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Bunting, Little & Co.

Brass Tacks

By Marion B. Lennihan

ARTHUR D. LITTLE, INC. the Cambridge-based research and consulting firm, has long provided radicals with a classic example of Harvard's connections with the military-industrial complex. The company occupies a unique position by virtue of its outstanding expertise both in science and in management. Not content with mere military contracting like ordinary companies, ADL also gives the government expert advice on how to finance those contracts. Its military contracts in the past have included the testing of weapons effectiveness, development of anti-submarine warfare systems, and synthesis of THC--the active ingredient in marijuana--for incapacitating enemy troops. Its clients include foreign countries, state and local governments, and businesses around the world. It advises businesses on military contracts and investments in underdeveloped nations.

Harvard is related to ADL not only by owning stock in the company, but also by providing at least two professors for its board of directors. President Mary Bunting's decision to join ADL's board after her retirement from Radcliffe would seem a further example of Harvard's involvement with ADL, and through it, the military establishment.

Not so, Bunting claims. She is going to ADL as a private individual, not as a Harvard official, she argues. And General James M. Gavin, chairman of the board and a fellow McGovern supporter, assured her that ADL was "out of military contracting completely," she says. Otherwise she would have "felt quite differently" about joining the board.

Bunting's arguments are specious on both counts. She cannot go to ADL as just "Mrs. Bunting;" like it or not, Bunting goes as former President of Radcliffe and former member of the Atomic Energy Commission. She thus brings to ADL contacts with Harvard professors, prestige, and credibility as a socially-conscious firm. And ADL is not "out of military contracting completely"; it no longer accepts government contracts for offensive weapons for use in Indochina, but the latest available figures show that ADL is still the fifth-largest military contractor in Cambridge (Harvard being fourth).

BUNTING's contributions to ADL could conceivably be outweighted by her insider's influence on behalf of such worthy causes as ending its military involvement. But even if she were clearly and strongly committed to such a cause, it is questionable how much power she would have as one member of a board that includes a Business School professor; the presidents of Eastern Gas and Fuel Associates, Northeast Utilities, North American Management Corp., and Old Colony Trust Co.; the chairman of the board of Commonwealth Oil Refining Co., and John Hancock Life Insurance Co.; and the senior vice-president of the First National Bank of Boston. She might have an effect, however, for General Gavin, as a McGovern supporter and the former "dove general" of Vietnam, could be forced into an embarrassing position if he refused to sanction an end to ADL's military involvement. And ADL's complete withdrawal from military work would have an impact, for ADL is almost irreplaceable in combining scientific and managerial expertise.

But Bunting is going to ADL with only the most tepid of liberal principles. Contrary to what she told the Crimson, ADL does have military contracts; but she finds them unobjectionable, for they are not directly related to the war, and she thinks it necessary for this country to keep improving its defense capabilities. ADL should not develop offensive weaponry for use in Indochina, Bunting believes, but she won't object to its consulting with and subcontracting from companies that do. She is concerned in principle with the scientist's responsibility to consider harmful effects of his research. In practice, this means only that she would be "sympathetic" to a scientist's decision not to develop a weapon if he knew in advance it would only be used destructively.

THESE PRINCIPLES are totally inadequate to deal with the complex role of the scientist--working through the universities and through companies like ADL--in developing the super-sophisticated weaponry now in use in Indochina. "People sniffers," laser- and TV-guided bombs, remote-controlled planes, and computerized bombing patterns were all developed by American scientists, yet the link is rarely direct. The weapons are developed component by component, subcontract by subcontract, so that the scientist rarely creates the entire weapon and almost never receives a government contract stamped "for use in Indochina."

Even if ADL has refused to accept any more government contracts for offensive weapons to be used in Indochina, that is not enough. Many companies subcontract from others rather than directly from the government and can claim ignorance as to the use of their products. (This is one dodge Raytheon uses in claiming, "We don't know of any of our products being used in Vietnam." In fact their Sparrow and Sidewinder missiles are standard equipment there.)

Further, weapons often cannot be classified as offensive or defensive. The automated battlefield itself was originally proposed as a defensive system stretching across the DMZ to half North Vietnamese infiltration and thereby to force a cease-fire. The scientist who conceived it hoped it would hasten peace in Indochina. Instead it is being used over large areas of Cambodia and Laos, as well as Vietnam to prolong the war even while the troops come home.

Finally, the essential elements of developing a particular weapon usually include basic research which frequently has civilian uses as well. The company can thus claim that it would have done the research anyway for the civilian market but that it conveniently found military funds to finance the research. For example, ADL currently holds a contract with the Navy Air Systems Command to test the effects of corrosion on metals. This study is as indispensable for the Navy's furture aircraft as another company's production of guns, but Bunting--in true liberal fashion--cannot see the connection.

THUS THE ONLY effective principles for ending scientists' role in developing automated weaponry for this war and for future wars are no military contracting, no subcontracting on military contracts, and no basic research which would be directly helpful to the military. Bunting refuses to adopt these principles, and thereby destroys her chance of ending ADL's usefulness to the military.

If, as I suspect, Bunting is joining ADL's board more as an old friend of Gavin's than as a champion of the public interest, then she is doing the public a disservice by lending prestige, credibility, and a liberal image to a company which deserves none of these.

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