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Ronda Hauben: Computer Science and Government:ARPA/IPTO - Draftfor Comment

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Date: Wed, 7 Jul 1999 23:14:27 -0400 (EDT)
From: (Ronda Hauben)
Subject: Computer Science and Government:ARPA/IPTO - Draft for Comment

                        Draft for Comment

     Computer Science and Government: ARPA/IPTO (1962-1986)
                  Creating the Needed Interface
                              by Ronda Hauben
     Mr. McCormack. The important thing about a man in science is 
      that he must have demonstrated ability to think originally,
      isn't that right. 
     Mr. Marchetti. Yes
     Mr. McCormack. They are discovering things and looking ahead 
      maybe 10 and 20 years sometimes.
     Mr. Marchetti. That is right
                              [Riehlman Comm. hearing, pg. 249]
     During the war there developed a partnership between 
     military men and scientific men. It was not brought about 
     automatically; it is not a thing that occurs readily. These 
     men come from different backgrounds, and it is hard for 
     each group to understand the other....I can say to you that 
     the morale of the scientists today as I meet them is so low, 
     so low that while they will not refuse to serve, they will 
     serve without enthusiasm and without fruitful inspiration.
                   [Vannevar Bush, Riehlman Comm hearing 1954, 
                    pg. 454-455]
     ARPA is considered throughout the field as being the main 
     supporter and perhaps the most important force in the course 
     of U.S. and probably world history in the computer....the 
     country never would have grown in the computer field the way 
     it did if it hadn't been for ARPA."  
               [Ibid., pg. X-22. Discussion with Dr. L. Roberts, 
               April 23, 1974]
1. Preface
     This paper is a beginning effort to explore the role of the U.S.
government in building the Internet. The Information Processing Techniques
Office (IPTO) created within the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA)
in the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) is the early and most significant
institutional form of this role. Working within this institution,
scientists provided leadership in creating the new field of computer
science and in giving birth to the Internet. Understanding the role of
government in the creation and development of the Internet involves
exploring the interface between the computer scientists working as part of
IPTO and the military officers in the DOD.  More fundamentally, this
interface is actually an interface between the computer science community
and the U.S. government. 
     During much of its 25 year existence, from 1962-1986, the Information
Processing Techniques Office funded and provided leadership, not only for
the creation of the new field of computer science, but also for a large
number of significant accomplishments in this field. Among these
accomplishments are the creation of time-sharing and interactive
computing, of packet switching networking, VLSI (Very Large Scale
Integration), AI (Artificial Intelligence), the ARPANET, and perhaps most
sensationally, of the Internet. Also, under its direction and support,
interactive computing and the Internet have spread into many aspects of
our society and lives. 
     And yet the Office of Information Processing Techniques was ended in
1986. This raises the question of how did it provide the leadership to
make such accomplishments possible? And then, if it was successful in
doing such important feats, why was it ended? 
     Before the creation of ARPA, and IPTO, there was concern within the
scientific community and in the U.S. government about how to fashion an
appropriate peacetime institutional form within government to support
basic scientific research. ARPA/IPTO succeeded in a significant way in
providing such a form, but it also encountered problems that eventually
ended its existence.  This paper suggests that study of IPTO's birth,
development and ending will be helpful in trying to determine what
institutional form within the U.S. government is necessary to continue to
provide leadership for computer science research and for the continued
growth and development of the Internet. 
     The development and problems of the National Science Foundation (NSF)
are also relevant research questions to be studied toward determining what
form of institution is needed for the future. However, since such
important developments in computer science were made under leadership from
ARPA/IPTO, it is more important to explore how this happened. Future study
is needed, however, to examine the extent to which the NSF contributed to
this effort and the problems this agency encountered that prevented any
greater contribution. 
     To state the problem more simply, I am proposing that there is a need
to study ARPA/IPTO, both its achievements and the problems it encounter,
as it presents important experience toward determining how to design a
U.S. government institution to support the continued development of basic
research in computer science. This study is also important to provide an
answer to the question of how to design a government institution to
provide the needed continued oversight and support for scaling and other
critical functions for the child of computer science and the IPTO, i.e.
for the Internet. This paper is intended as a contribution. 

URL for full paper: