Programs like this inform not only the Center, but those of us in
the more general public as to the interface between politics and
This program has been sponsored by a number of
organizations. Those organizations on campus include CIRES, the
graduate school, the Office of the Provost, the College of
Engineering and Applied Science, and of course, the College of
Arts and Sciences.
Your host tonight is Roger Pielke, Jr.
Roger is the director of the Center, and will interview Dr.
Keyworth this evening.
Roger earned his doctorate in 1994
in political science from the University of Colorado, and worked
for seven or eight years at NCAR as a staff scientist before
joining our faculty in the Department of Environmental Studies and
in CIRES in 2001.
He is a Fellow of CIRES. His dissertation was on topics related to
global change policy, but he has written widely, co-authored and
co-edited three books, and a boatload of articles on a variety of
topics related to atmospheric science and policy, weather policy
and decision-making, and more recently, some of the policies
related to hurricane damage and restoration associated with
It's a pleasure for me to introduce Roger and, again, welcome you
all this evening. Roger?
: All right, welcome! And to many of you, welcome back! We missed you over
the break. This is the seventh event in our year-long series
Policy, Politics and Science in the White House.
And, again, I'd like to also welcome George "Jay" Keyworth to the
University of Colorado.
In addition to the institutions that Todd mentioned, I'd also like
to thank the Southwest Research Institute here in Boulder, the
Colorado School of Mines in Golden, and Boulder-based ICAT
Managers for their contributions to making this series occur.
Any event like this requires a lot of hard work and dedication from a number
of individuals, and I'd like to thank two people in particular:
Bobbie Klein, who is the managing director of the Center for
Science and Technology Policy Research, and Ami Nacu-Schmidt, who
is our Outreach Coordinator. And a few other folks I haven't
mentioned have been very instrumental in making this event happen.
I'm sad to say this is the second-to-last event in our series. The
good news is that this was going to be the last event, but we have
heard from Frank Press, who was the science advisor to Jimmy
Carter, who declined our initial invitation for health reasons,
and feels strong enough to come visit us and is very excited to do
so. And he's going to be here on April 11th. And he tells us in
his correspondence that he's coming here to "name names." So, I'm
not sure what that means, but I hope it's a sufficient draw to
bring you back in April.
We have a content-rich website, and I hope that you'll have a
chance to take a look at it. It has all of the videos from the
previous science advisors visits, transcripts, background reading,
and plenty of information if you're interested in policy and
And now let's turn to the main event tonight. As usual, we're
going to have three parts to our series. First, Dr. Keyworth will
give some prepared remarks. After that, we'll proceed with a short
question and answer interview, where I'll interview him here on
stage, and after that, we'll open the floor to your questions for
So let me now introduce Dr. Keyworth. I could read for the entire
time that we have here, but I'll give some high points.
Dr. Keyworth is Chairman of the Progress and Freedom Foundation.
Simultaneously, he remains chairman of the Keyworth Company, a
firm established in 1986 to work with companies in developing
strategies for growth based on emerging and changing technologies.
From May 1981 to January 1986, Dr. Keyworth was Science Advisor to
President Reagan and Director of the White House Office of Science
and Technology Policy.
As the senior technical member of the President's staff, he led
the administration's efforts to capitalize on U.S. science and
technology to strengthen industrial competitiveness and was
instrumental in establishing strong budgetary priorities for
university basic research, and strengthening university
engineering programs and in stimulating more productive industrial
participation in university research and education.
Prior to his White House service, Dr. Keyworth was Director of the
Physics Division at Los Alamos National Lab, which he joined in
As a research scientist, Dr. Keyworth's contributions include
pioneering work in high- resolution spectroscopy. He has had many
-- a great deal of experience with international science and
technology policy, including working closely with France, Germany,
Israel, India, and the People's Republic of China.
Dr. Keyworth received his bachelor's degree in physics from Yale
University in 1963. He was awarded a Ph.D. in nuclear physics in
1968 from Duke University, where he conducted pioneering research
in isospin conservation in nuclear reactions.
Why don't you
join me in welcoming Dr. Keyworth to Boulder.
DR. KEYWORTH: Thank you very much, and thank you all very much for
coming out tonight.
It is always a real pleasure for me to
visit Boulder. Some might even think I live here, that I might
even be on the UC-Boulder faculty, retrained or recycled as a
Sinologist. In truth, it's just that my son and I share the same
name. So, Boulder is a special place for me. But it's also special
because of the tremendous progress that the University has made in
recent years in moving to the forefront of academic scientific
research, with UC-Boulder scientists earning three Nobel prizes in
just the last five years.
I also commend you for attempting
to provide a rational basis for understanding science policy, a
goal that I hope will not prove too elusive.
White House science advice, and OSTP, the Office of Science and
Technology Policy, work is a good window into how science policy
Now, since several other science advisors have already spoken in
this series of talks, I will refrain from giving you the history
of the office. Nor will I spend much time addressing presidential
science advising in general. Instead, I'll just try to share with
you some of my own experiences and observations from what was for
me a fascinating five years, and for the whole world a particular
time of monumental change.
It was that brief period where US-Soviet tensions first
heightened, then waned, with the Cold War quickly, and
Now, let me first insert a little
perspective. OSTP remains somewhat of an anomaly among Executive
Offices of the President, viewed by some White House staffers as
an asset, but by some others as an imposition. How a consensus
among those diverging views emerges, assuming that it ever does,
has much to do with how the office functions. And circumstances
differ. Each of us has advised different presidents, at different
times. Priorities varied, pressures were different, and
personalities created different relationships.
In my comments tonight, I'm going to dwell somewhat on the key
relationships that developed during my tenure, because they were
key to my ability to be effective.
I joined the Reagan Administration in early May, four months after
the President's inauguration and after the assassination attempt.
During the first few months, as well as during the transition
planning, there had been much debate over whether a science
advisor was, in fact, needed. Opposition stemmed largely from the
perception that OSTP in its then-form had been re-created by the
Congress to represent its, and the scientific community's,
interests in science and technology, while the White House staff
was there strictly to serve the President.
In other words,
a number of the President's closest and trusted friends and
advisors viewed a science advisor as somehow likely to be
different from them, and likely to come with an agenda that might
differ from the President's.
The countervailing view, which
eventually prevailed, was simply that since so many of the
Administration's top priorities - for example, defense, energy and
the changing economy - were deeply rooted in science and
technology, that they needed a team member with competency in
science. Without expertise on the President's policy team, the
White House would be dependent upon the external agencies, and
they would be even less certain to share the President's
So by the time I was invited to Washington as a candidate for
science advisor, the debate was over, it was resolved, and I
sensed a real spirit of welcome.
Now, in its first term,
the process of policy development in the Reagan Administration was
conducted in a somewhat more centrally organized manner than in
Edwin Meese, who bore the title of
Counselor to the President, coordinated all policy making, whether
domestic, defense or even foreign policy. This wide-ranging power,
along with Ed's real talent for the job and his uniquely close
relationship with the President, led to him often being referred
to in the press as the "Deputy President."
one of the means Ed used to coordinate policy development was to
hold meetings each evening in his office, with leaders of each
White House office involved in policy matters, including OMB,
about six of us, to discuss both thetactical issues of the day as
well as the longer-lasting, more strategic areas.
As a member, Ed Meese made it possible for me, early on, to
develop a relationship with the President, as I will explain, and
with the other members of the President's senior staff.
Now, let me make an important point: A President, in fact, has
many, many assistants, but few bona fide advisors. And only he can
make the distinction. You're hired as an assistant. Whether you
ever become an advisor depends on the value you can provide. The
opportunities may not be what you expect.
In the summer of
1981, one of the Reagan children began to appear frequently in the
press in apparent sympathy with a number of anti-nuclear
activists. Worried about her being exploited, the President turned
to Ed Meese for advice. Ed suggested I might help.
The President then called me to ask if I would mind coming over to
talk about a personal matter. Sensing that his daughter would
probably not react well to his own counsel, the President asked if
I would go out to California and talk with her. I did, and that
became the first step in my personal relationship with the
Just a few weeks later, the President again called unexpectedly,
also at Ed Meese's suggestion. I remember it as being on a
Saturday morning, and the President asked if I'd mind coming over
to discuss an issue that he was pondering. He put the question
quite simply. He said, a lot of good people, well-intended people,
were suggesting to him that we commit at least a hundred billion
dollars or so to this new technology called "Stealth," and he
needed to know some basics before making that commitment. In
particular, he asked, "Does it really work, and if so, will it
continue to do so?"
This was a turning point for me in two different ways. One is that
as I started to give a quick answer, it suddenly occurred to me
that this was not the kind of scientific exchange I was used to
engaging in with my colleagues at Los Alamos. Here, there would be
no opportunity to revise my best guess.
Catching myself, I deferred in answering until I could gain enough
knowledge - real knowledge - to be confident in my advice. As it
turned out, it took several months.
The second reason this
was a turning point was this was the first time I confronted the
unusual nature of advice to the President, and the extraordinary
isolation that the President has in so many of the key decisions
he must take. And I saw that vulnerability time and time again.
As a result of that simple question as to the viability of Stealth, and the
challenge that responding to it entailed, we were able to develop
within OSTP some substantial expertise in some of the more arcane,
and most sensitively classified areas of defense technology.
In Stealth, anti-submarine warfare, space- based surveillance and
other key technologies that underlay our defense modernization
efforts, we became "credentialed" and OSTP became a full member of
the President's team.
We were assigned a role both in
advising on defense issues, and in articulating the basis for
those decisions on defense.
In those years of the early
80s, clearly the Administration's top priority was defense. As a
result of the role OSTP played, I became a regular attendee of the
National Security Planning Group, which is the pared down version
of the Cabinet that dealt with issues of national security.
Now, let me stray here to comment on that initial concern that the
Science Advisor might have an agenda separate from the
President's. Many of my colleagues may not have had agendas of
their own. I confess that I truly did. It was a strong belief
stemming from my own observation that no federal research dollars,
on average, gain more fruitful rewards than do those relatively
few committed to basic research, the search for pure knowledge.
In contrast, federal R&D ostensibly directed toward aiding the economy
We had quite a few opportunities to weigh in on policy issues
having to do with industrial competitiveness, such as the rise
then of Japanese microelectronics. Fortunately, we generally wound
up advising no action, which turned out to be the best policy.
But I was committed to making basic research a major priority in
our Administration's support of R&D. Now, while that may not have
been, initially, much of an Administration priority, it was
absolutely consistent with the President's views of the proper
role of government. And, to an extent, simply as a member of the
President's personal team, I could always put forth the cause for
basic research. And I did.
But, to be truly effective in terms of major funding, it takes a
lot more than simple persuasion. There are simply too many
competing needs. Instead, one has to earn what I'll simply refer
to as "points," the means to barter effectively for competing
Just as in many other walks of life, one earns points by producing
value. Let me share with you one example.
In the fall of
1982, the Administration was having a difficult time indeed
finding a politically acceptable basing mode for the land-based MX
missile. As the final link in the Administration's program to
modernize nuclear forces, and central to returning to more
fruitful arms reduction negotiations with the Soviet Union, a lot
hinged on solving this one problem.
Many options were
reviewed, a process in which OSTP played a prominent role.
Finally, agreement began to emerge on a somewhat arcane concept,
called "Densepack." However, controversy arose over just who would
articulate the technically complex rationale behind the decision.
In an effort to resolve an impasse between the National Security
Council, NSC, and the Pentagon, OSTP was asked to take on the task.
It took months of effort by a good portion of our staff, and turned out to be
a particularly difficult task. In the end, we failed to win
Congressional support, but we did succeed in at least raising
awareness of the importance the President put on completing the MX
program, and that did pay off later.
But the battering that OSTP took on this effort, and the evidence
that we could hold our own on a nasty public and Congressional
battlefield, earned us some additional legitimacy. We had acquired
Few people who come to Washington for the first time really
understand what they're getting into. This is especially
applicable to science advisors, who come from a wholly different
world. So, you either learn, and quickly, or you become irrelevant.
Fortunately, earlier in my tenure in Washington, an acquaintance had suggested
that I study the wisdom to be found in Machiavelli's writings,
especially in The Prince, perhaps the greatest treatise ever
written on the exploitation of power.
Washington is far more about power than it is about process. Where
we in OSTP most needed power was in the budget process. While the
Administration had certainly agreed that funding for basic
scientific research, particularly in universities, deserved the
special protection first defined by Vannevar Bush after World War
II as a "federal trust," there was, of course, a wide range of
opinion as to just what funding increases were actually needed.
The 70s had been a generally tough decade for basic research, especially with
huge rates of inflation of the previous few years, and we in OSTP
felt that some pretty heroic funding increases were required.
This is where we chose to spend our points. We spent them on the subsequent
18% annual increases in NSF's budget; on the introduction of a
number of major new programs, such as the NSF Centers and Young
Investigator Awards; on new facilities that had never appeared in
Those and other increases were the result
of negotiations where such "points" were required. While each of
these thrusts were consistent with Administration policy, the
individual initiatives could only be obtained because OMB knew
that we were willing to let Ed Meese, or the President, resolve
differences of how to implement those policies.
let me come to the single issue that most shaped OSTP in the
Reagan years. It is the one issue for which OSTP during that time
was best known, it was controversial and divisive beyond
imagination, and it certainly had the most impact on the world.
From my earliest meetings with the President, and with him, of
course, knowing about my background at Los Alamos, he often spoke
to me about his concern over the basic premises upon which nuclear
deterrence was founded. Like Presidents before him, he was saddled
with a defense strategy that relied on the threat of genocidal
retaliation to prevent nuclear attack.
From the start, he
detested the concept of mutual assured destruction, and unlike his
predecessors, and most of the defense community, he had little,
and lessening, confidence that it served either the nation's or
the world's long-term interests.
He also observed that, in
spite of various arms control treaties and agreements, the nuclear
arms race continued unabated.
Still more distressing to the
President was his observation that even the fundamental assumption
about the validity of nuclear deterrence, that is, its presumed
stability, was eroding. In nuclear deterrence, stability is the
all-important condition that defines the likelihood of one side
deciding to risk a pre-emptive strike that would be capable of
reducing the chance of significant retaliation.
With stable deterrence, there's simply no incentive for anyone to
initiate an attack. This was the case for decades, where
population centers were targeted.
However, with two particular technological advances of the
mid-70s, more precise targeting of warheads, and the ability to
mount multiple warheads on single missiles, it became feasible to
make the other sides' weapons, such as missiles in silos, the
While still unlikely, preemption was beginning to
be conceivable. One could see the trend lines, and the result was
that stability was going to continue to erode over time. The
situation would just get more dangerous.
During his first two years, modernizing the nation's strategic
forces and rebuilding the military was the President's top
priority. He was immersed in every aspect of it.
In weighing the various options for modernizing our strategic
forces, in moving arms control from the SALT framework --
Strategic Arms Limitations -- to START -- Strategic Arms
Reductions, and simply in trying to understand the Soviet Union's
motives and intentions, President Reagan grappled with all the
intricacies of deterrence.
As a consequence, when the opportunity presented itself in early
1983 in the form of new technologies, he decided to take the bold
step of SDI, or the Strategic Defense Initiative. Expressed most
simply, he concluded that the stability of deterrence was eroding,
that it was wrong, and that there had to be a better way, in the
long term, to ensure our national security.
And he was
taking the long view, not proposing a development project, but
proposing a research program that would lead to such development.
In this sense, he was a Science Advisor's best and most demanding
client. He believed, based on evidence of some remarkable new
technologies, that US efforts in science and technology could
develop better, more humane, and more lasting responses to nuclear
threats than currently existed.
He challenged the science and technology community to make it
happen, and he never wavered for a second in that determination.
Well, what was OSTP's and my role in all of this? This is one of
those areas where most people on the outside had little idea of
what really occurred. So let me correct just two of the many myths
that unfortunately masqueraded accepted knowledge.
First, the idea of SDI had roots that went back many years in the
President's mind, and he had bided his time through his first two
years as President until he could find the right time to bring it
to fruition. I know that, because we talked about deterrence on
Few people on the outside knew it because
they only saw the visible first stage of his defense planning,
which I characterized earlier as the strategic modernization
program, which focused on traditional weapons systems.
So SDI was his idea; it was his idea waiting to emerge.
Second, there was substantial technical assessment of SDI's
long-term feasibility well prior to the announcement. When I was
consulted by him, I already had the benefit of some recent studies
- classified studies - by my own advisory group, the White House
Science Council, that showed a dramatic change in potential
I was asked by the President for a
go/no-go opinion on SDI's feasibility, which I can assure you was
the most momentous and frightening decision ever thrust upon me.
But my role was as an advisor, and to tell him what was possible.
The President wrote virtually the entire announcement of SDI
himself. I advised him, I helped edit the speech, and offered him
choices for restating key points. I did my best to explain the
President's intent to other members of his staff or his Cabinet.
George Schultz, in his book Turmoil and Triumph, argues that the
President relied too heavily on my advice. For technology
assessments, he did rely heavily on me, but that was my job. But I
had little initial input into shaping the larger policy, and my
input was not needed.
One need only examine how Ronald
Reagan carried out his negotiations, personally, with Mikhael
Gorbachev, to see just how independent and determined he could be.
The President had, from the beginning, a clear vision of where he
was leading the country, and SDI was just part of how to get there.
He and he alone made the estimates of the risks and benefit, and
he never wavered. From the point at which SDI was announced, March
23, 1983, I became a single-issue Science Advisor. Those were my
Fortunately we had already set in motion the
restoration of support for basic research, and the OSTP staff did
a pretty good job of maintaining that pressure in the years
But the President asked me to represent his interests and
intentions on SDI, so that was my priority. I did that as a very
visible spokesman inside and outside the White House, and I
coordinated the beginning and re-orientation of research efforts
until a formal program could be established in the Pentagon.
In particular, while the diplomats were trying to position SDI as just another
pawn to be traded away in the game for some modest gains in arms
control, I was traveling the world, visiting heads of key allied
states, carrying the President's message that SDI was under no
circumstances open for negotiation.
I knew his commitment,
I suppose better than anyone else, and spoke with confidence that
everyone else thought was misplaced.
It was not until the
end of 1986, at Reykjavik, that the rest of the world recognized
the depth of his commitment to SDI. He turned down a remarkable
offer of arms reductions from the Soviets because the price of it
was killing SDI.
The world, or at least most of it, was
aghast and accused him of a massive blunder. They were wrong, and,
in fact, it was at Reykjavik that the Berlin Wall began to fall.
While I wouldn't for a moment claim that these times I've
described are akin to those that I experienced a generation ago,
neither are they anywhere near as different as I suspect many
The end of the Cold War has not seen as much
diminution in defense spending as some had expected, and it has
brought into focus new and demanding technological challenges in
Arguments that basic research is no longer necessary are to me as
unjustified as was the suggestion, more than a century ago, to
abolish the patent office, since most ideas had already been
Now, with that as an introduction, I look forward to the best part
-- a good discussion.
DR. PIELKE: All right, well, a few questions for you. We
have questions that we've collected based on looking at some of
the histories that have been written, and also collected some from
our students. And so we'll go through a number of these and then
we're going to turn it over to the audience for questions. Can you
tell us how you became science advisor? You were science advisor
at a relatively young age compared to some of the folks that we've
talked to. What was the career path that got you into the White
DR. KEYWORTH: Well, I'm
not sure it was a career path. I went to Los Alamos right out of
graduate school, simply because I wanted to do a very, very
expensive fundamental experiment in nuclear physics, and Los
Alamos was the only place that could pay for it.
And so I
went there; I did that for several years, and having spent so much
money, I was called upon to pay the price of doing some
administration, which I did for a while.
Ultimately, I ran all experimental science at Los Alamos,
including fusion research and the weapons testing program and so
on. But, I think I was really -- to answer your question,
President Reagan was a youth chauvinist, and he had a series of
lists that had been given to him by the National Academy and
various groups that had advised him.
And his comment to me was that I was the only one on all the lists
that was really young. I was 41 at the time, and science advisors
are typically at the end of their career, so I think it has to do
with the fact that Reagan was a youth chauvinist.
DR. PIELKE: In his book, Bruce L.R. Smith, "The Advisors,"
says that you "gained influence with the Reagan Administration
because of its faith in science." Number one is, do you agree with
this, and can you tell us a little bit about President Reagan's
attitude toward science more generally?
DR. KEYWORTH: I think it's pretty well known that Reagan was a very
optimistic person, and he believed that if you identify a problem,
you can solve it. And he believed, as most of us do, I suspect,
here in this room, that those tools are science and technology.
So, Reagan did not have a great fascination with science itself. I
was saying to somebody today, I think the most beautiful problem
in science is the spinning top, and the most beautiful subject in
science is classical mechanics. I do think I would have a very
difficult time explaining that to the President.
But, on the other hand, his faith that we could solve anything
through science and technology was sort of eternal.
DR. PIELKE: We had some comments today when we spoke in one of the
classes that you visited, about how policy makers understand
science and how they understand technology and how that might
differ from academic understandings of science and technology.
DR. KEYWORTH: I think you've got to sort of go back and think how, when
you're in graduate school, you go home and explain to your parents
what you're doing. You go very much back to basics.
it's a mistake to think that policy makers or elected officials
understand things like, for example, the mere concept of basic
research. I watched somebody who had been a pretty prominent
member of the House Science Committee for years come to Los Alamos
once and define "fusion research" as "basic research."
I hear people saying that NIH is basic research. These are not
basic research by any stretch of the imagination.
So I think when you talk to policy makers in Washington, I think
you've got to go back to the fundamentals. You know, it's a little
bit like trying to teach -- it's a little bit like trying to teach
a good physics class without calculus. You know, the trouble is,
you really have to know it because you can't hide behind anything.
It's kind of the same thing.
DR. PIELKE: Also in Bruce Smith's book, he commented that,
"You never really had the sufficient resources you needed to build
a strong staff. You had to rely on officials, borrow from other
agencies, and your staff had a lot of turnover." Again, was this,
in fact, an accurate reading of the history?
DR. KEYWORTH: I wish I knew this fellow, but this is a very interesting
one, because I confess to having made a mistake that lots of
science advisors have made.
I said in my prepared comments
that most of us did not exactly have training. I did not go to
your science policy courses, and I did not even -- honestly, I did
not even quite know what the word "science policy" meant when I
was a science advisor.
So, I was -- I did what I knew how
to do. I knew -- I'm embarrassed to admit this -- I did not know
anybody at the time who wasn't a physicist. In Los Alamos, we had
a very interesting class structure. As my son will remember, we
were on a hill, and all of the original housing allocations had
been made by the government during the war. At the top of the hill
lived the physicists. In the middle of the hill lived the
chemists. On the bottom of the hill lived the engineers.
looked at this, and I said, "This is so distorted and so
parochial," that we moved out. Basically, I didn't want to raise
my kids in that kind of environment.
But my point is this:
I thought the only kind of staff I would have in Washington were
first class scientists. And, you know, that's not the way
Washington works. And first class scientists are first class
scientists, but they're not first class operatives in Washington.
So I very quickly learned that I needed staff. I needed people who
could support me. The President didn't want to talk to anybody
else in my office, and I had, at some points, a pretty large
I found that the only place on Earth where they train people how
to be staff is in the military. And there are a lot of Ph.D.s in
the military, thanks to Lew Allen's Air Force programs 25 years
ago. And I found that I took a lot of people who were colonels and
one stars. In my office, they were really good staff people, and
that's how you get them. I think a lot of people had to learn the
And by the way, they weren't just good in
defense areas; a lot of them were very good in science and dealing
with NSF, and so on. And so, and I borrowed a lot of these people,
because military officers couldn't come to work for me. It's the
only way they could.
I never had budget problems. I had
budget battles, but I never had any budget
DR. PIELKE: When Ed David, science advisor to Richard Nixon, visited,
he told us about how President Nixon got rid of the position and
subsequent to that, Congress acted -- wanted to put in the Office
of Science and Technology Policy. Could you talk a little bit
about how you perceive that the position changed during that
process from being an advisor to the President to a
DR. KEYWORTH: In my case, I really -- I don't think any one
science advisor can tell you a lot about other science advisors.
Ed David was on my advisory council, so he knows more about me
than I know about him. He's a good man by the way.
there's no question that the original science advisor did not have
to report to the Congress on the state of science or the state of
basic research or anything else. And I have testified hundreds of
time on everything from top soil erosion to, you know, the health
of universities and every subject on Earth. I never had any idea I
knew so much, but anyway, you wind up having to do this.
But nevertheless, the current director of the office, if he is
named the science advisor by the President, which everyone since
Frank Press has been, I believe anyway, you have the same legal
protection in never having to share with the Congress what advice
you've given to the President.
So you're dual-functioned,
essentially. I confess, and when I said it in my prepared
comments, that the second half -- actually, the three years -- the
last three of my five years, I was a single-issue science advisor,
I was not OSTP director, effectively. I relinquished -- not
formally -- but I basically made that low priority and I gave it
to everybody else to do, because I was asked to do only one task.
So you do both.
I think also there was a wonderful thing done by that act of
Congress, and that's not very often appreciated. They gave OSTP
its own basic budget. It was appropriated just like the Pentagon
is appropriated. You go and fight for your budget instead of
sharing the White House offices' own budget.
DR. PIELKE: Today, we talked a little about some of the
tensions that can arise, and we've seen this with the other
science advisors who have visited, that many in the science and
technology community see the science advisor as their
representative in Washington, and their job is to fight for
budgets. And at the same time, another job of the science advisor
is to work for the President and implement the President's agenda,
which may not necessarily be the same agenda. Can you talk a
little bit about those tensions and how you saw them?
DR. KEYWORTH: I didn't have those tensions. If you allow
them to develop, they will. I cannot tell you how many times in
the first year I had people who considered themselves, you know,
statesmen for science, tell me -- try to give me orders.
I can tell you some very distinguished, outspoken, very
accomplished scientists who never, again, got through my phone.
You can't do it. I mean, if they're mutually exclusive, they're
octagonal. If you are seen for one second as pandering to people
on the outside, you will no longer be credible.
And I'll tell you an interesting story, which actually is
embarrassing, because I certainly was one of these. But one day,
somebody came running into my office, I guess the second or third
year, one of my senior staff people came running into my office
and wanted to see me. And he said I had to do something, "You've
got to do something. David Stockman just had an interview
downstairs in the Indian Treaty room, and he was asked about
trough behavior; behavior at the trough." And he said, "Of all the
pigs at the trough that you have to deal with, which are the ones
that have the most voracious appetites?" And he said, "Well," he
said, "you know, I can answer that question correctly or
incorrectly, but I'm going to tell you, they're one of my favorite
pigs, that they are the best feeders at the trough and they're the
And the guy came to me, my staff came to me, and he said, "You've
got to go down there and defend us." And I said, "Why? He's right.
We are." And I was one.
: In your efforts to manage the federal budget during the time when the
Reagan Administration was trying to limit budget growth, you tried
to implement excellence as a criteria for evaluating research
projects, rather than say an across- the-board budget cut. Could
you talk a little bit about your views on how well that succeeded
and the role of excellence in evaluating research projects across
DR. KEYWORTH: I'll tell you how I think it worked to this
extent, and this is a cop-out, but it's true. The place where
excellence is pretty much protected is in basic research. I mean,
academic research in science -- that's all I can speak of -- is a
pretty hallowed meritocracy, and it's pretty intrinsic to the
system. And I'm not talking about the peer review system or
anything else. It's intrinsic to the ethics and why people go into
And what we did was, our predecessors -- every administration has
a reaction -- our predecessors, the Carter Administration, had to
deal with some tough energy problems, and it started to put a lot
of money into energy programs and into the economy. And by the
time we came into office, it was decided that this was not going
So, basically, we had a -- by the time I got
there four months later, we had some huge cutbacks in energy
programs in particular. And so, it was very easy to sell a big
increase in basic research because it was small potatoes compared
to come of these big industrial projects.
And so I guess I was -- I pushed for this, because I was really
concerned about the erosion of excellence in basic research. That
was my motivation. I started seeing things like the Isabel
Project, a big particle physics project that was pushed for
Brookhaven National Laboratories on the basis of the East Coast
deserved its turn. That's mediocrity; that's not excellence.
Excellence is not about regional distribution or being fair or
anything else. It's about merit.
And so I gave my first speech ever at the National Academy, and I
talked about the erosion of excellence in science. So I came with
But the reason I think we were able to make it work wasn't because
I was so smart. It was because we focused on basic research, where
excellence is intrinsic.
: If I might get you to comment, I would bet that at the time now the
President is working his way through the State of the Union and
some of the buzz has been that he's going to talk about the new
National Research Council report Rising Above the Gathering Storm,
which is about US competitiveness, and talking about the new
initiative that wishes a number of Congressional bills to
stimulate research and development in the US.
remarks about directed spending from science and technology to
stimulate economic growth and so on, what are some general
comments you might offer on the sort of expenditures the
government might make to help the economy in the area of science
DR. KEYWORTH: I'll make a negative comment and then I'll
make a positive one. My negative comment is the National Academy
and the NRC have done some marvelous studies, and they were a very
powerful tool to explore problems for me. They know absolutely
nothing about the economy and industry and competitiveness. I'll
make that negative comment.
Number two, I think you've got to remember a few basic rules. And
one of them is that there's a history of what governments do well;
not just our government, but all democratic governments, at least.
Basic research, which is very much an American concept, has been a 50-year
success story -- 60-year success story. That's all I can say. It's
been an enormous return on the dollars for any way you want to
measure it. It's just been a superb story of glory for this
country. It has resulted in extraordinary talent.
way, it's not just educated American people; it's educated the
world. It's a great success story.
I would basically make
the argument that every attempt to try to stimulate a more
competitive position in a given area of industry is constantly
focusing on yesterday's loser. And you never pick the ones that
There is an enormous amount of money in this
country in industry to drive winners. And by the way, American
competitiveness -- the others are beginning to compete, but I ask
you when you ask yourself, either the strength of our economy, the
strength of our high technology economy in particular, there is no
longer a question of who's number one. I ask you the tough
question: Who's number two? That's how far ahead we are. So I'm
not really terribly worried about it.
But the third thing I
wanted to say is that where the government has had a huge impact
and a very beneficial impact, is when it acts as an enlightened
customer. And a classical one is DOD. The Department of Defense,
and especially in the period from the end of the war until the
middle 70s, took a most enlightened attitude towards meeting its
Now, you know, we'd like to say, if you look at a couple of great
universities, MIT and CalTech, you'd like to say, "Well, these are
the results of the National Science Foundation and Vannevar Bush's
policy." That's not true. MIT was built by the Air Force; CalTech
was built by the Office of Naval Research.
And the DOD was
not investing in people. They were investing -- I mean, in
education, excuse me. They were investing in making sure that the
body of talent that they needed to meet their very comprehensive
requirements were there across-the- board.
And so for a
while they were a very good customer. Now, times have changed,
because most technologies are much more dual-use than they were in
that particular 30-year period. I mean, everything is becoming
digital, and everybody's digital, and suddenly the inside of a
submarine doesn't look very different from my desk. In fact,
actually, being a director of Hewlett-Packard company, my desk is
a lot more sophisticated than any submarine is.
But, seriously, I think that you've got to look -- the government
can be a heck of a stimulating customer, through DOD, through
NASA, through the Department of Energy, through all of its
legitimate facilities: NOAA, NCAR, all of these can have strong
economic impact by creating a demand to stretch.
The space program has had its high points. Now it's at its low
point, but it has had its high points where it has helped to
stimulate the economy.
So when the government acts as a customer, it can be a great
stimulus. When it acts as a stimulus, it's a flop. And if you want
to see how it fails, look at how Japan's efforts to do so failed,
look how Japan is strengthening and has been strengthening
steadily as they have become less invasive. Look at the total
failure of France and Germany's efforts to try to stimulate
economic growth. Look at the attempt in the middle 80s to try to
develop the micro-electronics industry when the barriers to entry
were so enormous and the winners had long ago been picked.
DR. PIELKE: Well, this raises, I guess, a fundamental
paradox. You know, as you suggest, in the early years, the
Department of Defense was driving a lot of the push toward
research in this country. How do we reconcile that with your
previous statements about basic research being so important?
Because the Department of Defense, if anything, does not have a
basic research mission. It's very mission-oriented and focused.
DR. KEYWORTH: That's a very good question. So then you ask
yourself why do you do basic research. And I do basic research
because it's like art; I like art. But there's a very practical
reason for doing it. It's because the way you train the very best
people in the world is to train them in an environment where it's
all inquiry. Just nothing practical, just advancing the state of
And DOD was smart enough to realize that. Of course, by the way,
remember all the scientists in the country worked on defense
during World War II, so they all had sort of a vested
participation in shaping how the DOD would continue to work in
peace time. And you had not bureaucrats, but participants, real
scientists. And they supported those universities because they
wanted the world's best talent out of those places.
research is not -- my own bias about art, but basic research is
: Let me follow that up. There's been a lot of talk which comes
up, it seems, every 10 years, every 15 years, that the US is
facing a shortage of scientists and engineers and, in particular,
an NRC report I mentioned raises that issue. Do you think the
United States, in the context of India and China growing and
developing, faces a competitiveness issue with respect to the
number of trained scientists and engineers in this country?
DR. KEYWORTH: Yes and no. I think -- you never have a good
balance between supply and demand, but you know, in this country
we always meet that supply and demand because the top people in
the world come here. They don't go to Europe; they come here.
I read a projection last year in The Economist, that said that,
over the next 50 years, they expected 80% of the educated
immigration of the world flowing generally north, will come to the
United States and 20% to Europe. So we are a very appealing place
for one reason or another to these people.
And so we -- I'm not sure all of it is education. Some of it is
the quality of parenting that we do in this country, by the way,
but it's not all institutional. But we constantly have a renewal,
and it is the source of America's success. There's no question
about it. All you have to do is go to Silicon Valley.
used to get beaten over the head when I was science advisor
constantly by Congressional committees, not science committees, I
mean everybody. I was fair game for anybody on the same subject
of, why was it that at MIT, for example, if you look at the
graduate school, the top four people were Chinese, and you have to
get down to the fifth person before you found a single
American-born person. I gave them the same comment. That number
five was a lot better than he would have been if he hadn't had
those first four.
DR. PIELKE: Maybe we could return to the issues of
competitiveness when we talk with the audience. I do want to turn
to a couple of other subjects before I'll let you off the hook
The space station program had its birth, I guess,
during your tenure, and a few of your comments I think that we
pulled out were remarkably prescient, I think, with respect to the
station. You said that, "you had yet to see competitive, well
thought out plans, not only for what the space station would look
like, but what it would do." You called it a "motel in the sky"
and a "lead balloon."
Twenty-three years later,
the director of NASA, Michael Griffin, acknowledged that the space
station was probably a mistake. What are your thoughts on space
policy, both during your tenure, how the decisions were made, and
where we are now and where we might be going? That could be an
hour or two hour lecture, but --
DR. KEYWORTH: I'll tell you pretty fast. I think the space
policy that developed the Apollo project was a stroke of genius.
There were a few very, very visionary people. President Kennedy
was part of it, George Lowe, the administrator of NASA at the
time, was part of it, and they were absolutely brilliant. And
there has never been a sound space policy since.
And by the way, I'm as guilty as anybody else in that process.
Space policy was on my plate for the first several years of my
term in OSTP, and I did not -- I basically staffed it with someone
else. It was not the number one thing on my plate, but we blew an
opportunity on two fronts.
One was, we were successful in
delaying the space station for four straight years. It was only
the second election that would give everything to everybody. And
the people who managed the election are the ones who decided
finally that the President was going to start talking softly about
the space station.
But we never put any -- the President never said a good word about
the space station. We didn't put anything other than Jim Berry's
study money in there, and I went out constantly and said bad
things about it.
So we stifled it for quite a while, but
the other thing was the shuttle. The shuttle was -- if you go back
and look at the literature in the middle 60s, the scientific
community was largely violently opposed to the space shuttle. The
space shuttle was a product of the military industrial complex
that had this 50s- era technology that they wanted to get out in
the marketplace, period. And the shuttle has been a disaster, not
just because of the -- not, I should say, partly because of the
tragic losses of civilian life that occurred, which was a gross
misjudgment to ever think of putting a civilian in something that
is much more dangerous than a test military aircraft.
Number one, a rocket is an "accident waiting to happen," is a
quote I remember. Number one. So we should have developed at that
time a single stage-to- orbit launch vehicle, and it's something
we're not going to have a space program until we do it again.
We did Sky Lab in the 70s; the space station is just a repeat of Sky Lab. The
American people look at the space program, they look at every
shuttle going off, they think, "This is America at exploration.
This is American technology pushing the forefront." This wasn't
American technology pushing the forefront. This was 60s technology
We could have done this manned Mars mission. I was all
enthusiastic about the manned Mars mission throughout my entire
five years. It was clearly the thing to do. It was a challenge, it
was a stretch, it was exciting, it's something that we could do,
and the manned versus un-manned argument, any scientist will tell
you you don't need a man. But, you know, we work for the American
people and they're the ones paying the bills and they want manned,
so we're going to have manned. I think it's perfectly rational.
It's the way it should be, so we'll do it.
By the way, I don't think we'll do it in this administration. I
don't think they have a plan, I don't think it's a high enough
priority. There's got to be a plan. I mean, you've got to say is
the Moon or an Earth orbiter going to be the launch point? Exactly
how are we going to do this? And you've got to give some rationale
for it and build up public support; sell it to people, make it
But we have not had a space policy for a long
time, and I think the American people like space research and
Today in class, you had some comments about NASA sharing a human
space flight mission and basic research space science mission.
Could you say a little bit about that combination?
DR. KEYWORTH: Through most of NASA's history, they have
done basic research only when it was, pardon the expression,
crammed down their throats. And once in a while, that has worked.
I have one favorite experiment, the detection of gravitational
radiation, which is a beautiful experiment, it was successful. I
mean, we practically told them we'd replace the administrator if
they balked on it. It was that hard to get it down their throats,
but it was -- by the way, it wasn't that expensive. It was a few
hundred million dollars, and it was a single issue.
NASA is a creature of the military industrial complex. And, in
fact, as I said to you today, and I'll say it more openly, we will
never have, in my opinion, a successful man-to-Mars mission in
NASA. It's going to have to be built in Agency Alpha. They will
never do it in NASA. NASA is like a child that got spoiled and it
There's a lot of space scientists and others in the Boulder
community, so maybe that's another topic we can return to.
DR. KEYWORTH: Twenty years ago when I said things like
that, I was radical. But I don't think I'm very radical anymore.
There are not many people in Congress who will stand up and defend
DR. PIELKE: We've
asked all of our science advisors to comment on the allegation
that the Bush Administration is a serial misuser of science; that
they engage in the politicization of science. And I wonder, to the
extent to which you've been aware of that number of science
advisors have been asked to sign on to statements and so on, and
what your thoughts are about the Bush Administration and the buzz
First let me say there are a lot of things the Bush Administration
does that I don't like, but I think that's just unadulterated
Jack Marburger is an extraordinarily honorable
man, he is a man with a long built up reputation. I know him
personally, I respect him tremendously.
I give you one
example. I mean, it's a position that he took on -- I can hardly
say the word. It's hard for me to say it. "Intelligent Design,"
and was a man of instantaneous honor. He is -- and I think it's
just, you know, politics.
: All right, a few questions I promised I'd ask for our grad students, and
then we're going to move to the audience questions.
you think the most positive benefits are going to be from the rise
in India and China's science and technology capabilities?
DR. KEYWORTH: Talents in market. I think American industry and
technological capabilities will continue to be drive by Indian
scientists. Probably, you know, we started with Chinese scientists
first, and probably for a while it will be more Indian scientists
than Chinese. I think you're going to see big markets develop in
both countries for our technology.
I think these ridiculous discussions, economically ridiculous
discussions about outsourcing taking American jobs and so on is
just plain foolish. What we're doing is moving out the jobs that
don't pay enough to support our quality of life, and we're moving
them to much lower cost economies.
So I think it's just the
healthiest thing in the world, besides the fact that the only way
you're going to turn corrupt -- I mean, India is pretty corrupt
and it's not, but we think of it as a Democracy, and totalitarian
regimes, such as in China. The only way you're going to get the
power of distribution of economic pull, to stretch them away from
centralization, is through economic growth.
I think this is all incredibly healthy. I think China is a
long-term big problem, by the way. I think we can't -- I've spent
a lot of my life dabbling in China, and I have lots of Chinese
friends. I choose to respect China; my son is a Sinologist.
But, China is a big risk. If we play that one wrong, it can be
India is much less of a problem. They shot
their wad with an incredibly clumsy move of their nuclear weapons
test, and there are a lot of things between the United States that
you'll never read about; not for a long time to come, but I think
that's fairly stable.
: All right, jumping around to another topic. What do you think
about the increasing commercialization of university research
environments and the focus on patents and university professors
having companies on the side that may be worth tens of millions of
dollars, and so on?
DR. KEYWORTH: Well, I think that part doesn't bother me. I
think entrepreneurialism is a renewal force, and entrepreneurs and
campus are great. You see it a lot in biotech, and I don't see
I'll tell you what I do worry about, and I'm -- this is a
confessional. I've mentioned before one of the programs we started
was NSF centers. And one of the ideas of mine was that if industry
has a lot of really tough problems they need to solve, you bring
them into the academic environment. I'm not so sure that that was
a good idea.
I watch now from the Hewlett-Packard company and so on, and I'm
not so sure that the influence of industry is a hundred percent
good. I worry in the long run about deteriorating the quality of
the academic inquiry process, I worry about too much practicality.
I'm not worried about the entrepreneurialism and a rich faculty
member is a great idea as far as I'm concerned.
worry. I'd hate to see -- you know, businessmen have -- I've
already said what I think happens when government has their
responsibilities and starts to meddle in industry. It's bad, but I
think industry doesn't really -- they want to hire the best
possible students, but they don't really understand how to train
I have never -- and I'll say this categorically. I
don't know a businessman -- and I know a lot of businessmen and
I've worked with lots of them when I was science advisor -- I
don't know a single one that understands basic research, you know,
the whys and wherefores, and so on. So I'd caution you here.
DR. PIELKE: It's been a while now, but it keeps coming in
discussions, in science policy discussions, and that's the
termination of the Office of Technology Assessment, which was a
Congressional staff agency. What were your views on the
termination of OTA?
DR. KEYWORTH: A mixed one. I was -- Bob Walker was a very,
very close friend of mine, and we co- authored some things, and he
asked me a lot of advice on this, and I was lining up somebody to
run that office for him.
I think on average, it was
probably a mistake. I don't think OTA was a very effective office.
I don't think it had the kind of skills that the National Academy
and NRC do. I don't think that it was always as independent as it
could have been. But nevertheless, I think it was a net plus. So I
think it should have been fixed and strengthened rather than
DR. PIELKE: All right, my last question. In today's context
of political and policy issues related to science and technology,
what advice do you have for scientists, students, academics that
you're talking to tonight, government scientists, others, about
engaging in the political process and understanding policy?
DR. KEYWORTH: Well, I already said one thing. I think
you've got to, when you're selling to somebody, you've got to put
yourself in their shoes and not sell them your goods. We
scientists always try to do that, but I'm going to say something
I've said to several other people today in our discussions, I
think we're entering into a different kind of period of science
policy than we're used to.
I think we're entering into a lot of problems that are going to
take 30 years of public debate. And I pick a number, because what
I mean is many, many administrations -- we know how to solve
problems of, you know, ignore defense and fix it in eight years,
and I think we do a pretty darn good job of responding to
diseases, for instance,and so on.
I'm not worried about things like that. I'm worried about big huge
problems that are multi-dimensional; complex systems, effectively.
I'm worried. Global warming is one of them.
I think there are social issues that are technological that are
going to arise; I can't define them yet, but I think they're
inevitably going to rise with genetically tailored solutions for
I think we're coming to a whole bunch of problems that are going
to require a fundamental educated national debate for a long
period of time, and I think we used to do it pretty well. I don't
think we do it very well anymore. And I think you guys,
universities, are part of the problem. I think this whole concept
of political correctness on a fundamental complex debate, is just
And, I mean, the issue of global warming,
you know, is not an issue of real men save the world, and some
people care about the future and some people don't. There's an
extraordinarily complex set of causalities there. We don't
understand them yet.
We started a problem in our time -- and by the way, it was lucky.
Believe me, we didn't have the vision to do this, but that's the
Earth Orbiting System, EOS. This is a system to collect data not
just from satellites, but from Earth-based systems and to assemble
a massive database. This is the day of data- mining, you know, the
ability to simulate anything.
We can crack this nut for
sure, but we're not going to crack it by saying, "Real men sit
here and wimps over here, or selfish people here and unselfish
people here." So this political correctness that has crept into
universities is a plague in trying to help drive this kind of
constructive long enduring public debate.
DR. PIELKE: All right, and with that, we're going to turn
it over to you guys for questions.
And just so, for those of you who haven't attended the other six
events, we are taping this, so we're going to have to repeat your
So we're going to ask for concise questions that can be easily
repeated. Either Dr. Keyworth or I will repeat the questions. So
right here is the first.
(male asks question)
DR. PIELKE: So the question is, what, Dr. Keyworth, is the
greatest issue going forward between the US and China in their
DR. KEYWORTH: There's one problem: War. I mean, fundamental
conflict over fundamental different interests. Taiwan, whatever.
And it's got to be avoided at all costs, and it can be avoided at
I think that the overlap that we have with China
is huge. That is, I'm talking about shared interests. I think that
China has benefited unbelievably from its opening to the West
through activities that were initiated in the Nixon years. They've
benefited hugely. But there have been some very tough times.
I'm not an expert on the balance of what's going on between the
military and the civilian government in China, but it's pretty
complicated. And that incident that happened five years ago, you
know, with shooting down our intelligence airplane, was -- I mean,
that kind of thing has triggered wars.
And Taiwan is a very touchy thing. So we've got to manage
something of a very high priority. You know, we've got so many
people in the State Department 15 years later, who still are
Sovietologists. And one thing you've got to remember about
Sovietologists, first of all, they never did anything right, they
never predicted the fall -- they never said that the Soviet Union
could fall, they never got into the heads of the Soviet Union, so
when Mikhael Gorbachev was born -- or I mean was in place, for
example, he was a total foreigner to them all.
didn't even -- they weren't even a successful academic discipline,
and secondly, they viewed a world that no longer exists. And what
we need is a much stronger body of talent that understands China.
I think China is much more complicated to deal with than India. And so I think
we have to, you know, make it a very high priority and we've got
to develop a lot of skilled people.
DR. PIELKE: In the back on the stairs.
(male asks question)
DR. PIELKE: So the question was to ask
Dr. Keyworth to reflect on Ronald Reagan's views on alternative
energy research and where we might be and where we're heading.
DR. KEYWORTH: Well, my own opinion is that if we had continued to
subsidize things that were not economically feasible, we would
have been disincentivized from trying to find alternative energy
sources that were more economically feasible.
to invest a lot of money in the Reagan years in some technologies,
but what we were not trying to do is to subsidize well-known
technologies. We think the government -- President Reagan felt
that the government should invest in research and new ideas, and
not in pushing uneconomically viable energy sources.
So, where do I think we'd be? I think we'd be much farther behind
than we are right today if we had continued to push a lot of those
subsidized alternative energy sources.
DR. PIELKE: And the second question is where do you think
we're headed, I guess.
DR. KEYWORTH: I think we're headed into an area where, I
mean, I think we're going to see -- I think we're finally at the
point where we're starting to see a lot of environmental groups
beginning to support nuclear energy as a temporary solution,
temporary 100 year solution, to some of our needs. I think we're
going to -- I heard otherwise today, but I think that hydrogen is
going to start to be a much more important technology in lots of
By the way, I do think that hydrogen as a fuel can be very
valuable in a lot of areas. We're not going to build a single
stage-to-orbit vehicle, for example, without improving a lot of
our hydrogen technologies. Whether we build a complete hydrogen
infrastructure or not, I don't know, but hydrogen is actually less
-- liquid hydrogen is much less volatile than gasoline is.
So, you know, it's not that scary. I think we're reaching a point
where people realize we've got to do something. There's not a
whole lot of incentive, you know, when you've got gasoline selling
at $1.25 a gallon.
You may think it's strange for a Libertarian like me to say this,
but I'm all for a huge gas tax. I think it's the only tax I can
think of that I like, so, and because I think a gas tax would just
increase the incentive.
DR. PIELKE: Right here in the front?
(male asks question)
DR. PIELKE: The question was to what extent Edward Teller
was involved in the SDI discussions?
DR. KEYWORTH: Edward Teller was, of course, my mentor and
my friend and everything else, and he was very much involved in
the discussions on my science council.
He certainly was not
involved in any way talking to the President about it, stimulating
it. He had a concept that he had sort of become almost
theologically committed to, called the X-Ray Laser or Third
Generation Nuclear Weapons, which were exactly the opposite of
what President Reagan was trying to do.
President Reagan was trying to, as he said in his speech -- his
speech talked very little about ballistic missile defense; it
talked about reducing our reliance upon nuclear weapons. And the
last thing in the world the President wanted was orbiting nuclear
weapons up there.
So, I mean, I confess. I can say it now,
all these years later, that's why we have these talks, one of the
biggest and most difficult problems I had was this problem of, in
fact, that Edward was my mentor and he was very much admired by
the President. You know, if Edward had not fought to get the
hydrogen bomb built, the world would have been a very different
place because the Russians built a lot better hydrogen bomb than
we did about six months after we did.
So it was a very close call, and the whole American scientific
community was against doing it. So it was a very close call, and
Edward was a very courageous man and the President liked him very
much, but he was the bane of my existence on this one.
DR. PIELKE: Up on the top there?
(male asks question)
DR. PIELKE: Well, I'll let you rephrase that.
DR. KEYWORTH: Okay. Let me rephrase it. First of all, you
know that the scientific community was largely opposed to SDI;
that's correct. How did we get funding for SDI nevertheless in the
Congress? And there's something going on today, how is that going
on? Is that a fair rephrasing?
DR. KEYWORTH: Okay. First of all, the fact that the
scientific community was opposed to it is only marginally
relevant. There aren't really very many scientists, and we really
don't represent a very large part of the voting population.
And the credibility that the scientific community had in the
Congress on defense, in the 50s and 60s and early 70s, just isn't
there anymore. We don't have the Johnny Von Neumanns and so on who
are standing up there as, you know, people really responding to
The scientific community became very, very pacifist oriented, and
you know, the House Armed Services Committee is not going to sit
there and spend a whole lot of time being swung by a bunch of
pacifists. So their opinion was not all that high on the matter.
Secondly, the deal -- the concept they were opposed to was a concept that
nobody was actually talking to. They were arguing that you cannot
build a perfect defense. And as any scientist knows, you really
can't build a perfect anything.
And what was proposed,
instead, was to build a system that simply complicated targeting
to the extent that nobody would have the incentive to make a first
strike. And this is-- a ballistic missile defense system that's
20% or 30% effective absolutely complicates it.
were talking up here of some idealistic thing, and in fact, we
were sitting over here proposing to do a completely different
thing. So it wasn't very relevant.
The money that was in it
initially was -- we had, you know, we had a $400 billion dollar
defense budget, whatever, $300-something billion dollar defense
budget, and we were spending a few billion dollars on SDI. It's
pretty rare, a President as popular as Reagan, whose Congress is
going to try to fiddle around with that, and we had a pretty
strong Republican Congress, so we didn't really have very much
trouble selling it.
Now, going to the other point was --
and by the way, if you remember what happened, President Reagan
proposed SDI on March 23, 1983 and a couple of months later,
Chernenko, who was the secretary general of the communist party,
head of the Soviet Union, somebody nobody had ever been sure that
he actually was still alive when he was appointed, he died very
And then Uri Andropov, who was the head of the KGB
for a long time, came in and he became secretary general. The
minute he was made secretary general, about three months after
SDI, he came out and was -- he was so aggressive against SDI that
an awful lot of people in this country said, "There must be
something good about it."
And so we had this
phenomenal salesman over there. Unfortunately, he died a few
months later. This is when President Reagan made the famous
statement, "How can I deal with them when they keep dying on me?"
But, anyway, so we had this wonderful sales force going on over
there, but finally, coming to the modern part, I do not have the
slightest idea why anybody is trying to do an SDI today. SDI was a
ballistic missile defense system, okay, against this very
complicated eroding stability that we faced in 1981. That doesn't
Now you have a different kind of threat. On
ballistic missiles, you have a threat from Iran, you have a threat
from North Korea, and I am reminded once, twice today, but I'm
reminded of giving a speech at the Kennedy Center on what the
President intended by SDI just a few weeks after the speech. And I
said, "You've got to understand, ballistic missile defense is like
this: It's broken up into three components. You have three
opportunities to intercept a ballistic missile. You have the boost
phase, when it looks like a Roman candle and you can see it from
thousands of miles away from space, and it cannot be hidden. You
know, it's like a shuttle being fired off, and that's one
opportunity. You don't even need to know where it's aimed; just
destroy at that stage.
Then you have a very quiet stage,
when it's going through space very quietly, very difficult to see,
but you have a long time within which to intercept it.
And then you have the third case, where it's re-entering through
the atmosphere and before it strikes its target. So you have boost
phase, mid- course, and terminal intercept.
And a general
was in the audience, a very, very distinguished general, Glen
Kent, who had been one of the architects of post-War deterrents,
stood up in the audience, and he said -- and I know him quite
well. He stood up in the audience, and he said, "Jay, I think
you're missing the really important point." I really couldn't
imagine what I was missing. It sounded like beginning to end.
And he said, "You're missing preemptive interdiction," which is
the fourth phase. Anyway, he was absolutely right that in most of
these -- take Iran, for example, you know, rather than build a
ballistic missile defense system for the whole world against Iran,
which would be unbelievably complex, you've got two choices:
defend Israel, the most likely target. That's a terminal defense
requirement. Israel, to some extent, is doing that, and ultimately
this may be something that we would get involved in. Or, the other
one is, do what the Israelis did to Iraq in 1981 when they went in
and took out an Iraq reactor.
And, I was saying to some people this afternoon, it was my first
tough job in the government. Everybody was in California in
August, I think, of 1981, and I was asked before the White House
Press Corps to tell them the President's position on the Israelis
taking out this Iraq reactor.
And I looked at all of the intelligence and it was blatantly
obvious that this reactor had no purpose other than to develop the
material for the Iraqis to build a nuclear weapon, and the
Israelis shared with us their intelligence, we shared ours with
theirs, and they acted without telling us anything about it.
And I looked at it and I called Ed Meese and said, "What do I do?"
And he said, "Why ask me? It's your job." So I went and stood
before all of these tough people, and I said, "It was an act of
defense. We do not endorse attacks upon sovereign nations;
nevertheless, on any rational basis, it was a justified attack."
And the President came back and said to me the next day, after he
came back, he said, "You know, I wish I could have said it so
succinctly, but," he said, "that's exactly what I would have
wanted you to say."
And I'm afraid we're going to have to get used to things like
this, because you cannot possibly -- you cannot take even the
smallest risk of a nuclear attack from one of these lunatics.
A nuclear weapon, the result from a nuclear attack, a single
nuclear weapon, are a lot greater than most people think. I mean,
they will cause irreversible damage on a Western country.
So the bottom line, the SDI things that they're talking about in
Congress today, I don't have the slightest idea what that stuff is
about. They are not defining a practical challenge.
You cannot protect the United States; the land area is too big.
You've got to develop a boost phase intercept capability, or
you've got to take it out through preemptive interdiction.
You cannot do area defense over an area as large as the United
States. Yes, you could protect this campus, you could protect part
of Colorado, but you cannot protect the United States with any
technologies that we know.
So, this is the case: Every time I've ever been asked to testify
in the Congress on early stage deployment of SDI, I never -- I've
always denied going up there, because we don't have anything to
deploy, we don't have a challenge well-defined.
(male asks question)
DR. KEYWORTH: What would I advise if I were the science
advisor in this Administration to the President and his team on
the subject of global warming, okay.
I`ll say a little bit, but you know, I have to confess to not
being up to the state-of-the-art right now. When I was in there, I
started this National Academy study with Bill Nuernberg chairing
it, and we kept track of it and kept it going for three years. I
had a constant feed with people thinking on it. I'm not up to that
kind of speed anymore.
But, I still think there are huge
uncertainties in the science that we have. I would be pushing very
aggressively that we invest and strengthen the database that we
have. We've got to understand a lot more about what is going on in
the oceans, we've got to understand a lot more about what possible
solutions there are, and I'd want to have it be a constant study
Let me give you an example: In our administration, one of the most
exciting -- I know it sounds horrible, but one of the most -- from
a scientist's point of view, one of the most exciting challenges
that came up was HIV. Scientifically, it's an unbelievably
And we had constant bringing in of 10 or 12 of the leading
scientists in the world, and sitting down with the President for
two hours at lunch and just talking about nothing except what had
happened in the last 12 months in human virology and immunology as
a result of the study.
And I think you've got to have that kind of debate going on. I
don't know what's going on. I think it's a pretty reasonable
priority for Jack.
DR. PIELKE: Jack Marburger?
DR. KEYWORTH: Jack Marburger.
DR. PIELKE: Let's take one more question. How about –
(male asks question)
DR. PIELKE: Privatization of space technology?
DR. KEYWORTH: I already told you that I don't think NASA
can cut the mustard in developing a meaningful space program.
I would love to see some real privatization take place. I think
the single stage-to-orbit vehicle is a marvelous opportunity, as
I'm just not at all sure that Boeing and Lockheed are the places
where that's going to get done right.
There’ve been some marvelous new things done, as you know, by Burt
Rutan and funny people like that, so, you know, I kind of like
that idea that came up some years ago, you know, put out a big
But certainly you can do what -- certainly you could do in a new
agency what the Department of Defense has slowly learned how to
do, which is to go out and sort of incubate new companies.
For example, you turn on the boob-tube, the television all the
time these days, and you're seeing these missions like last week.
You see a predator airplane going in and taking out some
terrorists in Pakistan, and you saw them take out the perpetrators
of the USS Cole incident and so on.
That predator airplane
wasn't exactly built by Lockheed nor was it built by Boeing. It
was built by a little company called General Atomics.
And I think the space program needs to do two things: I think it
needs to do some start-ups, you know, some people with no
installed base, no bad blood, and I think you need to do the best
thing you can to stimulate privatization of space.
But, you know, you can't fool yourself. You're not going to solve
this problem by pure economics. You need some new institutions.
DR. PIELKE: All right, with that, why don't you join me in
thanking Dr. Keyworth for a wonderful evening.
The Keyworth proceedings were transcribed from a digital recording
and reduced to typewritten form by Christopher Boone, Digital