant form of knowledge. Science, most strikingly the disciplines of the physical sciences have been molded by this relationship, so much that physics, and engineering owe much of their theoretical basis, methodology, and purpose to assumptions about the world which include uses of force, that the earth is possessable, disposable, and winnable (assumptions that we find within and exemplified by the military). A 1953 DoD publication concerning R&D clearly explains this molding of basic physical science (and scientists) into knowledge of military application as intended,

ì maintain effective contact between the Armed Services and the scientific fraternity [note the masculine identity of Americaís scientists] of the country, so that the scientists can be legitimately encouraged to be interested in fields which are of potential importance to national defense.î 4.

The Reagan administration echoed these words with its introduction of the University Research Initiative of the 1980ís. University science was guided into fields of applicability, not knowledge, force, not energy, power, not understanding, and here it remains today. The fields have developed under these assumptions. Within electrical engineering the discipline became more focused on quantum electronics, solid state physics, applied science rather than pure science going so far as to impact the theoretical foundations6,12. Many scientists have described the structure of research within American universities as tending to force one into the arms of the military. Professors are responsible for obtaining the majority of their funding through grants. This money supports both their research, and graduate students. When upwards of 70% of the available funds are distributed by the military, professors tend to compete by moving their research toward more obvious, and much of the time directly applicable topics of interest to the Pentagon. The Mansfield Amendment of 1970 was intended to stem the military control of research by limiting DoD fuds to projects of direct relevance and application to the military15. It was believed that such a law would decrease academiaís reliance on DoD funds, which at the time supported much of the basic (non-applied) research within American universities. Instead, the law had the effect of transforming science itself into applied and military oriented topics. Military funding is structural component of the university2, the individual researcher, departments, and entire fields of study must to fit into this structure, or at least modify themselves as to gain some degree of advantage. In 1987, the American Mathematical Society, the largest association of university mathematicians took up the topic of military funding and control over knowledge through a mail referendum. The text read:

"The AMS is concerned about the large proportion of military funding of mathematics research. There is a tendency to distribute this support through narrowly focused (mission oriented) programs, and to circumvent peer review procedures. This situation may skew and ultimately injure mathematics in the United States...".

The subsequent vote was 5000 to 1300 in favor of increasing the fraction non-military funding in hopes of staving off a militarization of math (which had unfortunately occurred long before). Physicist Edward Gerjuoy and Elizabeth Baranger of the University of Pittsburgh conclude of DoD funding in the physical sciences that, "research directions are being skewed, department hiring and promotion policies probably are being influenced, and top level administration policies and recruiting may be influenced as well.". Thus is the military-university relationship. Attempts to wean scientific research from military funds have failed because they do not attack the root of the problem - the military. The historical relationship outlined above continues to this day, the military continues to fund and guide science, especially technological research, the assets of the university remain at the disposal of the warfare-state, and the quest for ever more destructive weapons continues.

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